Friday, August 22, 2008

Gluten Free Baby

After some nudging in the right direction by good friends, I took gluten out of Jack's diet last week. It's been, oh, 8 days since he's had gluten. The whole family joined him in a show of solidarity for about a week. We're still avoiding gluten, but also don't want to be wasteful with the foods we have in the house already. So, at times the rest of us have gluten and he and the older two do not.

We've seen some behavioral improvement in the older two girls who were become increasingly aggressive with one another. But, most importantly, we've seen a huge difference in Jack's - ahem - digestive process. As you may recall, he's been taking a daily chewable probiotic, high-quality, refrigerated stuff, since the last round of antibiotics for an ear infection. It was helping slightly, or so we thought, until we brought him home post-cast seven.

Three diaper leaks and we were at wit's end. It was the first weekend and we could not believe we were already dealing with a potentially ruined cast. Dad almost took him to the ER to have it cut off late one night, but I was persistent with a popsicle stick and wash cloths and we salvaged it.

Being the good proactive friends they are, they wanted to help me get to the bottom of this (ha - no pun intended) digestive thing he had going on. Jack has always had issues with eating, major sensory things going on, low oral motor function, and general pickiness. He ate almost nothing BUT gluten/wheat - circle cut peanut butter sandwiches, pasta, breads, cereal. I knew that children who have allergies and intolerances often crave what they should not have. In some kids it causes an opiate reaction in the brain and they not only crave it, they go through withdrawal and having it is the only thing that makes them feel better. In fact, we had a nutritionist and an oral motor therapist coming this week because the developmental therapist noticed just enough drooling in Jack to warrant concern. During his report, both the DT and the PT recommended oral motor and feeding therapy based on what they observed. There's a feeding clinic in Springfield we may still utilize. But, I digress.

This past 9 days, off gluten, we've seen a marked improvement. He has had two bouts of diarrhea and both were 12 hours, give or take, after a significant gluten exposure. The first was cookies at Grandma's house. The second was cereal last night (Dad forgot this kind had gluten - most of what is in the house does not.)

So, we're pretty sure now that the theory has been tested twice.

However, in the last 9 days he's also done really well with eating new foods. He put watermelon in his mouth (spit it out, but that's an excellent first step). He is eating berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, shrimp!!!, rice, eggs, champagne grapes, bananas, green beans, peanuts, beans, taquitos - the list goes on and on. And, we've been able to identify both some conventional cereals and speciality cereals that are gluten-free that he likes. Trace gluten doesn't seem to bother him (such as the barley malt in Frosted Flakes) and we're hoping oatmeal will be okay (many people who can't digest gluten also cannot process oats properly or they are contaminated with gluten in the growing/processing). But, we may revisit that later on and see how it goes. Maybe a cast-free week! :)

We are so grateful to be raising children in a day when stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are in our area. Trader Joe's has boxes of banana waffles that are gluten and dairy free - and AFFORDABLE! (Shocker!) They also have great gluten-free pancakes as well as brownie mix and pancake mix in the shelf-stable areas. We've found one bread that we like called Food for Life and we are anxious to find a more affordable source than Dierbergs (I believe it was $7 a loaf). A friend on the West Coast said her TJ's has it for about half that. Amazon also has a grocery section and free shipping for $25 orders and up. So, when we're able, we will get some cases of his favorite items. Right now we're just eating a lot of rice, a lot of potatoes, eggs, beans, fruits, and veggies.

And, we're also fortunate that his seems to be an intolerance. I feel for those who deal with Celiac on a daily basis and cannot have a single trace of gluten. I know families who cannot eat fries unless they are made in a designated fryer because the chicken nugget breading had gluten in it and got in there somehow.

But, between relief from his digestive problems and the sore on his body finally scabbing after three weeks, Jack is regaining some normalcy and enjoying play time once again. Did you hear that collective sigh of relief?

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