I’ve been meaning to write this post for months because it’s been an important discovery in my family and feels important that I share our story. (It’s long, but I swear it has a happy ending, so bear with me.)
I have a son who reacts poorly to wheat. He doesn’t have Celiac and it doesn’t give him headaches or upset his stomach…what it does is mess with his emotions. He gets severe mood swings, becomes uncontrollably angry over the littlest things, takes everything as a personal affront, and exudes negativity. That’s bad, let me tell you. Really difficult to be around day after day (after day after day after…).
But it’s worse than that. It also makes him deeply depressed. At times he’s become so despondent, drowning in despair, that he’s felt as if the world would be better without him in it. That we would be better off if he were dead.
Have I mentioned that he’s 14? And that this showed up when he was 12? It scared the shit out of me.
So I came across a book called Cure Your Child with Food, and the chapter on gluten being tied to anger, negativity, mood swings, and depression rocked my world. There was so much in it that I saw in my kid. So we decided to try a month of gluten free with a plan to go back to gluten afterwards to really see if there was a difference.
A few days in to our experiment and he seemed calmer already, better able to handle stress…but I thought maybe I was imagining it.
I wasn’t. This is what I wrote in an email to a friend about a month later:
So, 12yo was gluten-free for 3.5 weeks, and we saw a marked improvement. His negativity went WAY down, he was able to handle stressors and frustrations MUCH better, and able to recover from them so much quicker. Our house was a lot nicer, calmer, easier. It wasn’t like he became the perfect child, mind you, but everything wasn’t so freaking hard, frustrating, and exhausting–for him or for us.
Interestingly, there were two days that he was more explosive, in a way he hadn’t been for a couple of weeks, and I thought it was strange. But then I realized we’d gone out for ice cream, and while we made sure the ice cream didn’t have gluten, he had it in a cone! *headdesk* Took me a few days to realize he’d had the cone and that could explain the backtracking. Oy! Stupid mistake–can’t believe we didn’t even think about it.
But just this week, on Tuesday, he went back on gluten. And Oh. My. God. He’s a totally different kid. Back to mood swings, all the negativity, the world is out to get him, everything that doesn’t go his way in a personal affront, he needs a different life/different family/different parents, he can’t do anything right, etc. O.O He hadn’t been like that the entire time he was GF.
So. Three days of gluten and last night in the midst of SO much crap from him, I made the executive decision that he’s going GF again.
And he did go back to gluten free for about a year. Which was HARD. We decided to not all go GF in great part because it’s so damn expensive (and then we discovered that my youngest is allergic to a GF ingredient that is used in LOTS of GF food, so we couldn’t all go GF even if we’d wanted to). But everything I made with flour (which is a LOT of things, let me tell you), I also made with GF flour. Pizza dough, bread, muffins, cookies, brownies, pie crust, quick breads, etc. It was a lot of work—which I was MORE than happy to do because my child was SO much happier, so much more on an even keel emotionally.
Totally worth it.
Then, maybe six months ago, I came across a few articles about people being able to eat the wheat in Europe, even though they couldn’t tolerate it here in the States. (Again, not Celiac, but people with an intolerance.) And I remembered this article on that very same topic I’d read a looooooong time ago.
And it made me go Hmmm. O_o
What if it wasn’t gluten that bothered my kid, but something being added to conventional wheat?
I wondered if maybe he’d be able to eat organic wheat, which is not sprayed with chemicals before it is harvested like conventional wheat is. (Mmmm, Round Up, anyone?)
So we tried it for one week. From GF to organic. I made sure any wheat he had that week was organic (I bought organic flour and made all the things myself, picked up organic crackers and pasta). And do you know what happened?
Nothing. There was absolutely no difference. He was still the even-tempered, happy kid he’d been on the GF diet.
Let me tell you about the happy dance I did because not only is it easier to bake/cook organic, it’s also a lot less expensive than baking/cooking gluten free. I no longer had to make two of everything. We could all just eat organic.
He’s been eating organic ever since (maybe six months). AND we can still always tell when he’s had conventional wheat—that beast rears its ugly head very clearly every time.
As a little side note, I have a dear friend who’d gone GF because wheat was giving her digestive issues. When she had a slice of pie I’d made with organic flour, she had no adverse reaction at all. So it seems that conventional wheat can cause different problems for different people, and some (maybe most? all?) might be able to eat organic wheat in its place.
Who would think it could cause emotional issues, though? We just don’t think of that, do we? We only pay attention to physical reactions to food, and we figure kids, especially, are simply being difficult. But what if it’s actually an uncontrollable reaction to the food they are eating? I could literally SEE that my son’s behavior was beyond his control, that it wasn’t a reflection of who he really was, that it was harming him just as much as it was frustrating and exhausting me.
Think about the people in your life. Just imagine if you have a kid or an adult with anger issues who could benefit from a diet change to be calmer and happier…whoa.
It’s kinda mind-blowing, right? Gluten has gotten such a bad rap in the last few years, getting blamed for all sorts of things. But from my family’s experience gluten is not the culprit (which I’m honestly not that surprised about because we humans have been eating grains for at least 100,000 years—so, yeah, we actually ARE adapted to digesting it just fine).
So. That’s our story.
Stay healthy, my friends!