I am so excited to be guest blogging on The Green Grandma! What a wonderful blog with helpful hints that we can all use to "green up" our everyday lives!
I am blogging today on a topic that is close to my heart, Gluten-Free Diets. My son was diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder) when he was only a year old. We went through doctors and therapists and had people in our house 30 hours a week for almost 2 years. When he was working with a new doctor - who is my savior - he was banging his head and injuring himself and we had not found a way to help him. Dr Thuppel suggested the Gluten-Free diet just as an option, but we decided to try it. Believe or not, within a week my son stopped hitting his head and has not done it since. My son also had only 3 words in his vocabulary and within a short time had developed a full vocabulary.
Please understand that I am NOT saying that the gluten free diet cures any diseases other than celiac. I do believe that children should be tested for the allergy or sensitivity to gluten, but a gluten-free diet is not a cure and it does not help all children.
According to "The kid - friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook The ultimate guide to the gluten-free, casein-free diet" there are several symptoms that can help determine if a gluten-free diet may be an option:
eczema and other unexplained rashes
elevated blood pressure
ringing in the ears
any symptoms of ADHD
The bodies of people and kids with the gluten sensitivity or allergy can not breakdown the proteins, which results in a short circuit in the digestive process. When you are unable to digest these proteins they send the wrong messages to the brain and can cause an opiate-like effect on the brain.
Casein, Gluten and Soy are the most common proteins that can cause this reaction. Opiate peptides, for example, have been found in the spinal fluid and urine of children with autism as a result of a poor digestion process. Children also crave the food that they can't absorb, just like a drug. My son used to eat pretzels and pretzels and that was all he ever wanted as a snack, he ate them all day long, the first sign language he learned was for pretzel, and I never thought anything of it. Meanwhile his body was not breaking down the gluten correctly and it was causing a lot of his mental and behavioral problems.
Gluten is found in wheat, bulgar, semolina, couscous, wheat berries, graham flour, whole meal flour, groats, malt, oats, barley, rye, triticale, and sometimes spelt and kamut. Not only can you orally ingest gluten, but also by putting it on your skin, it can affect your body. My son used to have a rash on his shoulders and the doctors told me it was eczema, when I took him off the Aveeno products that are made with oatmeal, his skin cleared up. I know that it all sounds so overwhelming, but it is really not that hard to start the diet and your kids will have plenty to eat. I use so many more fruits and vegetables and fresh items and my family eats so much better than we did before. It is amazing, but my son knows if someone offers him a cookie that he says no thank you and asks for something else. I now take Gluten Free cupcakes with me to birthday parties or anywhere there will be cake and I always have an apple or carrots for a snack in my bag. I now offer my child better choices of food.
Prior to this, I always bought organic and all natural foods and milk, thinking that was good enough, but now I realize I was still buying a lot of the convenience items that have more junk in them than other foods. I strongly believe the simpler the foods we give our children, the less likely they will be to develop problems, such as illness, behavioral problems, asthma, etc.
I found a lot of places to shop for these specialty items, but I tend to make a lot on my own. I convert many recipes and make them gluten-free. I also make gluten-free play-dough and check out all bath products and toothpastes. Almost all grocery store chains now carry some gluten-free items and Trader Joe's is a wonderful place to go. Trader Joe's label their items as gluten-free so it makes it much easier and faster to shop. Reading the labels is the hardest part because they don't just say gluten - you have to know the other ways of looking for it, like modified food starch. I deal with this problem by bringing a notecard of the most common ingredients that contain gluten to the store with me. If I'm not sure of about a product, I check my card.
Also gluten-free is becoming very popular and more and more items are coming on the market and labels are being put on foods. Chex and Betty Crocker are two companies that have taken pride in helping the gluten-free community by making and labeling their products as gluten-free. I just made cupcakes with the Betty Crocker cake mix and substituted pumpkin for the butter and added some cinnamon and nutmeg and they made a wonderful after "Trick or Treat" sweet.
Raising a child and family gluten-free is not as bad as everyone thinks. My son eats the same foods as everyone else just in a different form. For breakfast, we do a gluten-free cereal, gluten-free waffle, gluten-free pancake, or egg and gluten-free toast with a fresh fruit. Lunch we tend to do salads or left-overs from dinner and a veggie and fruit. Dinner is kept simple by using fresh veggies, potatoes, corn products, meats, and gluten-free pasta and breads. Going out to eat can be a challenge, but so many restaurants now list on their websites their gluten-free options and, as always, you can bring foods with you. In the summer time if my son wants ice cream we take a gluten-free cone to the ice cream store and they put the ice cream in it. It is not difficult, but does require planning ahead.
Based on my experience with the gluten-free diet and with talking to people on the diet, I strongly believe that nutrition plays a big role in our children's development. It makes sense to me if we give our children more easily digestible foods that their bodies will function at their best. It enables them to clear their minds and let them process and understand easier. They have more productive energy and can calm themselves down more quickly. So many children are hyper-active these days and the doctors just prescribe medicine to calm them. It is really a shame that more parents don't at least try the diet to see if their children might benefit from it. We all love our children and want the best for them, so why not start them off on the right foot and try the gluten-free diet?
Thanks for reading and giving me this opportunity,