Diet and Behavior with a Side of Humble Pie

I haven't posted a diet update in a while so here we go... but first, I want to talk about parental humility. Because the older we get and the more children we have, the more opportunities we have to dive into the depths of humble pie. If you're a new mom or a mom with only very young children, I don't suggest saying anything at all like: My children will never do that! Because I can assure you that at least one of them probably will (particularly if you have a large family). A couple short examples:

~Our kids have always been pretty well-behaved kids at Mass. I used to turn up my nose at tantruming toddlers at church because I had three children under my belt with zero tantrums. Proud mama. Until number 4 became a toddler. Feel free to imagine my face as I stared stupidly in horror at my flopping, screaming child.

~I used to suspect that post-partum depression was just wimpy moms complaining about the rough patch in life called new motherhood. Yeah, yeah, all you wimpy moms... motherhood isn't for timid. Until number 5 was born. I learned compassion the hard way.

The list goes on and on. I've eaten more humble pie than I can comfortably handle and it just keeps coming and coming. How does this relate to diet? I'll tell you...

I've never had a kid with behavioral difficulties (well, none beyond the normal difficulties of energetic children) and have raised my eyebrows many times at the suspiciously large number of parents medicating their children. Until this year... as I ate my humble pie while sitting in front of the computer googling "ADHD" and "Autism spectrum." It was a bitter slice.

I became convinced that something (other than normal) was going on with my little one. Even her siblings were starting to express frustration and lose major patience with her. Good discipline wasn't really working, although it was helping... but there remained something of a wall and it was getting thicker and higher.

In addition to the behavioral challenges, she had been experiencing some concerning health symptoms going back a couple of years. The evidence pointed to malabsorption of nutrients and the symptoms would flare up badly and then recede. In the past few months, they pretty much just stayed worrisome while her behavior continued to present increasing difficulties.

It seemed evident that the two were connected. No nutrition = feeling lousy = acting out. After my rather astonishing healing through dietary changes, I was ready to prove the connection with her. Two weeks ago, I eliminated all wheat from her diet. Four days later, there was a complete reversal of all symptoms.

That's it. There's nothing really else to it. Jaw-droppingly awesome and immediate results, just like mine. The child who had chronic symptoms of malabsorption now has none. The change in her behavior has been dramatic. Eye contact. The ability to focus. Normal energy levels. Appropriate expression of emotions. Improved relationships.

She has multiple physical symptoms of celiacs and while I was doing research, I learned that a large percentage of kids with celiacs have previously been diagnosed with ADHD. That makes a lot of sense to me because I have dealt with chronic illness and it can be like fighting a mountain lion through every step of the day. If it's hard for an adult, it must be nigh impossible for a developing child. We plan on having her tested for the disease but either way, will continue with this dietary change. The only difference a diagnosis would make would be the concern over cross contamination and the occasional slip-ups.

So far, she has taken the changes like a champ and showed no real withdrawal from wheat products. What a blessing! The tough part will be when we are visiting or traveling or partying. But my own experience will make planning much, much easier.

I've written so much about my daughter's recent experience here that I haven't said much about mine, so I'll summarize briefly (with an awesome recipe included below)...

I am never tempted to return to eating wheat because even the smallest introduction causes strong symptoms. I was at the the mall last week when Jellybean had her ears pierced and was stuck at the food court for lunch. There weren't many options for us to eat but I finally decided on a salad from Panera that had been rated "gluten free" by a group online. Two hours later I was in a whole lot of pain from joint swelling. The kind of pain that I haven't had since the last time I had wheat. It was resolved with Advil, Benadryl, and about 12 hours passage of time. That used to be my daily experience, along with abdominal pain, stomach and esophageal spasms with every meal, chronic systemic swelling, debilitating fatigue... on and on. I have no idea what I ate but that I ate something problematic was terribly clear. Eating at home is so much simpler.

I need to just say it again: Thank you, God, for this second chance at a healthy life. It is yours to give or take but I am grateful for the gift of health right now. Thank you for giving me the experience I needed to help my daughter. We praise you in the calm and in the storm, in sickness and health, during crosses and consolations. Please draw us in ever closer to your Sacred Heart and help us love and honor you forever. Amen.

I've got a good handle on the elimination part of my diet. Now my focus has to return to making sure that I have also added in all the good things that I need.

We enjoy cooking and baking with whole ingredients and I just baked the most delicious banana muffins ever yesterday. I must share it with you. Cookie said that they were not only delicious, but even better than the wheat banana bread we used to eat. I agree! No gluten, no sugar, no chemical additives, no dairy.... but lots of awesome. I posted it yesterday on Facebook but here it is again...


My photo. You can tell because the muffins are sitting on my unfinished kitchen floor. :)

Follow the directions exactly. These were perfect. I did not add chocolate to the batter. The only other change I made was to the streusel topping because I was too lazy to put the mixture in the food processor.

For those of you who find the ingredient list intimidating...
Every one of the ingredients are items that we regularly have on hand and replenish consistently because of the dietary needs of a couple people in the house. I have had time to research bulk pricing and also accept higher prices on quality food because hey, it's cheaper than frequent visits to various medical specialists! When I saw the recipe, I was able to make it the same day. There is a learning curve to lifestyle change but I promise you that it's worth it!

Almond flour is expensive but I've found a great bulk pricing option if you have enough freezer space. My favorite brand is Honeyville but it runs about $8 to $9 a pound. I purchase it in 25 pound boxes from Amazon for about $6 a pound. It arrives horribly packaged but I rebag in gallon freezer bags and it lasts a while. If you've got someone to split a shipment with, this might work even better!

Posted on November 12, 2013 and filed under "behavior", "diet", "gluten-free diet".