March 31, 2012

Elimination Diet Surprises

I'm not sure what prompted me to finally do it.  Maybe it was meeting a family we loved who was living dye free on account of their kids' behavior changing when they eat dye.  Or maybe it was Hunter's inability to make it through 20 minutes with his online speech teacher without becoming totally fidgety and distracted.  Or maybe it was the woman who wrote Teaching Self Government mentioning how many of her clients performed better without gluten in their diets.  I guess it was all of that that sent me looking for more articles and videos about elimination diets.

Once I started looking, I was struck by the correlation between kids who showed problems with dairy early on and an increased rate of behavior issues related to food intolerance.  Hunter had intestinal bleeding when he first had cow's milk, so we were dairy free for a year.  We tried it again after a year and he was fine, just like the doc promised.  So this got me thinking.  Hunter's behavior is what I would consider typical, if maybe a little moody, boy behavior.  Nothing over the top disruptive.  Nothing that would send me looking for answers.  And Joe's mom reports that he was an overly sensitive, somewhat moody kid and he's now a perfectly charming and delightful grown man, so that gives me faith.

Still, I guess it was just a perfect storm of information exposure all at once right when I was a little alarmed at his lack of focus that prompted me to read more.  And then his dairy thing.  I don't know.  Maybe it's nothing, but, like I told Joe on the phone, maybe there's some diet change that could give him a little more of an edge.  And boy could he use a little edge.

So we took the plunge.  We're all doing it with him and that has resulted in some completely unexpected insights.  Even if in the end, we find that nothing made a huge difference, I've learned so much about all 3 of the kids in just a few days.  And about myself.  It's been humbling.

First, we just removed 4 main things- the big 4 possibilities as far as I can tell from reading all of these articles.  Dyes, gluten, casein, and preservatives. Just 4 things.  But boy has it been hard to live without those 4 things!  This means no eating out or convenience food, which I always considered us masters of anyway, but no.  When Joe is out of town, I usually lighten up a bit and go the easy route for at least a night.  It keeps the kids happy and distracted from the fact that they miss their dad when they get an out of the ordinary junky meal.  And it's just once in a while, so I don't worry about it.  But there's been none of that.  And when we were out shopping for bulbs today and they boys wanted a snack, there was nothing convenient to buy them from the snack shelf at the seed store.  Nothing.  So I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought them some melons to make up for it.  So is trickier with kids and no preservatives or wheat.

Hannah Jane, the family starch addict, is  grateful that potatoes are still on the menu, but annoyed at eating them  without loading them down with dairy products first.  We've had a LOT of sliced potatoes in olive oil.  A lot.  And sugar.  It's not one of our 4 things, but it usually comes with one of them and since we don't just sit around and eat straight table sugar, that's fallen by the wayside as well.  She misses it oh, so much.  Which tells me that she's gotten way too much of it.  I always tell myself that my kids eat way healthier than most kids we know, and so I don't worry too much about the occasional treat.  But I suppose our occasional has gotten occasional enough that she's super focused on not having a sugary treat. She's actually come to me, thinking the boys were asleep already and said, "Look, I know we're doing this mostly for Hunter, so would it be the end of the world if you and I had a cookie real fast?"  I didn't go for it.  I know she's right and we started down this path for Hunter, but seeing her need for sugar has me rethinking sugar in a big way.

Haven has had his worst day on record today.  We ran into a friend in the grocery store and I stopped to chat for a fairly short period of time.  Haven just randomly started bawling in the cart.  Literally nothing had happened.  Nothing.  I rubbed his head and tried to keep giving our friend my attention, but Haven wouldn't be soothed.  I finally cut off the conversation and asked what was up and he just shook his head and cried, "I don't know!  I'm tired and hungry and I'm just mad."  Really weird for him.  We got home and I fed him again.  He's eaten a TON today.  Within 10 minutes he flipped out about having to put his own dish away, which is standard in our house, so nothing really to flip out about.  I sent him to his room just to calm down so we could talk, but he just got more and more intense.  A few minutes later he was in his room screaming, "No, Mommy!  No!!!"  It was nuts.  I hadn't even been in there since I sent him just to calm down so we could talk, but he was screaming like I was in there tormenting him in some way.  It was seriously insane.  I've never seen anything like it.  When he was finally quiet, I went in and asked if he was ready to start over and rejoin the family activities.  He just burst out into tears, screaming again.  I said, "Oh.  Guess not.  Sorry.  Let me know when you're ready to hang with us!"  and left.  Pure insanity.

