Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Way to Eat 2014

Near the end of 2013, a friend of mine posted this link on Facebook.  As I read it, I began to cry.  The author was describing my son.  Part of me desperately wanted it to be true, and part of me just wanted to make a face and move on.  But after doing more research, my husband and I decided to embark on a grand experiment.

We are about a month in, and now we are trendy. My family is now gluten-free, despite my initial misgivings.  I always rolled my eyes at people who jumped on that bandwagon with nothing to back it up but pseudoscience, viral Tweets and sanctimonious attitudes.  I thought it was a fad with no real basis for most people, one that demeans the plight of the folks who live with real ailments like Celiac Disease.

At the same time, my then 3-year-old son was suffering.  The poor little guy would go on screaming fits that could last for hours, irrational and unreachable.  He had tummy aches on a regular basis, and he was not sleeping well.  The preschool teacher reported to me quite often that he was very aggressive and really wasn't listening well.

Last summer just about did me in.  His out-of-control nature was making my head spin, and my stress levels were skyrocketing.  I would laugh about much of his behavior because he was so crazy, but inside I was being eaten alive.  The Mommy-Heart in me was telling me that something was amiss, but the only words I would ever seem to hear were, "He's all boy!" or "They sure have a lot of energy at that age!"  I wanted to scream from the rafters that I just KNEW it was deeper than silly wackiness, and that I was more than just a Mommy who couldn't hack it.

Then I read the article.  A light bulb switched on and I started to research.

My baby boy turned 4 on January 2nd, and right after his party I restocked the pantry.  It was rough going at first, but I'm figuring it out.  Kind friends offer support, one purchased "The Gluten-Free Bible" for me, another friend who actually has Celiac has been very gracious in answering my questions.  Red Robin is very accommodating for folks with dietary restrictions, but a disappointingly large number of restaurants are not. Bush's Baked Beans and Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce are both gluten-free, so two of our favorite staples are still good to go.  Bob's Red Mill has a large line of gluten-free products that are very good (we like the pizza dough and the cornbread), and Barilla even has a line of gluten-free pasta that really truly tastes like the real deal!

We decided that the whole family would eat gluten-free, simply to streamline the kitchen.  I have enough trouble keeping things tidy and organized, I didn't want to make it worse by having to have different preparations of food lying around.  My daughter was already lactose intolerant, so I joke now that she's eating Paleo so she's ultra-trendy.  She has always had tummy aches, but now they have decreased even further.  My husband has always had GI trouble as well, and for the first time in his life his belly feels great.  He had a tough start, his body had 32 years' worth of gluten build-up to detox through, but now he says gluten-free is a commitment he is willing to make.

Within a week of changing my son's diet, the little guy turned a corner.  In the past month, there has only been one incident of hitting (he's still a preschooler, after all).  He has slept through every single night, and has not come to me crying or crawled into bed with me once.  The tummy aches are gone, his eyes are brighter, he is more articulate, and his sense of humor has bloomed.  He draws and writes more than he did.  And the thing I find most wonderful for him is that surprise touch no longer elicits a pain response.  When he cries or has a fit about something, it only lasts a few minutes, and he is distract-able, calms down, and can be rational.  His heart no longer races, and his soul is much more at peace.  My little dude is happy.

For me, I didn't really feel any different.  A week or so ago, I decided to experiment some more, so I ate a quesadilla.  By the end of the day, I felt like my nerves had been scrubbed with a wire bristle brush.  I was on edge, threadbare, and about to jump out of my skin at the slightest provocation.  So...gluten-free for me it is.  If this is how my son was feeling, I don't blame him for being out of his mind so much!

Granted, my son still crawls around in the neighbor's rhododendron bushes and jumps from terrifying heights, but now he generally stops when I ask him to. The current challenge is how to teach him new coping skills and how to move past the learned behavior from the first 4 years of his life of feeling so icky.  And I know there is something to this experiment, because he was given a graham cracker at preschool one day.  The following 2 days were full of tears and hitting, insomnia, bathroom accidents and old behaviors.

Gluten-free isn't the answer for every family.  It certainly isn't the total cause of my son's woes.  For my family, it is worth the effort, and for the love of my husband and kids, I will prepare gluten-free meals as long as I am responsible for doing so.  My pantry is stocked with gluten-free treats, and I'm getting really fast at reading ingredient labels.  I can't imagine trying to do this without the internet, or without food labeling laws!

Emotional pain diminished.  It is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I deserve BEAUTY in my life!


  1. Thank you for sharing! I'm now curious about my life choices...I really think our bodies have a hard time.with gluetin and cow milk...things to try and ponder...thanks Anna!

    1. I know what you mean, Terri! I love milk, and I don't have plans to cut it out of my diet any time soon...but we are the only animals that continue to consume milk beyond infancy. There's probably something to that.