Yesterday we got to take a peek into the kitchen of Meg van der Kruik, the writer of the gluten-free and vegetarian food blog Beard & Bonnet. We peeked into her cupboards, ogled her art and became totally jealous of her collection of vintage dishes. It was fun. But beyond just getting to look at all of her interesting collectables, she and I got to talking about how and why she adopted a gluten-free diet. Here's her story.
Growing up, Meg confessed "I honestly had no idea what gluten was." (Quick refresher: Gluten is a mixture of proteins that are found in grains such as wheat. It's what gives dough its elasticity.) As the daughter of a pastry chef, Meg often found herself elbows-deep in white flour and chowing down on lots of delicious confections. It wasn't until Meg gave birth to her son, Kash, that she really learned about gluten after seeing the scary effects it had on her son’s health.
"Kash was born with a weird cough. It crackled when he would take a breath," remembers Meg. The doctors assured her it was just acid reflux and sent them both home with a bit of medication. The medication didn't work. His condition got worse and worse. There seemed to be endless doctors' appointments, health scares and countless tests. "It got to the point where the doctors thought there was something structurally wrong with him. So, we just kept looking for answers."
Around the time they began to introduce solid foods into Kash’s diet, things took a turn for the worse. He dropped weight and went from being in the ninety-fifth percentile for kids his age down into the forty-fifth percentile within a very short period of time. "He looked sick. He needed to gain weight. His eyes would swell, his nose would run, and at night we couldn't even lay him down because his cough was so bad," Meg explains. More tests were ordered. They visited a cardiologist and a pulmonologist. There seemed to be no clear-cut answers as to why her baby was so sick. As he was still so underweight, the doctors advised she start giving him bread with lots of butter and cheese. His condition worsened.
It wasn't until an exploratory surgery to view his bronchial tubes had been scheduled that Meg found herself beyond frustrated, thoroughly scared, and experiencing this nagging feeling the food she was feeding her son was causing some sort of terrible reaction within his body.
At this point, after visiting specialist after specialist and experiencing little to no relief, she decided to take her suffering toddler to see a holistic chiropractor that had come highly recommended. The doctor took one look at Kash and told her to try cutting out both gluten and dairy from their diets for a couple of weeks. Meg, since she was still breast feeding, was advised to do the same.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Meg told me that "within two weeks the cough was completely gone. He gained weight. He was acting like a normal healthy baby. There was a light behind his eyes that I hadn't seen before." The exploratory surgery to view his bronchial tubes was canceled. It became clear that Kash had an extreme gluten intolerance, which meant it was time for a complete overhaul of her pantry and her approach to food.
Meg went on to tell me: "One of the reason’s I started Beard & Bonnet was honestly to help other people, and also to help myself. I knew I couldn't be the only one going through this out there. I wanted to document our journey and keep a record of the food we were eating."
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Meg!
Tomorrow we'll share Meg's gluten-free pantry staples, and her best budget-saving grocery shopping tips.
(Image credits: Gina Eykemans; Meg van der Kruik )