I went an looked up this diet plan to see if it could ever cause a kid to behave worse and found that it's not uncommon for kids to have withdraws.  What the heck?  I hadn't bargained for this.  Still, I suppose if it really is a food withdraw (I'm still holding out hope that he's just having an uncharacteristically bad day and tomorrow he'll be the little angle we know and love) then it's a good thing we're doing this.  Haven is just so generally level and balanced that I didn't expect to see a big change in him.  So, yeah.  It's probably just a coincidence.  I guess we'll see tomorrow!

And then there is Hunter.  I don't know that I'd notice a withdraw in Hunter if he had one because he is so moody.  The way Haven behaved today would be a normal once a week behavior for him.  But Hunter has had the very best day ever.  He's been calm.  He's been offended by a sibling and instead of screaming or vowing never to play with that person for the rest of his life, hejust said quietly, "I don't like that.  I'd like for you to stop."  And he's taken a moment to say thank you for every little thing today.  Everything.  He asked where his cup was and I said I had no idea.  He said, "Thanks for telling me you didn't know where my cup was.  I love you!  Bye!"  Weird.  Fantastic, but weird.  Again, maybe this is all a coincidence.  He does typically behave more angelically if Haven is having a bad day.  It's like it's his chance to shine and he usually lives up to the occasion.

So, with both of the boys, I'm trying not to read too much into one day's events.  It's tempting, but I'm not going to go there.  We'll see how the next few days play out.  And then it will be time to add one thing at a time back in.  Add it back in mass and look for a meltdown.  If none occurs, we're good.  If one does, then I guess we take it out, level off, and add it back again looking to weed out any coincidences.

No matter what we find, the plan has been for a long time to significantly decrease preservatives.  We already do a ton of that by making our own convenience foods and canning our own veggies with nothing but water. And now I see that sugar is more of an issue than I realized, which is a bummer because I am a total addict myself and I wasn't really up for quitting that any time soon.  I actually just read this story about Gandhi that relates to this.  A mother was worried that her son was literally going to drop dead because all he would eat was sugar and he was very ill because of that.  She knew he idolized Gandhi, so she traveled far to take her son to meet him.  When it was their turn, she begged him, "Please, my son loves you and he will do what you say.  I am afraid he is going to die if he keeps eating only sugar."  Gandhi told her to leave and come back in 2 months.  She was clearly annoyed that he didn't help her out.  But she did as he asked and came back in 2 months hoping for a better experience.   When they entered his presence, he simply looked at the boy and said, "Stop eating sugar."  The boys mom was just as annoyed and asked why he couldn't have just said that when they came the first time.  "Last time you came, I was still eating sugar."  Whoa.

While I am certain Gandhi had a higher calling than I do, I'm also certain that I can't keep my addiction and expect them not to partake of it.  This week, not being able to buy candy when we go out because then I'd have to share and it's not on their diet, I've been sneaking spoonfuls of Nutella when no one looks.  How sad is that?  But it's the only sugar in the house and I've got serious problems.  I've actually looked for 12 step programs for breaking sugar addiction in the past, but quickly decided to content myself with enjoying it in the non-moderation I have become accustomed to.  But I guess the time has come.  I mean, that Gandhi story showed up in a completely unrelated reading when I wasn't looking for info on nutrition or diets.  It was just sent to me by the cosmos to tell me that I've got to get my own food issues in order before I try to take on theirs.

