Love Lactose Free Life – you bet we do 2

Finding good quality dairy free chocolate is not easy. The supermarkets can be a let-down and (the ones I visit) never seem to have much in. Waitrose seems to be the only place I can buy Moo Free http://www.moofreechocolates.com/chocolate drops and these are a great favourite of ours. A lovely treat and great for use in baking.

Recently I found out about Love Lactose Free Life – a website, selling dairy free goodies. www.lovelactosefreelife.co.uk

This week I placed my first order and was very pleased with the results. I was able to find the full range of Moo Free chocolates, not just the drops but the new little chocolate bars too. I was also able to find two brands that I had heard of but never seen instore – Plamil http://www.plamilfoods.co.uk/ and Mulu http://www.muluchocolate.co.uk/. So purely in the name of research (ahem!) I decided to order a few bits.

Booja Booja http://www.boojabooja.com/ chocolates are also available, but they look a bit like a ‘grown up’ special occasion treat and so I decided just to stick to the ones I knew I could make use of and be sure that Zac would enjoy too.

I also noticed that I could buy cookbooks – The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick and a two of Grace Cheethams books. I had seen the Pippa Kendrick book in my local Waitrose a while ago and nearly bought it. It looked beautiful but at £20 I thought it was a bit of a hefty price tag. Love Lactose Free Life sells it for just £12.99 – so I ordered one of those too.

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Mystery ingredients – what’s in a name? Reply

In the two years since we identified Zac’s food intolerances, we have worked so hard to learn all we can about the mystery ingredients that were sneaking into foods and making him ill. If you have a dairy intolerance, it is not enough just to look for the word ‘milk’ in an ingredients list and the same goes for anyone with intolerances to egg, and wheat.

The naughty food manufacturers put so many scientific sounding ingredients into food that your average shopper could never feel confident about recognising them as potentially harmful. So I have been digging around to pull together a list of ingredients to beware of which I keep handy when shopping. I want to share it with anyone who suffers with these problems or has to cater for anyone with allergies – so here it is. It might not be definitive – but the foods listed here must be avoided to those with intolerances and allergies. Some are obvious, others less so. I am still a learner myself, but I think it is a good start and should help clear up some of the mysteries of food labelling. Happy shopping!

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Gluten free is not enough 1

At the weekend we went to the Christchurch Food and Wine festival. The weather was beautiful and the high street was packed with tourists, foodies and locals looking for a good lunch and some goodies to take home.

It was great to see the acres of home grown produce and to see so much support for the cause. We all want to have access to fresh local produce and much of it was organic. There was a huge cross section of stalls, just as you would expect at a Dorset farmer’s market. So in many ways the festival did live up to expectations and looks like it is going from strength to strength each year.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I always set off with low expectations at food markets, for Zac – as there is so rarely anyone catering to the needs of an intolerant child. Sadly, this event was no different. As I suspected there were several cupcake stalls and others selling beautifully presented baked goods. Needless to say I was drawn, as I was curious to see how many of them would be catering for the growing number of food intolerants in our midst and specifically my little boy.

It was great to see that most of them were selling a couple of gluten free options and these were clearly labelled but I did not see one dairy free cake of any kind. I saw a few ‘homemade premium sausage’ sellers, some selling ‘gluten free’ sausages. All the ingredients were listed but somehow some still had ‘e’ numbers and non-specific cereals in them. Not being totally specific in the labelling made them a risk and therefore wholly unsuitable for a wheat and gluten intolerant. It also means that they are a whole lot less ‘pure’ than you would expect. Some sadly even had lactose and other dairy ingredients! Big fail.

So it seems that although great steps have been made, there is still a lack of understanding of the ‘free from’ market and what the consumers actually need. Making and labelling your food gluten free is just not enough. I am not just grumbling because this all meant that there was not one product in the whole market I could buy for Zac. I am irritated because no-one seems to be aware of the fact that there is a massive crossover with dairy and gluten intolerance.

Many coeliac sufferers cannot tolerate lactose and other forms of dairy. So the good intentions of these bakers and sausage and pie makers is somewhat wasted, because the people they hope to attract by making their foods gluten free, still cannot buy them because they contain dairy and other random cereals which cause just as many problems.

The sales of the gluten free products could therefore have been somewhat depressed by this fact. They certainly lost our custom and I imagine it gives a false picture to any producers just dabbling in gluten free. Novices thinking that there is just not enough demand for gluten free are quite wrong. Many would be puzzled and wondering why there is so much publicity about Coeliac disease and so few bought the cakes. If they had just made them dairy free too, I imagine sales would increase significantly. I just hope they push on and don’t give up.

