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    Our Daughter A.’s Journey to GFCF {Part I}

    May 16, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    I‘ve talked a lot about our son’s battle with tics. It was so easy to be convinced that he needed to be on a GFCF diet because his recovery was so quick and obvious. We would have been fools to feed him wheat again after we saw that he had the potential to be completely normal.

    Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Looking back, I see so many obvious signs that A. needed to be GFCF. But, for some reason, it took us much longer to put the pieces together. In fact, if it weren’t for her brother, she probably wouldn’t be on it, at least not strictly and entirely.

    To be honest, we put A. on a GFCF diet that first week because E. was on it and we were all going to eat that way during the trial. After the trial, we would make a final decision about who was going to be eating what. She responded so well, that we kept her on it and she’s eaten that way consistently ever since.

    Sometimes, I still wonder why I didn’t see it. I suppose part of it is as simple as the fact that she was younger. She didn’t talk much. Because of this, I didn’t always know that something was wrong or that she didn’t feel well.

    We have been a GFCF family {during our children’s waking hours, at least{ for nine months now. The impact has been tremendous.

    If I could go all the way back to the beginning, I would say that, once upon a time, our daughter A.’s journey to GFCF began. And it began with a simple ear infection. Funny, actually. If you talk to any number of parents of children with autism or allergies or ADHD, they will often mention the ear infections of their child’s infancy.

    A. was ten months old when she had a very high fever and almost constant crying. When the pediatrician said she had an ear infection, I can’t say I was really surprised. She had been tugging at her ear, after all.

    We went the traditional route and did a ten-day round of antibiotics. I took her in for her follow-up, and her ear looked great.

    But less than a month later, we were back in the office, and the diagnosis was the same. In the same ear, no less. I couldn’t help but wonder if it had never really gone away.

    We did another round of antibiotics. I was uncomfortable with this, but I wasn’t sure what else to do. I felt that I was being negligent if I allowed her to continue in pain and sickness like that, so I allowed the chemical intervention.

    Three or four weeks, later, she was showing obvious signs of having yet another ear infection. I concluded then and there that the antibiotics weren’t truly working.

    About the same time, someone out there in blogland had heard about the ear infections and gently suggested that I try reading Dr. Robert Mendelsohn’s How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor. This revolutionized how I responded to my children’s illnesses in general. I had always gone the natural route for myself {which mainly involved good nutrition and letting things run their course, nothing fancy at the time}, so I suppose I had a natural bent toward this sort of medical philosophy.

    One striking thought in the book was this:

    The most recent study I have seen reported cites the results of a double-blind experiment involving 171 children [with ear infections] in the Netherlands. Half were treated with antibiotics, and the other half were not. There was no significant difference in the clinical course of the disease–pain, temperature, discharge from the ear, or change in the appearance of the eardrum or hearing levels–between those treated without antibiotics and those who received them.

    Now, I was well aware that the book was a bit old and therefore potentially outdated. I did my own research and found that it was generally true that antibiotics tended to have no observable effect when compared to children in whom the sickness simply ran its course. What was more interesting to me was that I actually ran across more than one study that declared that the use of antibiotics made a child’s ear infection more likely to recur! I wish I could link to the study, but I read this almost three years ago now and wouldn’t know where to find it.

    After reading this, I thought I would just make myself hold her all day if that is what it took, and wait a few extra days. If it didn’t get better, or got a lot worse, I could always take her in.

    As I was doing research, I also came across some parents who were claiming that dairy products were causing children’s ear infections. This made sense to me, for I had been told by more than one doctor that dairy products increased mucus production and, when I had a cold, I needed to lay off of them.

    Our son E. was on soy milk at the time. A. had just turned one. I figured it didn’t hurt to try everything I could. I put some soy milk in her bottle and never looked back.

    That was the end of cow’s milk drinking in our family.

    The ear infection? It ran its course. And it really did get better in the same amount of time that it had previously “healed” using antibiotics.

    The interesting thing is that she has never had an ear infection ever again since we took her off of milk. There was one time I thought she might be getting one, but we put a little white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in her ear and she was fine. Extra virgin olive oil is also suggested as a natural remedy. And there is always the garlic compress if you are feeling particularly daring.

    That was the last time anyone in our family had antibiotics that I can think of. It was the end of the ear infections. I actually consider the ear infections a blessing because they caused me to take A. off of milk much earlier than I would have, and I think this prevented a lot of problems later on down the road.

    But, like I said, her problems and difficulties were never entirely obvious to me. Because of this, even writing out the journey will be a bit like taking puzzle pieces and putting them together. I only saw a piece at a time, but in the end God showed us the Big Picture with her, and for that we are grateful.

    I write this to encourage other mothers to be a detective. Think outside the box. God gave you as a gift to your family for a reason!

    But I also write this for my daughter, who I see struggling with what she can’t eat. In many years, when she approaches womanhood, she will have to make the GFCF choice for herself. I will not monitor her food choices forever. Documenting it now will help us remember why we did this in the first place. And, hopefully, it will help her make the diet her own.

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  • Reply Brandy May 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm


    Very interesting comment! Believe it or not, I have never heard of an osteopathic pediatrician. Or the book you mentioned, for that matter. But it sounds like one to put on my wish list! Thanks for the ideas. 🙂

  • Reply Hope T. May 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    My first son had a number of painful ear infections.
    When my second son had his first ear infection and reacted badly to the antibiotic, I knew I had to find another way. The book that helped me was “No More Amoxicillin”
    by Mary Ann Block. It adds osteopathic manipulation in addition to dietary changes.
    I found an osteopathic peditrition but the funny thing was I had to ask her to demonstrate the manipulations and she didn’t seem too keen on the idea. After that i was able to help my son on my own.
    I admire the way you research everything. I am sure it is scary to think about the consequences to your family if you had not researched these issues for yourself.

  • Reply Brandy May 16, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Hey! Weren’t you an evil pharmaceutical sales rep back in the day? He he he. Talk about repentance. 🙂

    By the way, I am totally impressed that you have read Mendolsohn’s book more than once. I have read a couple chapters more than once, but I think you inspired me to revisit the whole thing someday soon.

  • Reply Jennifer May 16, 2008 at 9:05 pm


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