Diet and Nutrition

Grace's Gluten-Free Adventures

Grace's Gluten-Free Adventures

Photo: Grace Torkaski and her Apple Cider Doughnuts. Provided by Kathleen Torkaski.

Grace was just 6 years old when she was diagnosed with celiac disease. It is challenging enough when an adult is faced with having to suddenly change their entire diet and be restricted to only gluten-free food, but for a child, it is even more difficult. Grace Torkaski, now 11, and her mom took the challenge head on by deciding to create original and fun recipes that Grace would not only eat but also enjoy.

According to Beyond Celiac, 1% of the American population has celiac disease. It does not discriminate with gender, age and race. Sometimes, a formal diagnosis can take as long as 6 to 10 years, and often this disease is misdiagnosed as something else because there are many conditions that mimic the symptoms.

Currently, there is no cure or pharmaceutical treatment for celiac and the only way to combat symptoms is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.

Grace’s Gluten-Free Adventures began when her food options were numbered and not very tasty. She and her mom had to find a different way to ensure a healthier lifestyle.

Kathleen explained to FindaTopDoc, "Grace and I always spent time together in the kitchen and it made sense to try to create our own Gluten free recipes that she would enjoy. At first, when we had failure after failure, I was stressed out, but finally we started to have more hits than misses and that's when Grace took off running wanting to cook all her favorite foods from scratch! Thankfully, we both love to cook."

Grace's story: Her diagnosis

Just after her 6th birthday, Grace was diagnosed. She participated in a study that looked into the family history of type 1 diabetes, since her older brother was diagnosed with it. She was experiencing common symptoms of stomach aches and gas, while also being below the standard growth curve for her age group, in both height and weight. However, before her diagnosis, they were told that her stomach aches could actually be from separation anxiety, especially when she started complaining about it in kindergarten.

"I received a phone call from the MD on the research study, stating that her antibodies for celiac were extremely high,” said Kathleen. After the doctor explained the symptoms and Kathleen confirmed them, she and Grace were sent to their pediatrician who repeated an antibody test. When the results were high once again, they went to a gastroenterologist where they performed an endoscopy.

After receiving the formal diagnosis of celiac disease, Kathleen said that she felt overwhelmed. Not only did she have a son who had type 1 diabetes, but her son's twin had a seizure disorder. And then, with Grace's celiac diagnosis, Kathleen explained that she had to "learn a whole new way to feed my family!"

Grace's adjustment

Kathleen expressed how difficult it was for her daughter to adjust to this gluten-free lifestyle. There weren't many options that were ideal for her at the time, especially when she was first diagnosed at 6 years old. They didn't just have challenges at home, but they also had challenges when going out and on vacation. Three years ago, Kathleen and her family went to a restaurant on vacation and ordered a gluten free pizza. Kathleen recounts, "The pizza was delicious, but within an hour Grace became violently ill. She was vomiting and complaining of an awful stomach ache. As it turns out, the restaurant accidentally gave us a regular pizza. [...] Grace has yet to eat a pizza that we didn't make at home!"

By creating her own recipes, Grace has had her own triumphs and her setbacks. As she practiced her recipes more and more, she learned the best ways to perfect them. And the better she got, the more she experimented. She particularly created recipes to substitute what she really missed when transitioning to a gluten-free diet, since there weren’t many options in stores and restaurants that could really compare to the original.