My Free From Life 5

This month I am featured in Gluten Free Heaven magazine. They invite contributions from readers so I thought I would send mine over. I was surprised but delighted to discover they wanted to run it.

Here’s a few images.

It’s a great magazine. Not cheap at £4.99 but it is packed full of recipes, food reviews and advice to definitely one you would keep and refer back to whenever you are looking for some culinary inspiration.

Just in case you are interested and can’t get hold of a copy, here’s the full article.


Dairy’ and I have never been friends. My mother says I refused milk as soon as I was able to say no. As a 5 year old ‘school milk monitor’ the smell and taste made me sick. I’m still haunted by the memory of tiny blue straws popping through the layer of cream that stuck to the foil bottle top.

Never was a child so pleased when the ‘free school milk’ plan was abandoned. I don’t drink tea or coffee and don’t like breakfast cereal so lived many happy years without ever
buying milk. But I did like cheese. If ever I overindulged, I would suffer the next day with a ‘cheese hangover’.

As I approached 30, my cheese hangovers worsened. Instant agonising pains in my upper right side, often followed by cramps and vomiting. My Mum suspected gallstones. She’d had the same at my age.

Her GP told her that gall bladders are sensitive to dairy and so it was best avoided. The first dairy free diet I’d ever heard of. In the end her gall bladder was removed during emergency surgery. She didn’t want the same to happen to me, so urged me to ask for a scan.

I did and before long my diseased gall bladder was removed too. After surgery, I felt much better but my symptoms hadn’t disappeared altogether and I was told I probably couldn’t eat dairy again. And so my dairy free lifestyle began.

Two years later I gave birth to Sophia. She was a colicky newborn and fussy feeder. At 12 months I introduced cow’s milk. She was sick that night. After the third time, I spoke to a health visitor. She advised me to use toddler formula milk as ‘she’s used to it’ and ‘might have a problem’ with cow’s milk. Just like me, I thought.

Zac arrived next. He was also colicky, a poor sleeper and his nappies were terrible too. Everyone I spoke to said the same thing’ “Some babies are ‘just like that’ but they grow out of it”. But I wasn’t sure – perhaps my babies got their dairy ‘problem’ from me?

At 11 months Zac had swine flu and for three weeks couldn’t keep any food in. Thankfully he pulled through without being admitted to hospital and his appetite returned. One day he seemed really hungry and ate a huge dinner followed by 2 yoghurts. He was sick all night. The next day he was hungry again. I gave him breakfast cereal. During the next hour he ‘exploded’ through 4 nappies.

I spoke to my GP who suggested ‘post infective’ lactose intolerance. He said it wasn’t uncommon after something like swine flu for the body to become dairy sensitive.

That was 2009. It was 2014 before we got a diagnosis. We’d been referred to and dismissed by 2 hospitals before I took him to a private doctor. Over the years we’d worked out through elimination testing that Zac had a problem with wheat, tomatoes and some fruits. He’d also developed asthma and eczema.

The consultant arranged for Zac to have tests. All came back negative. He said that the family history of allergy meant that Zac was atopic and was diagnosed as having non-IgE mediated allergies to wheat and dairy. The consultant also suspected oral allergy syndrome. We were told to keep Zac on a strict gluten and dairy free diet, to give him anti-histamine twice daily, and inhalers for asthma.

He referred us to another NHS hospital and dietician and since then we’ve had better treatment.Twice a year we reintroduce trace amounts of his trigger foods to see if there’s a reaction. The most recent test was an accident – the wrong ‘butter’ on his bread, and even though he only swallowed one bite before realising, he had an upset tummy the next day.

Zac is now 7 and this ‘accident’ proves he hasn’t grown out of it. He doesn’t mind. He never grumbles about what he can’t have. He doesn’t remember it any other way and I can trust him completely at any social occasions involving food. He never eats anything without checking.

Like a lot of children with allergies he is reluctant to try new food. I was told it’s a good thing. We don’t want him grabbing anything he likes the look of and stuffing it into his mouth without thinking.