Poor little Zac had no expectation of being able to eat anything from the market and as usual we took his little lunch box full of ‘free from’ foods and he was happy. I was the one feeling sad and frustrated so have decided I need to do something about it.

I am going to do a little experiment of my own. I am the chair of the committee of Zac’s pre-school and we have regular fundraisers and cake sales. Between now and the next one, I am going to have a go at improving my baking skills. I want to get my ‘free from’ cakes, biscuits and perhaps even bread, up to scratch – and sell them alongside all the other goodies and see what happens. I think I will make one lot of just gluten free cakes, one lot of gluten, wheat, dairy free and then another lot gluten, wheat, dairy and even egg free and see what goes best. I know there is a good cross section of intolerants in the village, so I am sure there will be some sales.

So wish me luck. Tomorrow, I will be getting the apron on and getting that xanthan gum out to see if I can get off to a good start and perfect my rock cakes recipe.

Milk and me Reply

I have often wondered if I am the reason my children cannot tolerate milk. I am almost phobic about it and haven’t drunk it since I was a five year old milk monitor. I am still haunted by the memory of those lukewarm little bottles and the tiny blue straws we had to poke through the cream encrusted silver tops. If I think too hard about it, I can almost smell it. Just watching someone drinking milk makes my stomach turn. That gross milk moustache and the way it slowly slides back down the glass leaving a cloudy coating.

So needless to say, I didn’t drink any milk during my pregnancies – and possibly didn’t give them immunity? It was hard enough to keep down the foods I love, let alone pluck up the courage to put milk in my fridge. In fact, I was so sick I couldn’t even open my fridge for weeks, so there was no way it way I could bring myself to try it again after over thirty years.

Naturally, I was concerned and asked my midwife. She was not worried and just advised me to be super vigilant about getting the necessary calcium from other food sources. That was all I needed to know, so I didn’t give it another thought. Until the time I started to wean Sophia and she started to throw up every time she had a drink of cow’s milk.

I had a brief chat with the health visitor about it and she said we had no need to worry. Sophia was bottle fed and was fine during that time, a bit colicky in the first three months but nothing out of the ordinary. I was curious as to why ‘neat’ cow’s milk caused a problem, when formula and even baby yoghurts and cheese didn’t. She explained that the formula and other dairy products go through so many different processes that it makes them much easier to tolerate than milk in it’s pure form. Made sense to me, so I just moved Sophia on to growing up milk and toddler milk and latterly soya milk.

Next it was Zac’s turn. There is only 20 months between them, so it seemed that weaning time came round very quickly. I was a bit nervous to introduce cow’s milk again, so was very wary as he approached 12 months, which is when I was told you can try and introduce it on cereals and as a drink.

Zac had also been bottle fed. He was never a particularly settled baby. He used to struggle after night feeds. I could hear him snorting and grunting. I even took him to a cranial osteopath. She explained that a lot of babies have blockages caused by the ‘birth journey’. He arrived very swiftly and she explained he had probably missed out on the ‘hours’ in the birth canal that helps with the shaping! Whatever, but after a few massages, he was finally able to cry proper tears and his head seemed a lot less blocked.

But he was still a fidgety sleeper and had some very unsettled moments after feeds. He always had a lot of dirty nappies. More than I remembered with Sophia. But he was growing well and fine in all other ways, so I didn’t think too much of it. Just put it down to him being a bit less easy going than his sister!

Once he hit six months old and we started weaning, he did change. He was a hungry little chap and loved ‘food’. His formula feeds dropped off very quickly and he appeared to love to eat real food. He would eat anything I put in front of him and I did try and keep his diet as varied as possible. Although bread, pasta, baby yoghurts and cream cheese became firm favourites. Perhaps I let him over eat them. I guess I will never know because by the time he was approaching his first birthday, he contracted swine flu and was very ill.

That is when everything changed and my relationship with milk changed again. The swine flu caused Zac weeks of diarrhoea. As he started to feel better and regained his appetite the foods he seems to crave were bananas, cream cheese sandwiches and yoghurts.

One evening he really seemed hungry and ate a lovely big dinner, followed by a bit of cream cheese on toast, two little yoghurts and some toddler milk. As the evening went on, I noticed his tummy ‘growing’, just before bed it looked like his little pyjama jacket would fly open like something from a cartoon.

