I still remember like it was yesterday – the day I self-diagnosed our daughter with a gluten intolerance. After years of terrible tantrums, night waking tantrums, self-inflicting pain moments, weight loss and drama of the bowels – I finally had my answer. Gluten.
The straw that broke the camels’ back was a 3+ hour tantrum that she never quite recovered from. She literally passed out due to sheer exhaustion. This child that I loved so dear – this child I simply struggled to understand. Then, it hit me – I’ve seen this before – well, not exactly but similar tantrums in some of my autistic students.
After years of doing in home ABA therapy and working with special needs children, I did in-fact have some working knowledge of the negative effects food can have for some individuals. Searching and desperate for answers, I converted our entire family to a gluten free diet in less than 24hrs. I pulled the rug from under our feet, cried a lot, and was holding onto hope – hope that soon turned to celebration. We had saved our daughter and there was no turning back now.
She was sleeping, interacting more with others, having ‘normal’ tantrums, having ‘normal’ bowel movements and in due-time gaining weight.
So, why was this not caught earlier?
The Gluten Free Journey – 5 Things Every Parent Should Know
1) Doctors are learning too. It has been nearly three years since that dreadful day, and I can still remember making the call to her pediatrician telling her what we had done. I love our doctor like family and I half expected a lecture on how limiting foods in children is bad, but instead she warmly responded “Now, isn’t that interesting. That is wonderful news. Keep up the good work.”
What? I was stunned – but more than that, I learned doctors are real people. We have since had 2 more babies with varying degrees of food issues and I commend any and all doctors for being open to learning more. I have had many long conversations with our pediatrician over the years, and yes many of which have involved my educating her and that’s ok, because we are working towards the same goal – raising a healthy child and/or children.
I am not a healthcare professional and strongly encourage speaking with your child’s doctor to develop a plan of action. With the ever increasing numbers of ADHD, Celiac Disease, and other autoimmune disorders in children, there truly is no option that should be left unexplored. Remember, your doctor is simply learning too.
2) Foods most definitely can alter behavior. Right alongside the increased production of processed foods, additives, pesticide use, and genetically modified foods, there appears to be astonishing increases in childhood illness.
Whether, it is physical or mental, we are in some serious trouble if something doesn’t change. Although, gluten was and still is the main issue in our home, over the years of carefully monitoring our four children’s physical and mental behavior after food consumption we have made some interesting correlations.
Too much dairy causes 3/4ths of my children to wake at night with a similar ‘restless leg syndrome’ reaction. Too much can also cause extreme night fidgeting and sensory disorientation.
Red 40 does not set well with our oldest son – he turns into a verbally abusive 4 year old and lacks all self-control when it is consumed. I share these experiences with you to bring about better awareness. I’m not saying food is the cause of all behavioral issues in children – that would just be crazy. What is important is to watch your child’s behavior patterns, monitor skin reactions, and sleep disturbances. Keep a food journal – you might just discover something new.
3) Your gut instinct is normally on to something – go with it. I had been suspicious a good year before pulling the gluten free plug in our home. I knew what we were experiencing was not normal but the thought of making such a change seemed completely daunting and overwhelming. I should have gone with my gut much earlier – it could have saved a lot of unnecessary drama, lost sleep, and tears.
We often second guess ourselves – I’m here to tell you don’t. Go with it and follow your gut.
4) It’s ok to be different. The initial pull of all gluten in our house was scary. We were going against the norm. We were acting out of necessity, but being different and worse yet, making our child different, felt a bit uncomfortable. This is something that has simply taken some getting used to – let’s be honest, no one likes to feel like an outcast.
Over the years, my skin has gotten a bit thicker and my own insecurities with our family’s initial decision have lessened with our daughters’ positive response. Being different is ok. After all, we just have to get used to the idea, accept that not everyone will agree and there may be a lot of questions to answer, but at the end of the day we are all a bit different in our own way.
5) You are your child’s only true advocate. Educate, educate, educate – I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying on top of the latest food industry changes and medical advances. Become your child’s own personal professor -learn all you can, teach others and advocate for their safety and/or change.
What are some ways you can advocate for change – are there any food issues or concerns in your home that might need addressing?