As most moms would, Stacey Schlaman leaped into action when she saw her daughter, Madeline, struggling with health issues. But what she didn’t know was that the long journey in finding help and healing for her daughter would help so many others as well.
From the time Madeline was born, Stacey and her husband, Jeff, firmly believed she suffered from digestive issues. But being first-time parents, they just chalked it up to being overly paranoid. “We were obviously concerned, especially as she was our first child,” Stacey explains. “But doctors monitored her and kept saying as she got a little older it should calm down. So we went with it.”
But as she got older — and as her younger brother, Ryan, was outgrowing her — she continued to deal with eczema and a stomach that always seemed irritated. Eventually, tests run by the pediatrician revealed she had celiac disease and psoriasis — two autoimmune diseases. Then came the diagnosis of another autoimmune disease, epilepsy, and then another with the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease, which is a thyroid disorder. “She was diagnosed with these four different autoimmune diseases over the course of one year, and because of it she was on multiple medications,” Stacey says. “We eventually decided enough was enough. We were going to take a look at her diet.”
That was the early seed-planting for what would eventually grow into Liberated Specialty Foods, an online store that specializes in producing foods for those with strict dietary issues.
Stacey had already started Madeline on a gluten-free diet, but it was doing nothing to phase her eczema or relieve any digestive issues. She began researching various diets, trying to add on various layers to the gluten-free diet. She tried a psoriasis diet, juicing, and even paleo. “With the paleo diet, some of her issues improved a little, but the psoriasis didn’t,” Stacey says. “I kept researching, and I don’t know what I happened to enter in my search that day, but I stumbled upon something called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It was then that it all just clicked.”
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a heavily restrictive diet that eliminates most carbs, specifically grains, starches, dairy, and sugars, which are more complex, and allows only specific carbs that require little digestion, making digestion much easier for the body. “We’ve all been conditioned to think that these complex carbs are good, but I learned that when you take any type of carb, your body has to break it down to a simple sugar to digest it,” Stacey says. “Some people’s bodies can’t do that, but the body still has to get rid of it. It does that by continuing to push it down, which hurts the small intestine and your gut. That’s where the issue comes from. Because her body wasn’t digesting the carbs correctly, her skin was dealing with it.”
While changing up Madeline’s eating habits to accommodate this particular diet was going to be hard, Stacey also knew that it was well worth the try. “We had tried everything under the stars and nothing was working,” Stacey adds.
After just two weeks, Madeline’s skin was improving. “We knew we were on to something, so we just kept going with it,” Stacey says.
Going with the diet meant Stacey spent hours at a time in the kitchen preparing meals for Madeline as everything had to be prepared from scratch. Having to remove so many staples from her diet, Stacey was determined to create food options Madeline could eat and would also want to eat. She started out by simply trying to make a cracker. “Madeline loved Goldfish crackers, so I wanted to figure out how to make a cracker she would like,” Stacey says. “I tried to quickly figure out foods that were centered around communal things, such as a pizza or cupcakes so that she could have those while at a birthday party.”
While searching for potential recipes online, Stacey ran across other moms and dads on social media facing similar struggles — moms who had quit their jobs and were spending five hours a day in the kitchen, and dads trying to figure out how to pay expensive grocery bills. “I understood the struggle in balancing those things,” Stacey says. “I knew there was a need out there. It was a small niche, but it was a need.”
That was the start of Liberated Specialty Foods, which focuses specifically on producing food products that are paleo-friendly, low carb, GMO-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free, and a special focus of the shop is offering “luxury” items that are hard to make from scratch at home, such as pasta sauce and ketchup. For the most part, everything is made by hand in small batches. “Ironically, machines are built and equipped to handle food that has ingredients that we can’t include in our products,” Stacey says. “That means we have to modify it with manpower. We have close to 25 women working each day in the bakery.”
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From pizza crust to coconut bread, waffles to even donuts, Stacey and Liberated Specialty Foods aim to tackle many of the items those with food allergies often don’t get to eat, and they do so by focusing heavily on the diet that has helped Madeline so much—in fact, since landing on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, Madeline’s psoriasis started healing, and she was able to stop all of her medications. “She’s been medicine-free ever since,” Stacey says. “It’s liberating to have more options available to eat when you’re someone dealing with food restrictions. That’s where our name comes from — we want to not only liberate food but liberate families from the stresses of the diet and get them back to living.”
Liberated Specialty Foods has been doing just that since it opened in 2015. While it started out as a traditional walk-in bakery/online order bakery, today it’s fully commercial. The company still offers products for purchase direct to consumer, but the products are also now sold in 1,000 storefronts nationwide, including Sprouts and Whole Foods. “We want to help people live life not by the confines of their limitations, but instead to enjoy things,” Stacey says. “The more we can take the focus off of what you can’t have and put it on to what you can, the better the quality of life. I feel like we were designed for this and that this is our mission. This is something we are supposed to do. I get teary-eyed when I think about it because it really is about so much more than food.”
To learn more about Liberated Specialty Foods, shop or find a retailer near you, visit liberatedspecialtyfoods.com.
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