He went to sleep ok but an hour later I could hear him crying and got to his room, just in time to witness him bringing up his dinner. He was sick at regular intervals all through the night. Then the next day his tummy was flat again and he was bright as a button.

He didn’t eat much all day, but dinner time he had his appetite back and ate well. That evening he was ill again. It was easy to work it out. He had not had any milk or dairy since the night before and within hours of eating it he was ill again.

The next day I took him to our GP and he agreed it could be lactose intolerance brought on by his illness, a kind of post infective colitis. He congratulated me for spotting it and advised us to switch him to soya milk for a few months and make an appointment with the dietitian. He also told me to check out the Vegan Society website – as they are experts at ‘dairy dodging’, as I like to call it.

And that’s how it started. Milk and me became enemies once again and I have been doing my own detective work ever since. It has been a staggering and shocking mission – the number of other children with this condition has been the most alarming discovery. Only today, at my exercise class I met another mother with a little baby with lactose intolerance! Like me she is now trying to work it all out for herself as she has had some poor and contradictory advice from health visitors, dietitians and doctors.

In years since Zac got ill we have met many doctors, specialists and dietitians but at the end of the day, I am the one who ended up working out his intolerance and triggers and then worked out how to keep him well. So Zac, and this entire household is a dairy free zone and I have become an expert at spotting all the places it creeps in.

What happens next? Well, next week I am visiting The Allergy Show. http://www.allergyshow.co.uk/

The fact that there is a show, and recently a Free From Foods Awards Ceremony, is slightly unsettling. Who would have thought ten years ago that there would be enough sufferers, food manufacturers and specialists to fill one of the halls at Olympia? Anyway, I hope to find some more ‘Zac friendly’ food brands, there is a huge exhibitors list. I also hope to speak to some specialists and get some more information – particularly on why milk is such a problem for so many people. Apparently, there are some workshops and consultations available, so with a bit of luck I will come back with some answers.

Yakult? Reply

Just watching tv and saw an ad for Yakult. Could not help but wonder if this might be safe. I seem to remember years ago it was marketed as a product developed in the far east or something. So I wondered if it might be suitable for Zac as dairy is not a ‘staple’ in the far east and soya is far more commonly used.

Hopped on their website and found the FAQ page. Saw a good question. Is Yakult suitable for those with Lactose Intolerance? Yes – so far so good. Is it suitable for people who are gluten intolerant? Yes, it is completely gluten free. Even better. Then I noticed the million dollar question. Is it suitable for people who are allergic to milk? NO!!!! What a shame. It contains skimmed milk and is therefore not suitable for people who are allergic or intolerant to milk or dairy products. Zac’s intolerance to all things dairy has been described by his doctor’s, as closer to allergy level and therefore he needs to avoid ALL milk proteins and products – not just lactose. And that is the misunderstanding and potential trap to those who are new to this ‘dairy dodging’ business. It just crops up everywhere and something lactose free is just not safe enough for adults and children like Zac.

Another day, another supermarket… Reply

As Tom had no luck in Tesco on Sunday, and I had even less success in Waitrose on Wednesday, today was the day to try Sainsbury’s. In my opinion, the leading supermarket, at the moment, for a ‘free from’ family.

At our nearest store, they have devoted three quarters of a very large aisle to the foods and have a very wide variety. Zac squealed as we turned into the aisle and instantly spotted his favourite breakfast cereal. In fact, all of his favourites were there. The ‘fake’ cheerios, the ‘fake’ chocolate stars and a very broad range of non-kids ones too,e.g fake porridge and muesli. They also stock ‘free from’ corn flakes and rice krispies. However, I would think that ordinary corn flakes and ordinary rice krispies would be naturally free from gluten, wheat or dairy. I must check this out, because if that is the case, let’s not all spend a small fortune on the stuff, when we don’t need to!

The baked goods section was excellent with ‘free from’ versions of everything you could imagine. They even carried a lot of the ‘Hale and Hearty’ ready-made cake mixes. I have tried the pancake one and it is excellent. Both children love it. Try it with the Anthony Worrall Thompson ‘safe’ chocolate spread – also available in this aisle. However, I have also discovered a much cheaper, perfectly good non-dairy dark chocolate spread in Asda. It is amongst the ‘normal’ chocolate spreads and baking ingredients. It is Asda own brand, not expensive and very tasty. You can see why it is with the baking ingredients, as it makes a great cake topping or filling and I am happy to say is not irritating to the gut of my intolerant child. Definitely worth a try.

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