When local mom and, our sister publication, Current Magazine, Editor Cole Bednarski, noticed her toddler son, Bear, experiencing painful symptoms for an extended period of time, she started to worry. Bednarski’s dad, a nurse of almost 20 years, looked at Bear’s swollen belly and remarked that it looked like he might have Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Cole shares Bear’s story and her gluten-free tricks with Ann Arbor Family.
In 2015, Bear started exhibiting symptoms. He was severely constipated all the time, catching cold and stomach bugs every other week, had extremely low energy, and was consistently in physical pain. When Bednarski took him to the doctor, she was told that these were all “normal toddler things,” that little kids get sick, and not to worry so much. But his condition continued and worsened: He started losing weight and was so weak he couldn’t lift himself onto the couch. It was terrifying. Her son was obviously not well, and no one could explain what was wrong.
Based on her father’s expert advice, she scheduled an appointment and demanded that Bear have the blood testing done. That confirmed that he has Celiac disease and she immediately removed gluten from his diet.
“I honestly felt relieved when we received the diagnosis,” Bednarski recalls. “He was so sick. To finally understand the ‘why’ was monumental.”
A new kind of superpower
At first it felt like hard work to adjust their eating habits to Bear’s needs, Bednarski says. When you have a child with Celiac disease you have to make everything from scratch. “I was working full time and had a 2-year-old running around naked hitting the cats with a vacuum extension hose, all while preparing fresh food. It felt like a chore.” But she learned quickly that it is fairly easy to be gluten free, even with a picky toddler! She switched out regular wheat flours for almond and rice flours, bought gluten-free noodles and designed a diet full of natural proteins, veggies, and fruits.
Now she says, “The thing about a celiac-friendly diet is that you’re just eating, as a human, what you are supposed to be eating. I don’t call Bear’s gluten intolerance an allergy, I call it his super power because his body is strong enough to reject the foods that aren’t real.”
Bear’s Favorite Gluten-Free Pizza
Gluten-free pizza is surprisingly easy and delicious. I may miss the fluffy crust of a regular pizza from time to time, but this recipe is a go-to in our house and has proven to be Bear-approved.
2 Cups White Rice Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
2/3 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13×19 baking pan. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Using your fingers, spread dough to cover the bottom of the pan. This dough is best very thin. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cover in sauce and toppings. My go-to is thinly sliced tomatoes instead of sauce (less salt), chopped, sauteed broccoli with fresh garlic, and chopped, fried Steinhauser smoked bacon. Bake until cheese is melty.
— Cole Bednarski