how gluten affects children’s health & behaviour

how gluten affects children’s health & behaviour

I realized this past weekend that my son’s hard work in taking his health in his own hands, through diet, has been well worth the effort. We are now entering allergy season and the 24/7 headaches (often 10/10 in pain) and other symptoms from last spring’s allergy season, have not returned. He has never had allergies, other than showing a sensitivity to swimming in chlorine pools (I’d notice his nose/sinuses would get irritated). So last springs tsunami of symptoms was a surprise and a red flag. It was very hard for me to watch him suffer. He’d go to bed with a 10/10 headache and sleep 10 hours and sometimes still wake with a 6 or 8/10 headache. I wasn’t prepared to just assume he started allergies all of a sudden. I wanted to get to the root of the problem, and for me, that starts with diet. My Naturopath suggested sending him to Red Paw for a food, chemical and environment sensitivity test. 

We learned that the state of your system (adrenals & liver)
going into allergy season
can have a massive impact
on how your body handles allergy season. 

What we learned was that none of what was going on was allergies but instead, sensitivities. I learned that the state of your system (adrenals & liver) going into allergy season can have a massive impact on how your body handles allergy season. So the allergy sensitivities that he was experiencing was in fact, a symptom of an inflamed system. Food has a huge impact on your body – on inflammation, on your immune system, your adrenal system and your liver. The testing from Red Paw showed a huge amount of inflammation in my then 8 year old son’s body. Last spring was deemed the tsunami of allergy season, so his body was not prepared to handle allergies, and essentially his body went under siege. 

What the tests showed was my son had a high gluten sensitivity. It also showed many other high food sensitivities, such as dairy and red meat (all of which are inflammatory foods). Though neither of those we ate a lot of, and the only dairy staple was plain yogurt (which is pre-digested), and goat and sheep cheese over cow cheese. After looking at the big picture, we knew gluten was the big culprit.

The environment section also showed an incredible amount of inflammation – everything he could be sensitive to, he was sensitive to. (Again, none of this was allergies, just sensitivities.)

So we started to work on taking the foods out of his diet, primarily gluten. We needed to get his system to a point of no inflammation. (We also upped things like anti-inflammatory DHA fish oil). My son was amazing in co-operating on this journey as he knows well that how we fuel our bodies affects our health. All of these inflammatory foods were not agreeing with his system. But we were all stunned to see his symptoms completely disappear almost immediately after eliminating these foods. 

It’s also important to note that gluten sensitivity symptoms
are not just digestive but can be
 behavioural like moods
and anxiety, fatigue, ability to focus, etc…. 

Here’s what changed after we removed gluten from my 8 year old son’s diet:

• daily night & day headaches (often 10/10) gone
• sinus/environmental sensitivities gone
• stopped talking in sleep, therefore slept more soundly
• less grumpy (which wasn’t often to begin with)
• After 2-3 weeks of eliminating these foods his teacher came up to me at school pick up and said, “Something has happened in the last 2-3 weeks, I don’t know what it is… but it’s all coming together for August … he’s paying attention more, not only taking part more but nailing the answers… he’s getting the big picture”. I had instant, full-body goosebumps as I knew it was removing gluten from his diet. Focus and attention wasn’t ever an issue for August, so I wasn’t even focused in that area. So, to hear of additional benefits in mood and behaviour was amazing.

We continued with his diet (allowing the odd cheat) for 3 months, and then carried on throughout the year, allowing gluten and any of the other foods but never were they staples in his diet. I was told that come this past April/May we should start tightening up his diet but I did not want to completely take out gluten and dairy or anything else as I wanted to see if his gluten-free/dairy-free ‘most of the time’ diet would be good enough to avoid a repeat of the headaches. And it was. Though I do log any headaches (and diet that day) in case a pattern appears. As well, I note when I hear 10pm rambles coming from his bedroom. My log shows that when he eats gluten or dairy (or junk food at a party), he talks in his sleep that night. It’s that instant. What a wise, little body he has – knows exactly what is good or not good for his system, literally calls out when it’s not good. My son is also aware in the day after eating cheese that it doesn’t always sit well with him after. It’s important to teach your kids how we feel after we fuel our bodies. What gives us energy, and what takes energy away from us (post coming soon on tips to help instill this knowledge in your kids).

I highly recommend sensitivity testing if you are questioning anything about your or your child’s health. I am always so impressed with the results when I take my kids that I always end up doing one for me, too. (Gluten was also extremely high for me and so I’ve been basically gluten free ever since June 2015. I have also read studies how gluten-free and other diet restrictions have helped autistic children, which is amazing.) Food sensitivity testing is one of the best investments for your health and can change your life, overnight. Sensitivities can diminish but you have to do your time with them. And the more you stay off those foods over the 3 month period, the better chance your body will clear those sensitivities (and often you can bring them back 1-2x a week and your body can be fine). The more you cheat, the longer you have to do the food elimination diet. If the idea of changing your diet seems daunting, I guess you have to weigh it against living with your ailment for the rest of your life. Which is more appealing? Absolutely it’s worth the effort. My son saw the connection between food and how he felt, and that’s all he needed. He wants to feel good. Take your health in your own hands and don’t just assume your body’s aches and pains are something you have to live with. Just takes a little effort and commitment. cropped-mw_text_xo_fav.jpg

Another great ND and healer I highly recommend in the Toronto east end – Dr Christina Gordon.