Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Our Gluten Free Update and How this "Experiment" has Impacted our Lives So Far

A little over a month ago, I decided that the munchkin and I were going to go gluten free.  There were some good reasons why I thought it might be a good option for us.  HERE is my original post and why I decided to try this.

I started logging updates in the beginning, but then Christmas and the festivities hit and I totally fell off the bandwagon.  I was hoping to log some info as I went and then present it all together once we hit the one month mark (oops we missed that too).  December 6th was our first day going completely gluten free and it has officially been one month and four days.  I thought I would finally post an update.  I've got some pretty amazing stuff to share!

Here is what I started to log during the first week...

Day 3

We are on day 3 of our gluten free experiment.  I am missing my sprouted whole wheat toast with fruit spread or with a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in the morning.  I had crepes yesterday and this morning I stuck to scrambled eggs, bacon and strawberries.  I am thinking I am going to have to make some banana bread muffins ASAP cuz I am missing that "bready" element in the morning.  It's really the only time of day I would have any type of bread, but I sure did enjoy it.

I know it's way too early to tell, and could be completely unrelated, but I had the most awesome evening with the munchkin last night.  She was so much fun and her mood was so light and happy.  It's something I don't get to see all the time.  She was just playful and relaxed.  We just hung out in the living room all evening while Joe was at school.  We listened to music, played with some of her toys, and snuggled on the couch, just hanging out and making each other laugh.  It was a good night.

Day 6

It's been almost a week.  I have actually dropped a couple of pounds since we started and I feel alot less bloated then I did last week.  Coincidence?  I am not sure yet, but chances are they are related.  I have been slowly going up in my weight since I found out I was pregnant, despite the fact that you really aren't supposed to gain much during the first trimester.  I was up 6 lbs., now I am up only 4 lbs.  My face is also clearer.  That really could be coincidence as that comes and goes anyway.  If it continues to get better and then stays better for any considerable amount of time, then I will know if it's helping or not.

Day 7 - One full week!!

We have officially made it one full week.  I hate to get my hopes up, it really only has been a week, but it's hard not to deny the differences in the munchkin already.  She just seems a bit more calm in general.  She still gets mad in a typical toddler fashion if she isn't getting her way, but her reaction time is shorter now.  We have the same incidents and issues, but they seem to be a little less frequent. And she calms down more quickly.  She just seems a bit happier.

* * * * * * * * * 

Now we are up to speed.  I wish I had kept up with the updates, but it was Christmas, I was in my first trimester and things were crazy busy as it was.

So where are we now?

My first and main concern were the OCD issues that seemed to be developing for the little munchkin.  These were more of a concern then I really wanted to admit. My husband too, was having a hard time admitting that something wasn't right and that we needed to make such a drastic commitment.  Even in the beginning, when I told him that I really wanted to try this, that I thought it might help, he commented to me that he didn't think anything was wrong with her and why was I trying to fix her?*  This led to some horrible guilt on my part.  What if there was absolutely nothing wrong with her at all, that this was just normal two year old behavior and why couldn't I just be happy with her just the way she was? It was a terrible feeling. As conflicted as I felt about it, I still couldn't get over the strong feeling that something just wasn't right and that it wasn't typical 2YO behavior. If we tried it, and nothing changed, then at least it didn't hurt to try.

* I think, this was really more because the idea of going gluten free to fix any problems seemed a far reach to him.

Now that we are a month in, I am pretty amazed actually. I am also pretty relieved. It's so wonderful to see her this way. Her OCD issues are non existent. Literally, there is no trace of it. Whatsoever. When things are done out of her normal routine, she barely bats an eye.  She may notice, she may even comment, but it doesn't upset her. This was the biggest and most wonderful change of all. Every time we needed to switch things up, we braced ourselves for the inevitable melt down. I still brace myself out of habit, but time and time again, she just continues to go with the flow now. I can't tell you how happy I am about this.

We can now talk to her and reason with her when things aren't going her way.  This was something that was very difficult for us before.  There were times when she would start to get upset, extremely upset, and we just couldn't figure out why. She didn't seem to understand why herself. She would become overwhelmed with her emotions and wasn't able to tell us what was wrong. You could actually see a look of panic in her eyes and I really felt like she had no idea why she was so upset or how to calm herself down. You couldn't even talk to her when she would get like this and it was really hard on everyone. Now, this just doesn't happen any more. She will get upset about stuff, but she knows why and can talk to us about it.  If she is mad or upset about something, we can explain things to her and reason with her. These incidents now, in my opinion, are perfectly normal toddler behavior. Nothing like what we were dealing with before.