Until recently there were few resources available to anyone looking for help dealing with children on restricted diets. Now thanks to the high profile of ‘free from foods’ life is getting easier.

But back when we were first struggling, we only saw a dietician once and year and ‘Free From Food’ magazines were just a dream, so I set up my blog.

I did it because I felt sure I couldn’t be alone in this. As the following grew many parents contacted me sharing their stories and advice. Many came looking for information, recipes and ideas on how to get their children to try new food.

Recently I became an Allergy Ambassador and contributor to the Can I Eat There website, because although ‘free from living’ improves all the time, eating out is still a challenge. The introduction of the EU food regs at the end of 2014 definitely helped. You no longer feel so awkward when asking for menu information and there’s definitely been an increase in the number of gluten free options, but they’re rarely dairy free too.

Now Zac is older and eating ‘free from’ is so high profile he is less self-conscious. He ‘gets to go first’ whenever they are doing anything food related at school and he’s learned a lot of his food is ‘healthy’ and a lot of foods he can’t have are ‘things that you shouldn’t eat too much of anyway’.

Zac is a massive sports fan and also aware of many top sportsmen and women who claim their gluten free, dairy free diets are key to their success. He recently told me that he wants to stay gluten and dairy free forever because he believes that’s why he’s so good at football. He may be right, as he was recently selected to join the Chelsea FC under 7s academy.

So as Zac enters his eighth year and my blog enters its fourth, I’m happy to say I agree with him. I think ‘free from’ living will get easier, happier and healthier for us all.


Now all I want to know is how many other ‘allergy Mums’ have a similar story to mine. Do any of you have a history of IBS, food ‘intolerances’ and have children who have it much worse? Just curious about the gene factor here. I still read so many contradictory reports – some say the allergy ‘explosion’ in kids is simply genetic, some say it’s environmental, some blame not breastfeeding, caesarian births, food additives etc etc
What’s your hunch? My preferred theories are that genes are a factor, there’s definitely far too much rubbish in our food and you’ll find it if you look – what I mean is as kids we were never tested, perhaps more diagnoses are made now because more people are getting tested. Anyone agree?


  1. A lovely positive post on how lie gets easier as time goes on. You have worked so hard to understand how to feed your intolerant child and I am delighted Zac has such a positive outlook on his diet.
    Personally I had trouble with grapes and the raisin family as a child and just avoided them. Over the years growing up I had migraine, upset stomach, sensitivity to changes in water and unexplained urticaria. My dad has always suffered with his stomach and we have both been written off with IBS. After having my son in a traumatic birth 4 years ago we quickly learnt he was having stomach problems too. We have struggled to get a diagnosis for him and currently have a dairy free lactosefree diet for both of us and gluten free for me too.
    I believe the “cause” is a complicated combination if all of the factors you mentioned.

    • Thanks Emma. You are always so kind with your comments. Sounds like your issue with grapes and raisins could be related to sulphites – how do you do with wine, if that doesn’t sound like a crazy question.
      It’s fab to have dialogue and find out more about others experiences and thoughts. Just a random question – do any of your family suffer with arthritis or psoriasis or hypermobility or a combination of all. I am struggling with these and have family history on both sides. It seems the conditions are all linked. More blog posts on this subject to follow – as this is a new development. Thanks again for the comment. Best wishes x

      • Interestingly I have always struggled with wine. I presumed it was just what happened when you drink wine, the following hangover, but I learnt that others didn’t feel the same as me. I started to avoid wine and chose alternatives and feel much better these days.
        I do wonder if sulphites are an issue for me. I get symptoms similar to hayfever. There is clearly a tolerance level and once I tip over my tolerance level my symptoms become far worse.

      • Hi Emma. I think the good test with wine and hangover feeling is anti-histamine. If you have some and feel ‘allergy-like’ symptoms sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, etc etc, take some anti-histamine and see what happens. Works a treat for me. x

  2. Pingback: My Free From Life | talkhealth Blog

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