Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why Gluten Free Works for Us

Science Proves Gluten Sensitivity Isn’t Real, People Are Just Whiners

There's an article making the rounds of Facebook entitled "Science Proves Gluten Sensitivity Isn’t Real, People Are Just Whiners" that you can find Here if you're so inclined to read it.

As the mom of a kiddo who's on a gluten-free diet, articles like this tend to piss me off. Not because there is disagreement about the benefits of a gluten-free diet because I actually think healthy debate is a positive thing and I'm all for better education about what people choose to eat. And I get that some people are just jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon as yet another fad. If Jimmy Kimmel makes fun of you because you don't even know what gluten is and you're on a gluten-free diet, well, you might want to read up on your dietary options.

What bothers me is the headline has to mock people to make its point. Quite honestly, if the only way you can get your point across is by making fun of people, then you are immature and your argument has no credibility in my opinion. I don't argue with children.

I don't really care what some hipster, trying-to-be-too-cool, I-act-like-I-know-everything-but-I-still-live-at-home-with-my-parents "author" has to say about anything. They haven't lived any sort of real life yet and I don't see it as my responsibility to educate them.Whatever. Just go back to posting your ironic photos on Instagram of you and girlfriend at SXSW, stay out of my family's health choices and we'll all be fine.

For the grown ups out there though, let me tell you a little bit about what a gluten-free diet has meant to us. My son, because of his early childhood experience with trauma in foster care, has severe ADHD. He was put into foster care at the age of 2, bounced around NINE homes and finally landed with me at the age of 3. This was extremely traumatizing for my little guy and although he has a stable, loving home now, the damage has been done. His brain just didn't develop the way a "normal" child's would and he is extremely hyper, lacks impulse control and has trouble learning. We get care through the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children's Hospital and I also keep him on a strict routine, strict diet and make sure he gets enough sleep. It's a small sacrifice on my part to see a huge difference in his behaviors and that makes it all worthwhile.

My son's diet is both gluten free and artificial dye free and both help his behaviors tremendously. For the record, I don't think he has a reaction to gluten per se but more of a reaction to the wheat, which breaks down into a simple carb, spikes his blood sugar and makes him go crazy out of control.

So the issue really is wheat....not gluten. But no one really says let's have a wheat free diet. It's a gluten-free diet. It really is just a name though.

Of course, people might say that we've been eating wheat for thousands of years without issue so why are so many different people all the sudden saying that they're intolerant of gluten? The fact is, we've been eating wheat for thousands of years yes but we have only been eating "modern" wheat for a few decades. It's a fact that the modern wheat we eat today is not the same wheat we ate a generation ago. The Dwarf Wheat we have today is more compact and it is also processed differently so it's much less nutritious and jam-packed full of carbs. Through processing, we are now able to mechanically separate the nutritious components of the grain (the bran and germ) away from the endosperm, which is where most of the starchy carbs are contained. This change has led to an obvious reduction in nutrient density, contributes to rampant weight gain and gives refined wheat the ability to spike blood sugar very fast. That's where my son has his issues. Rapidly spiked blood sugar in a kid that has ADHD is never a good thing.

That being said, I will admit that recently I started to speculate whether my son was really affected by gluten or if it really was all just a myth. So a few months ago, I started to relax his diet because he was not gaining weight and he complained about missing bread. I felt like a guilty mommy denying my son something he loved so much. So I started letting him have peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, which he LOVED.

Unfortunately, I did not LOVE his peanut butter sandwich breakfasts because all the behaviors came right back and he started acting completely out of control again. I couldn't get him dressed in the morning and we'd be late for camp or school. Every day was a constant battle and I was starting to feel overwhelmed.

It all came to a head one morning last week when I was worn out from a night of insomnia, stressed about the day of work ahead and the kiddo was running around the house, screaming and throwing his toys. He wouldn't put on his clothes, was downright mean and mocking to me and then on top of it all, ended up peeing in his pants. I lost it and started yelling, which made him cry and which made me feel terrible. This is not the kind of relationship I want to have with my child and it certainly would not work long term. Something had to change.

Since then, I've put Christopher back on his strict gluten-free diet and it has worked tremendously well for him. He still has a lot of energy in the morning and requires some redirection to get dressed but I am at least in control of the situation and that's a good thing. When I drop him off at school in a good mood, I can relax and feel good about our relationship and about my parenting. If it means he's not getting whatever he wants for breakfast, well that's just the price we have to pay for a good life.

Unlike Buzzworthy, NPR has news written by actual grown-ups and there's an article that says there is still a great deal to learn about gluten that science hasn't figured out yet. This is especially true regarding how diet affects kids with ADHD, Autism and learning disabilities. We definitely have a lot to learn. I would also like to recommend a book called Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. It's very enlightening.

For the record, my son ate Leapin' Lemurs GF cereal mixed with Corn Chex for breakfast an hour ago and right now he is quietly watching a video on the Kindle while I type this blog post up. I certainly cannot complain about that!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Welcome to First Grade!

Two weeks ago, my little man started first grade and thankfully he loves it.

The night before was a little rough because he doesn't handle new experiences all that well (I think we can all figure out why) so there were quite a few tears and wails of "I hate school....don't make me go!" And I had a heck of a time getting him to go to sleep that night. 

And that morning he clung to me like I was his last lifeline and when he had to line up with the rest of his class, he seriously looked petrified. Poor thing. So I of course worried about him all day and hoped he was okay.

Thankfully when I picked him up at 2:15, he came out with a big smile on his face. (Whew!) I asked him how his day was and he said, "I had an excellent day. I didn't punch a single kid."

I know that sounds funny but when Christopher gets overwhelmed or overstimulated, his ADHD takes off and he has been known to hit a kid at summer camp or in soccer on a few occasions. So he must have been pretty worried that he wasn't going to be able to control himself at school. Thankfully that wasn't an issue. School really is easier for us than summers are.

The great thing about school that is that it is ideally suited for kiddos like Christopher. The classrooms are low stimulation (except for recess), rule-based and highly structured. Christopher thrives in an environment like that. Plus it helped that he's already spent a year there, had friends already and also kept his skills fresh over the summer with a reading/math workbook. 

Since then, school has continued to go well and he has come home with a lot of "happy faces" on his school work. It took a week for the before school program and after school program to start so it's been a bit stressful for me, trying to juggle work and family but we can finally get our routine in place now, so that's good. Of course there are still these "teacher appreciation days" where there's no school so I have to figure out what to do with him on those days so I can work, which is annoying. Quite frankly, I'd appreciate my son's teacher more if she would just go to school and teach. But I digress.

The only bummer is that I found out that the school psychologist has left, which means Christopher no longer gets weekly therapy through the school. I remember when I met her last year I had told her that his previous therapists kept leaving and that it was stressful for him to keep getting attached to someone, only to see them leave. She told me that she had been at this school for 16 years and wasn't going anywhere so I could feel confident in knowing that he could build a long, solid relationship with her. Yeah, that didn't even last a year. 

Other than that though, I'd say all in all, a good start to the school year. Let's hope it continues on in that way.