The decision to go gluten free was reached when during April of this year my nine year old’s ADHD medication stopped working. He was out of control. I wanted to say that I had tried everything to help him, because it felt like I had, but I hadn’t tried gluten free. Well, I had tried it once many years ago, and it lasted about 2 weeks. But this time it was different. I was determined, like a bulldog behind a gate with a sausage dog on the other side. No amount of wingeing or complaining was going to stop me from wiping all wheat from our pantry.
Slowly I replaced each of the things my kids loved to eat with gluten free alternatives. Nutrigrain became Maple Crunch, Tiny Teddies became Itsy Bitsy Bears, bread became gluten free and potato chips, well, they’re still potato chips. Some things didn’t need replacing. Thank goodness. The change over of the pantry took about three months. The change in behaviour, for some of us, was overnight.
The first difference was with my husband, let’s just say his morning bathroom routine was, well, a lot more solid. He was the first to be convinced going gluten free was a good thing. Second to see a change was me. I went down a whole size in jeans, the bloated stomach that I had worn for years disappeared. Happy days! The next change was seen within a couple of weeks. Archie, who’s 5, became a lot less oppositional. We realized just how angelic he had become when after eating two pieces of wheat bread at a sausage sizzle we were quickly reminded of his previous behaviours. Wheat makes Archie cranky and obtuse. No more wheat for Archie.
Each of our family reacted differently to going gluten free and for Bailey it took the longest and was the hardest. I believe he had gluten withdrawl. For the first few weeks his behaviour was even more challenging then ever. Hitting people, yelling, screaming and massive meltdowns, his symptoms lasted for about three weeks. It turned out that Bailey was addicted to gluten, and in children with autism, it’s not unusual.
“In fact, gluten and dairy do act as drugs for many people” says immunologist and researcher Aristo Vojdani, PhD, MSc, MT, the CEO of Immunosciences Lab, Inc. in Beverly Hills, California. “Just as with the heroin or pain-pill addict, going off gluten cold turkey can produce withdrawal symptoms”, says Vojdani.
As Bailey’s behaviour took a nosedive he also had aching legs and constant headaches. If anything could have convinced us to give up, it would have been Bailey’s reaction. But we didn’t give up. We perservered through the gluten withdrawl storm and the rewards for him were the greatest.
One thing is for sure. Now that we’ve gone gluten free, we’re not going back. And we’re not the only ones. The evidence is in the huge number of gluten free products you can now buy at the supermarkets, the availability of gluten free options at restaurants and the labeling of GF as the latest “fad” in diets. There will always be critics and I have to say I was once one of them. It took several months to see the full effects of going gluten free but if you’re willing to stick it out, for some, it’s very much worth it. If you can weather the storm, everything is so much clearer after it has passed. For us, it’s changed our lives.