Marley and Mum​

Making the world better one smile at a time


Going Gluten and Lactose Free

When the doctor told me Marley was going on a gluten and lactose free diet I burst out laughing. I used to run a cafe specifically catering for different dietary needs and complained when I couldn’t figure out an exotic birthday cake without mascarpone... Well karma bit me in the butt and now I have to come up with things which Marley will eat under this strict new regime!

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With genetic conditions like Marley has it is common to have digestive and renal problems. He has had these for quite some time and before they do anything more invasive I opted to try out a new diet to see if it helped. So now we are a gluten and lactose free family. I think if it was one or the other it might be easier or more manageable but a double whammy like this really did stump me.

And then it came to me. I write a blog for a reason, to help others going through journeys similar to ours and get advice myself. So I figured I would start blogging about our new diet to. Share the research I make, the shops I try and the tricks of the trade which I will come to love and hate. Hopefully I will have many of my readers reach out with recipes and tips. After my vlog post about our transition I had a lot of my friends contact me with some amazing ideas!

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I guess the first thing I want to do and to write about is some initial research into why we were even asked to go gluten and lactose free. It has become known as the “anti-inflammatory diet” in some circles because a common cause for going both gluten and dairy free is due to digestive inflammation or discomfort. This ultimate diet plan when placed in front of me did send me into panic especially when I know how hard it is to find alternative products in Portugal. I can tell already it will be a bumpy ride and I think cheat days will become necessary when the going really does get tough.

So in a gluten and lactose free diet there is something I’m certain of and that’s fruits and vegetables are all gluten and dairy free. Despite my first instinct eggs are both gluten and dairy free as well. Hallelujah! Meats and fish are also gluten and lactose free however the specialists advised more fish and make sure all meat is organic. To be fair this is going to sound really silly but I wasn’t even too sure what gluten even was. It’s technically found in wheat, barley and rye but other grains like corn, quinoa and rice are generally fine.

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So obviously Marley is now not meant to eat any gluten or dairy but it really isn’t that easy! It’s so unclear sometimes which foods contain gluten or lactose. Any foods that are processed with the same areas or equipment are likely to be contaminated. You find gluten in most baked goods like bread, cookies, cakes etc. I was most upset at first about us not being able to have spag bol or pizza but we found some alternatives to those straight away! Gluten is typically used to create a sticky texture in dough, so almost anything that comes from dough will likely have gluten in it.

Dairy seems slightly more obvious to the dumb dumbs like myself. If you want to avoid all dairy just think about whether it has milk in it and go with the items that don’t. I’ve never drunk milk so it’s an easy avoidance for me but Marley loves it. He has taken like a duck to water with almond and soya milk though so WIN! We are busy finding alternatives to yoghurt, milk, cheese, butter and ice cream.

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I’ve read about contamination levels which will depend on your exact circumstances so I don’t think it is too important in Marley’s case. But if you have an allergy this is really important. Watching out for cloths and sponges which can trap gluten. Asking people in your house to allocate a totally separate section of the fridge and work top in the kitchen. Even things like you own toaster or if you are allergic to dairy being careful with contamination of butter and cooking sprays. I don’t have to worry about this too much but I am going on the diet with Marley and Lilia too. I can’t manage to cook three different dinners or allow one to eat something and the other not. Has to be the three musketeers going gluten and lactose free or no one under this roof. It’s the only way it will work.

If you don’t suffer from allergies and trying out a gluten and lactose free diet to experience the bonus side effects I have discovered a few through my research. Many people report feeling more energized and less lethargic after starting this diet. Due to the lack of processed grains and fats, many people also happen to lose weight, although that is highly dependent on your overall habits. I’m not complaining about that side and I’ve already lost weight in a few weeks. Marley’s goal is to gain weight though and we haven’t reached any improvement on that front yet but it is still early days. Dairy can be tough for almost anyone to process sometimes, so even if you are not highly intolerant, you will likely see some increased gastrointestinal comfort when you make the switch as well. No matter what your reason for making the diet switch is, you will definitely want to keep it up once you start noticing these benefits. Or so they say let’s watch this space!

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I can manage perfectly well at home but I am worried about when we are out and about. Especially in the Algarve. Even with 100% pure intentions, it is sometimes tough to see which items will contain gluten or dairy and which will not. I still haven’t figured out a quick gluten or dairy free snack when we are at a cafe or where to go for a treat for dinner. So really truly any recommendations very welcome. Apparently there are apps that will tell you about restaurants in your area that are gluten and dairy free. I’ll do another blog about this once I have actually found some time to seek some good places out. Not that I am going out at the moment but I suppose the best thing to do would be to call ahead to a restaurant and discuss options that he can eat. This way I can know which dishes he can eat safely. Salads are probably the safest bet at the moment and no unwelcomed in this heat. And when we have been in the hospital or with friends I have been packing snacks and things which have been helpful but not always requited...

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Overall after posting the vlog video I feel much less daunted with the people that have reached out. I do hope to receive more advice, recipes and general hacks. I’ll document this journey as I go as it’s a massive learning experience and hopefully of help to someone. Which is all I've only ever wanted from this blog. It’s going to take planning and persistence but I am determined. If the positive effects outweigh the negative and I can put off that feeding tube and operation for a good while I will be ever so happy. With a little preparation and guidance from all you lovely lot I’m sure we will be happily dairy and gluten free in no time!

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