Most of the time, when she woke up in the morning, she would be in a terrible mood. Especially if she was still sleeping and we had to wake her up.  She would literally be sobbing and crying and we would have no idea why.  We would try different things to change her mood, but typically it was just a waiting game. She would usually be pretty upset until about half way through eating her breakfast, and then would finally start to calm down. Or sometimes she would just stay in a bad mood all the way to the sitter's house. Usually she would chill out in the car ride over and by the time she arrived. Now?  She wakes up in the best moods!  I wake up first, head to the kitchen to make breakfast and Joe gets up shortly after me, gets the munchkin out of bed, dressed and brings her into the kitchen to eat.  I can't tell you how wonderful it is, hearing them interacting on the monitor now in the mornings, when he heads in there.  They both sound so much happier.  When he brings her into the kitchen, she is all smiles.  She is chatty and wants hugs and kisses and just seems excited to be up and starting her day. Our mornings are so much happier and calmer and, this has made a big difference in my life as I now go to work each day in a much better mood myself!

We transitioned her to her toddler bed without a hitch. I was concerned that it would be difficult, as she always had such an attachment to anything that was part of her every day routine and changes normally freaked her out terribly. But all we had to do was pick it up and show it to her.  She was excited about it and wanted to sleep in it right away!  We couldn't believe it!

I could go on an on with more examples, but I don't want this to get too crazy long.  I will save them to share as we go.

I can now say with confidence, that going gluten free has made a major improvement in our lives. To be honest, I knew it wouldn't hurt anything, but in no way did I expect to see such a huge difference.  The major concerns that led me to try this in the first place have now been completely eliminated. And it is completely obvious to anyone who spent any decent amount of time with her both before and after.

Overall, she is just so much happier in general. She is more relaxed. More calm. More go with the flow. We have been able to keep her up later, past her bed time, without needing a couple of days to recover from messing with her routine. She just seems like she is "all there".  I am not sure how else to better describe it, but when you are hanging out with her, there is a noticeable difference. You now have her full attention and you can see in her eyes that she is right there with you 100%. She laughs all the time and is so funny... she is always making the funniest jokes and I have no idea where it comes from or when she got to be so damn funny! These are all things we would see before from time to time and catch glimpses of, but now this is part of our every day norm.

I am still pinching myself every day at the wonderful changes we are seeing.  I feel so grateful to have this wonderful little person in our lives and so relieved that we are getting to know her better and better ever day, in a way we weren't able to before. I don't think I could ever find the words to express how much of a gift that is to me.

I wasn't sure how well going gluten free would work for us. I wasn't sure it would help any, and if it did, if it would even be obvious enough to know for sure that it made any difference. I am now a true believer that gluten can have a terrible effect on some people and that removing it can make a wonderful and huge difference in their life. Our gluten free experiment is definitely now a permanent change.

This post is part of the Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania Carnival.


Anonymous said...

You know I have your back. I am absolutely floored at the change I saw in the munchkin. Would you be okay with me linking to this post for my Food Allergy Friday post this week? It's SUCH a powerful story.

Laura said...

You are more then welcome to share this story, Gina :)

Patiperra said...

Hi Laura, I found your story through Wellness Mama. Isn't it incredible? I have experienced the same with my girl, 4 years now. Unfortunately I didn't understand the connection with the diet before she was already 3,5 years and we went through quite many unecessary world wars before then (these almost broke me, she was a tough toddler!)
Happy to see others experiencing the same we did. Since the summer, we have not been able to keep her diet completely glutenfree, because she goes to municipal daycare and they require medical certificate to get special diet and her gluten tests are negative (I am probably one of the few mom's who wished to get positive results on the blood tests!). So nowadays we still have some outbursts, but it is nothing in comparison to what we used to have - total meltdown for 1,5 hours!

Good luck and keep up the good work!

Laura said...

It is incredible! I think it was fortunate that we already had a more limited amount of gluten in our diet already, as this helped us to notice the difference when she would have it more then usual. Otherwise, I don't know that I would have been ready to commit to it just yet. That is what lead me to do more research on the topic and how I found so many other stories of parens with children having similar problems and how removing gluten helped them. Will the school not let you pack your own child's lunch?

Patiperra said...

I have done the same journey in 2011. Now completely hooked on nutrition and its impact on health and behavior. Got the GAPS book today from Amazon (Natasha Campbell-McBride) and can't wait to get to read it! To pack lunch is a major commitment when the option is free lunch (live in Finland, these things are kind of our "natural right"). But if I get inspired by the Campbell-McBride book then I'll try to negotiate something and figure out how to explain to the kids. I haven't been able to restrict cookies and treats at parties either - too hard on my sweetie to see the friends eat. She was too old to take the switch as something natural, her younger brother wouldn't notice. But at home we never have gluten anymore and I hope we will be able to do the 100% shift at some point!

Laura said...

That GAPS diet is a wonderful diet for healing! We actually started my dad on it over the summer after a they threatened surgery when he was admitted to the hospital and the results have been amazing! I actually have several GAPS friendly recipes posted in my recipes section if they might help you out. Good luck on your journey! The GAPS diet seems hard at first, but it is a wonderful diet!

Susannah said...

