Monday, November 8, 2010

Gluten Free - Our Story

  Last January my husband decided that he wanted to try the Paleo Diet in order to be able to climb to the next level of fitness. He's always kept himself healthy and exercised regularly, but he wanted to take it to the next level. I, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to give it a go.

  My husband had always regularly complained of stomach aches after eating. At the beginning of our relationship I used to take it personally, and often wondered if there was something wrong with my cooking. I had always considered myself to be a pretty good cook, but I started feeling a little insecure about it. He reassured me that it wasn't my cooking, and that he had had the problem as long as he could remember.

  In about March, my husband had a rather surprising revelation - he hadn't had a stomach ache in 3 months! This really was a big deal, as he generally had them several times per week. Being rather intrigued by this new bit of knowledge, I persuaded him to try a few food items that he no longer ate to see if they gave him problems. He fought me on it at first, but then we had a holiday weekend full of cookouts and he agreed. He first tried corn and potatoes. He said they made him feel 'heavy', but no stomach issues. Then he decided to eat a burger - with a bun.

  People, I'm telling you, he had gripping stomach cramps within minutes, and they didn't let up for 36 hours. I had heard of Celiacs and Gluten Intolerance before, but it had never occurred to me that either of those things could be the problem. After a few more 'experiments' and a LOT more research, we felt we had our answer. Gluten. We opted NOT to do the Celiacs testing for several reasons, but mainly because the test that gives the definitive diagnosis is a biopsy of your small intestine. Can we say 'invasive'? Also, we thought that having a 'pre-existing condition' could, quite frankly, cause nothing but problems; and if we already knew what the problem was, and how to avoid it, what was the point? So, on we pressed.

  In May, right after my sons' 3rd birthday, I stumbled onto some research about children and gluten issues. We had had some pretty intense behavioral issues with him for about a year - mainly being really contrary all the time and having uncontrollable tantrums - and were kind of  at a loss as to what to do next for him. There, on the web page about kids and gluten sensitivities, was something I'd never heard: the number one symptom in smaller children with gluten issues is behavioral issues - namely irritability and tantrums. It leapt out of the page at me and I was actually a little stunned by what I had just read. I told my husband what I had read and told him that I wanted to try cutting any and all gluten from his diet for 2 weeks to see if we saw any improvement. He agreed.

I was a woman on a mission. There was NO WAY that my kid was getting even a speck of gluten down his gullet. And then I went grocery shopping and realized that EVERYTHING has gluten in it. This was going to be hard. I already had a really picky eater, and now I was literally left with TWO THINGS that he would eat. And then something awesome happened. In 3 days the tantrums stopped. Not got less intense, not decreased in frequency... stopped. Then about a week later, he started eating REAL FOOD (well, real food for him anyway).

  Six months later, he's almost a different kid. He's still my son - and stubborn, argumentative, and way too smart for his own good - but the uncontrollable rages are gone. The irrational moodiness is gone. The sleeplessness is gone. The 'tummy aches' are gone. He runs (sometimes too much). He eats - bacon, eggs, hamburgers (no bun, or a homemade gluten free bun), hot dogs, fruit, veggies, cheese... so many things that he refused to eat before. And he's grown. A LOT. In 6 months he's grown 3 1/2 inches and gained 5 pounds. That's a TON for a 3 year old - and he was pretty tall to begin with!

  It's been hard, this foray into a gluten free diet. We decided a few months ago that our whole household needed to make the switch - more for the sake of my sanity than anything else. I'm learning more everyday - which is frustrating and liberating at the same time! And now, I'm planning our first gluten free Thanksgiving. It's proven to be quite a challenge, but I'm truly looking forward to it. I'll be writing a post on it soon, in fact. My biggest mission in all of this has been to never let my kids feel as though they're missing out on 'normal' food. I think I can succeed.

Until then...

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