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    Gluten Junkies

    April 19, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]A[/dropcap]n email I received this weekend reminded me of a topic I always meant to post on, but neglected to do so. With allergies mostly in the rear-view mirror of our lives, it is easy to forget some of the details. Because of this, I thought I’d type this up before the well-trodden paths of my mind on this issue grow over due to disuse.

    Many times, when I’ve mentioned in passing the extreme special diet my children were on for over a year {for those of you who joined us more recently, they were gluten-, corn-, soy-, casein-, chocolate-, caffeine-, coffee-, artificial flavors-, nitrate-, nitrite-, and artificial food coloring-free} due to extreme food allergies and sensitivities, mothers have told me that they just couldn’t do it. Now I understand this. I cried when I realized what it was going to take to help our children. I didn’t want to work that hard, and I didn’t want to admit that we couldn’t ever go out to eat.

    It helped when we realized we could order a pizza after the kids were in bed!


    But there were a few mothers out there who would say they were pretty sure that their child had allergies, but they couldn’t bear to take that child’s favorite food away. Some of these mothers are simply having compassion on their child. Others are terrified of their child, who feels very passionately about the foods he likes. They know that he will throw a giant, horrible tantrum. He will steal food from other children at church. {Ask me how I know.} He will sneak crackers out of the pantry when no one is looking. And so on.

    My friends and I used to call these children Gluten Junkies.

    Let me tell you a secret about allergic children: they often crave the things which are bad for them.

    In her book, Unraveling the Mystery of Autism, Karyn Seroussi explains that, in some autistic children, the gluten and casein proteins actually impact the child’s system like a drug. Due to a combination of leaky gut and improper digestion, these proteins break down to an opiate form which can literally give the child a “high” feeling and result in a sort of food addiction. {You can read about the urine tests for this condition here.} So, in the case of some autistic children, you have a literal addiction. We can’t blame these children for feeling passionately about their food!

    But the situation really goes beyond this. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve met diabetics who crave sugar, alcohol, and white flour, or arthritics who crave nightshade vegetables. The sick body seems to malfunction at an incredible level, craving the exact food which encourages its downward spiral.

    I don’t know why this happens.

    This condition is in no way limited to gluten, though Gluten Junkie does have a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? Plus it gets the point across: we can view the situation somewhat like an intervention with an alcoholic than anything else. Just as with an alcoholic, their condition has caused them to no longer accept what is best for themselves, and so the adults are taking the situation in-hand.

    Of course, children are born not knowing what is best for themselves, so it is hard to know where typical childhood leaves off and actual addiction begins. Some kids just really want candy and cookies.

    But whatever the cause, especially with very young children, Mother might just have to be forceful firm. Here is dinner. Now eat it.

    Of course, the child can be informed at the outset that he is going on a new diet, and this is why. Our children were. Some children will not be on the diet very long at all, because it will turn out they do not really have allergies {though one might want to have the peptide test ran before commencing with the diet — leaky gut is not an allergy, even though there are neurological complications attendant to the situation}. Other children will feel so good on the diet that they won’t want to go back.

    An older child would have to be dealt with differently. I have never parented an older child, but I did have bad health in my teens. There were a lot of things I didn’t want to do during that time: physical therapy, taking my medicine, and so on. My parents pretty much asked me if I wanted to get well or not. That is the approach I’d probably use with an older child in the situation, but it is the only option I know of, and I tend to view the whole thing from the perspective of a child rather than a parent. But that is part of growing up. Learning to do what is best rather than what is comfortable. Some of us get harder lessons than others, and that is life.

    If you have an autistic child with suspected allergies, Seroussi’s book is very good, and reads like a mystery novel. Her son is now normal, by the way. Diet change did a world of difference for him. She once wrote:

    When I discovered that taking away some milk made a slight difference, I immediately took away all milk. When I discovered that gluten might be implicated, I took that away as well. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than spending the rest of my life with an autistic child.



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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts April 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Beau…ahem…I mean Jen: Candida! Yes! The book didn’t get into this, but we found this to be true with ALL of our children. I later read this could be due to their mother being unable to birth them correctly. (Let’s say it again: MY FAULT.)

    I have one that is really sensitive to sugar. I will never forget the first time we gave her some (other than her first birthday party). She was almost two. She LOVED it. And then she spun in circles for a very long time. It was bizarre!

    I would love to switch with you, but first I have to beg my mother-in-law to give me back my copy which I lent her! 🙂

    Anon: I have never met anyone who saw results with fibro before, but that is wonderful!

    Phyllis: you inadvertantly answered a question I have always wanted to ask, which is are they still sensitive when they are grown. I assumed yes, but you confirm it.

    Of course, for our family, we went the allergy elimination route and no longer need the diet. But we didn’t have the peptide issue, which is what true Spectrum kids tend to have…

  • Reply Phyllis April 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    My oldest two children were diagnosed with autism and we have been gfcf for about 10 years now. My 18 year old no longer “qualifies for a diagnosis of autism.” My son, now 15, is practically mute but his aggressive behavior is much better on the diet. I absolutely think that it made a huge impact on their health. My son still tries to sneak eating it and is sucessful at times. We can always tell. If I could only convince him.

  • Reply Anonymous April 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I recently put my dd and me on a gf diet. I have suffered from fibromyalgia for years and was walking with a cane and taking a nap daily. Now I no longer need my cane or daily nap. Sure, I still have to pace myself but the pain is virtually gone. My Aspergers dd is like a new person. She’s obedient and helpful for the first time ever. She’s actually a delight to be around most of the time. She was having migraines daily now they’re only headaches and not daily. This is due to something else but hey I’ll take what I can get and this gf is definitely working well for us 😀

  • Reply Beau April 20, 2010 at 4:56 am

    How lovely is your spring-y new blog design. Nice.

    Gluten Junkies..yes, that is a great description. I have been reading in my Weston A. Price quarterly about this very thing- the body craving what is detrimental to health! Autistics, especially, usually have high levels of Candida, which perpetuates itself by eating sugar…which creates more cravings. But you know all this and more, I’m sure. You might be interested in this article
    “The Role of Oxalates in Autism and Chronic Disorders” by William Shaw, PhD. It discusses how oxalates (which cause kidney stones) and diet affect the autistic child’s behavior. No gluten, no sugar, less behavioral problems. May that be said of all children! I gave my son a cookie yesterday and, not two minutes after eating it, he literally started bouncing up and down in one spot and running from the back door to the front door. (He IS 4, but this was an unusual bout of induced energy) The sugar drug worked right away! Food is medicine and drug. I would love to borrow-swap your book for my quarterly when you are done 😉

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