That is crazy and awesome! Now I'm even more excited to start it! I would love to do this with Emma once I figure it out!

Jackie @ Crest Cottage said...

This made me tear up! I am so happy for you AND for her. Keep us posted!!

Anonymous said...

I have been on the fence about going gluten free....... Would you be able to give us a sample menu of foods you do eat?

Laura said...

Just check out my recipes section. Every recipe in there is gluten free and those are the types of meals we eat all of the time.

Kodi said...

I've toyed with this idea, but basically I've just been too lazy to commit. I have terrible eating habits (we eat fast food WAY too much) and I honestly am scared to fight my toddler when he asks for a cereal bar etc. Most days he only eats carbs, so I don't know how to even think about starting. Plus, where I live I'm afraid there will be too limited of resources. Anyway, I want to really research it and look into it...I'm just scared. Any advice?

Laura said...

I can totally understand why the idea would be very overwhelming. It was at one point to me as well. If it's something you are really interesting in considering, just start researching and reading about it. Armed with the facts and information, it might really help you to make the leap. I am not sure what you mean by there not being enough resources though... Where do you live? As long as you have a grocery store and internet access at the minimum, then you are good to go. Even better if you have a farmer's market or local farms you can purchase things from. I don't typically buy any special products that are labeled "gluten free", if that's what you mean. Many of them are just as bad for you, but in other ways. We just stick to a real food diet... food that comes from an animal or grows out of the ground, with no preservatives or chemicals added. Most of the things I buy don't have an ingredient list, because they are just one ingredient. Most of our meals and snacks revolve around proteins, healthy fats, vegetables and fruits. I sometimes bake things using almond flour or coconut flour. We keep it pretty simple. I really believe that is the way we are meant to eat. The way our ancestors ate before the onset of all of the every day diseases we are plagued with now.... obesity, diabetes, auto immune disorders, and all the things our poor kids are having to deal with (ADD, OCD, food allergies and other sensitivities and so on...).

I think that conventional food is the culprit, including many prepackaged "gluten free" items. I think going back to the basics... natural, "organic" whole foods is how we are going to get back on track. I know that for my family, I have all the proof I need. We have been eating this way (although not 100% gluten free) for the past couple of years and I haven't felt this great since I was a kid. Seriously. I stay thin easily, where as before I constantly struggled with my diet, yo-yo dieting with low-cal, low fat diets for years ,before I knew anything about health and nutrition. I was just feeding into what the big agriculture and diet industries were telling us (when really all they care about is money, not us). I rarely get sick, maybe just a couple of times in the last couple of years and nothing serious. I used to get sick all of the time. I also used to get kidney stones several times per year. I never have to deal with them any more. My daughter has only been sick once when she was 3 months old.

Laura said...

(Kodi Cont...)
I doubt you have the time or care, but all of this is logged in my blog over the past few years! It's amazing how far we have come. I started my blog right after I became pregnant with my daughter. My diet was HORRIBLE while I was pregnant. And I even got two kidney stones while I was pregnant and one a few months after. My daughter was born with lots of reflux and digestive issues. I have healed both of us through our diet. Our food is our fuel and it really does directly effect our health and our future health. Children are especially at risk, because food is so much more unhealthy now then it was when we were little kids. I just never really understood that or how obviously true it was until now.

I can't tell you how wonderful it has been the last month or so to really see the difference removing gluten completely from our diet has made for our daughter. Reading over my post, where I put all of the differences to paper, made me cry. Such a simple change and to have so much of an effect. How can that not be worth the effort? I feel like we are able to enjoy each other more and the time we have. It's such an amazing gift.

Also, eating this way, kids are just not as hungry between meals. Carbs fill you up, but not for long. Kids who eat alot of high carb, empty calorie meals are often wanting lots of snacks all day long and will beg and scream for them because they can't think of anything else. Sugar and processed carbs are extremely addictive, almost like a drug. I know that may sound extreme, but it's actually true. If you want to read a book that really explains the science behind that and might help you to understand some things a little better about how our bodies work and process certain things, you should check out the book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. Great Book and really helps to explain things.


If you do decide to give it a try, I would be happy to help in any way I can with info or advice. It's a big step, I know. But I can't imagine how it is one that you would ever regret taking or trying, no matter how difficult it may seem at first. It gets easier and easier, until eventually, it's just the way it is. And it's actually pretty simple.

I hope this helps somehow...

Wendy Coffman said...

We had a very similar experience with our oldest son - borderline OCD, had him tested (negative) for autism, but something wasn't right. The tantrums weren't just tantrums. The rigid adherence to daily routine to avoid upsetting him, inability to deviate without major trauma - we've been there. And Switching to Gluten free was also the saving grace for us. We took the whole family along, and it's had benefits for all of us - the younger boys had eczema problems - now they are gone so long as we don't have any accidental exposures. Gluten free had been a wonderful thing for us too!

Edward J. Edmonds said...


Anything by Wolfgang Lutz is good.