Update: We are beginning to reintroduce various kinds of food, so not all new bento will be gluten-free (particularly ones that I make just for myself). My experiences dealing with the celiac diet and food allergies in general have not only made me aware of the difficulties that many people face, but also has made me keenly aware of the sheer amount of strange additives, flavorings, preservatives, and unpronounceable substances that are packed into foods that we consume on a daily basis. I think that, given the option, I will choose whole and healthy foods, which often are gluten-free (coincidence? I think not.), and will continue my efforts to cook meals that are as good to the body as they are to the senses. As a result, while not every future bento will be gluten-free, many will feature GF dishes, some will be entirely GF, and most (if not all) recipes can be tweaked to be GF if they're not already. I will only tag a post as "gluten-free" if the entire bento is GF.
I started cooking gluten-free in July 2006. Why? Well, it's a long story. Five years long so far, which is only half the average time it takes for a person suffering from celiac disease (also known as gluten intolerance) to be properly diagnosed. Celiac disease, which is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 133 Americans, has many guises, with symptoms ranging from classic diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition to more latent, but no less insidious, symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies and neuropathy, among others. Celiacs suffer damage to their intestines when they eat certain antigens found in wheat, rye, barley, and (possibly) oats. Thus, the only treatment for celiac disease is a 100% gluten-free diet (avoidance of all products containing wheat, rye, barley, oats, and their derivatives, which are hidden in all kinds of food).
My hubs has suffered from a myriad of symptoms, ranging from chronic fatigue to peripheral neuropathy, for the past five years. We've bounced back and forth from various doctors, neurologists, gastroenterologists, a tropical disease specialist, holistic healing folks, an acupuncturist . . . it's hard to name a field of medicine that we haven't investigated. A lot of of this journey has been made more difficult by the disjointedness and lack of communication between the various medical professionals we were seeing. And this was complicated further by the lack of awareness, even in the medical community, regarding celiac disease, particularly when it comes to symptoms other than classic diarrhea and weight loss.
Well, my hubs finally found a doctor who took the time to go through his medical history with a fine-tooth comb, all the way back into his childhood. Did you know that celiacs often suffer from chronic sinusitis? Check. Or that the disease frequently is triggered by some form of trauma to the body? Hmm...jaw reconstruction...African tick fever...mononucleosis... Check. It turns out that almost every symptom that the hubs has suffered can be explained by gluten intolerance. After three weeks on the diet, the hubs met with his doctor again. Based on the GF diet's effect on his symptoms, the doctor recommended that the hubs go on an even more restrictive diet for a couple of months (after which we'll begin reincorporating foods -- including gluten). After 3 months on the even-more-restrictive-than-a-GF-diet diet, he says that his symptoms are steadily improving . . . slowly but surely. Amazing.
I've listed below some of the resources I found helpful when we went gluten-free. Plus, here's my personal GF Products List that I use to track the brands we've investigated, used, liked/hated, etc.