Thursday, June 15, 2006

Gluten Free

Okay, so maybe talking about gluten isn't exactly homeschooling, but when you have a child with a gluten sensitivity it becomes a big part of your life, and in that way it is part of homeschooling.

When J-Baby was about 8 months old he developed eczema. We thought it might be the weather, but we had also recently introduced wheat, and since T-Guy had food allergies we considered wheat as a possible allergen. It did seem that he would get red around his mouth as soon as he had wheat, which is a classic allergic reaction. The pediatrician agreed that it was probably an allergy, so we stopped feeding him wheat for awhile.

It cleared up, and we gave him wheat again within a year. At that point he would get eczema on his trunk, arms, and legs. We switched to cleansers without SLS, and tried to bathe him less frequently. It calmed the eczema down but didn't eliminate it.

There were a lot of things going on in our lives at this point. T-Guy had regressed and wasn't talking, and also had sensory issues and zero social skills. I had post-partum depression. J-Baby seemed to be okay, so we didn't pursue the wheat allergy. After all, it had never been scientifically confirmed, and he was doing okay.

After J-Baby turned 4 we started having some issues. He had learned to use the toilet completely by age 2.5, and suddenly he was having bowel accidents daily. We couldn't figure out anything that had changed that might cause him emotional distress. We just went with it, cleaning him up and changing his clothes everyday. I knew other people with 4 year-old children that had accidents too.

After a year and a half of this we were at wits end. Not only was he having accidents, but often it was diarrhea (not small amounts and nothing to suggest fecal retention). He had uncontrollable itching on his arms, legs, and trunk. Finally, on a camping trip, I was talking to him and he had a accident. I realized right then that he had no idea that a bowel movement was coming. And it struck me - irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. Having spent a couple of years with terrible IBS myself I felt so bad that my child was going through this.

As a side note, J-Baby had also not gained any weight since he was 4.5 years old. He actually dropped a couple of pounds last December while he was ill, and we were getting concerned. He was also an extremely difficult child, stubborn, at times unhappy, highly reistant to change, impossible when it came to transitions.

On that camping trip I decided to take Jake gluten-free. We have several families in our homeschooling group who have gluten-sensitive children, so we had discussed it before and I thought that it might be a good move for J-Baby. We went cold-turkey on 1/30/06. Immediately we had some improvement, both in bowel consitency and accidents, as well as itching and behavior.

We left for Hawaii 2/10, and we knew that avoiding gluten was going to be very difficult. We managed it at the condo, but eating out we couldn't. J-Baby became an itching machine, and spent most of his time in Hawaii with his shirt lifted so he could scratch his trunk.

Back home things got better, but weren't perfect. We had improvement, but not full recovery. I know now that it may take a long time for J-Baby's gut to heal, so it will be awhile until his symptoms disappear completely. In the meantime, he had a bad flair, and we recognized an extreme sensitivity to citrus. We also took him off soy, and that seems to have helped as well. We were already casein-free before any of this started.

Our next step is to do a multiple food elimination diet once we get back from vacation, so we can better pinpoint his sensitivities and perhaps find foods that he can eat, and find any hidden allergies that we haven't suspected yet. Once we've done that we may be able to treat him with a combination of a rotation diet and enzymes, unless the clear diagnosis is celiac disease.

I forgot to add: Within a couple of months of being GF J-Baby gained 4 pounds! He's now up 5-6 pounds from when he was sick last December.

1 comment:

Blissfulbee said...

That is terrific that he has gained weight!!!! :-)

Ive heard that the gluten can take up to four-six months to fully break down in the system and leave the body; at least for those who's issue is that their body cant break it down.