Soooo...I'll keep ya posted on the food insanity.  I'm rooting for us to find something easy to live without and that by removing it, we become happy and harmonious creatures without having to overturn our lives.  And please.  Please, don't let it be wheat.  I can't think of anything less convenient than a wheat intolerance.  Gluten free food substitutions are so expensive!  We browsed the supermarket for ideas for things we conveniently eat this week and that gluten free food was quadruple the price of what it was replacing.  THe thought of the long term expense of gluten free eating makes my wallet hurt.

Anyway, that's the deal.  The drama.  The diet.  Hopefully Haven survives!  LOL!


  1. You'll find what works for you and yours. We all do. I contemplated going gluten-free, and when I tried the gluten-free flour mix it made me MUCH sicker than the wheat! I think it was the starches, they're fairly processed... I've settled with eating no whole wheat (which bothers me more than white flour, go figure), minimal white flour, and more veggies and other grains. Love quinoa. Gluten-free products are very expensive, and usually such a pale comparison that it's not worth it. There are plenty of other treats and lunches and snacks and dinners and breakfasts out there that are inherently gluten-free, without being knock-offs. And sugar, can't help you there. Have you tried stepping down gradually? I was buying evaporated cane juice through Azure for a while, and while it is still "sugar" it is less processed and still has the minerals and other co-"nutrients" that whole sugar cane offers. I saw a great concept on a website just this weekend of "bridging foods": the foods that are not perfect, but are a step better than we were before. That sounds so much more doable, you know? Compassionate, gentle and kind. :)

    1. My first thought was to step down gradually, but after reading a ton, I decided that there was no real way to know for sure if something was bugging him unless we did the whole elimination thing. When we lived in OR, he always looked like he had black eyes and the Dr. called them his "allergy shiners," which we assumed was from all of the mold. And then there was the intestinal bleeding and the ear infections and sleep difficulties. So, with all of that in his past, it seems safe to assume that if he is sensitive to a food, he may be sensitive to several and total elimination is the only way to see what those might be. He's my only guy who wasn't breastfed for a full year and I consider him a walking testament to the importance of breast milk! My other 2 are shining beacons of immunity and health!

      I love your wheat story! I was just watching an MD last night who said that she was a vegetarian her whole life and ate all raw b/c that's what's accepted as most healthy. But she didn't feel healthy and she found after testing and trial and error that her body really thrived on meat and was actually sensitive to a few veggies. Her point being just that what's healthy for one person isn't healthy for everyone and you just never know until you take a serious look at your diet. So, we're going to just see how it all plays out. Hannah Jane is mad, and reasonably so I guess, but it's been just as interesting watching her deal with changes in her routine as it has been watching the boys yoyo all over the place. I feel like I'm running a rehab facility over here! It's kind of a funny adventure when I step back from it.

      Good to know about the replacement flours. The noodles we bought look yummy enough, but we've pretty much lived off of chicken, potatoes,. and melons for the last few meals. Hunter doesn't see the point in pasta if it doesn't had Parm all over the top :)

  2. Wow I'm so glad you posted this because I think I can now convince my husband that we should actually do it. We got a Vitamix three days ago and we are LOVING IT. I have used it 4 or 5 times for three days straight now. Had two green smoothies today and have not craved sugar which is SO UNLIKE ME! (I'm also a sugar sneaker... although I dont allow nutella in my house because I'll eat it within a few days and it seriously gets my face broken out after one day!) I think I might email you...

    1. Oh my gosh! I'm usually safe with Nutella, but I've eaten this jar, one of the big jars, in 3 days. And not on anything. Just spooning it out into my mouth. It's a shameful thing.

  3. Okay I am finally ready to *begin* planning an elimination diet but having a hard time finding recipes the kids will like without dairy, gluten, SUGAR?! Do you have any website recommendations? I have been browsing forever and not finding any that really have much useful except for one or another item, much less a few no-no foods. Only if you happened upon them when you were going through this ;-) thanks!

  4. Honestly, I didn't find much either, so we went for actual whole food over recipes. There are some gluten free vegan recipes that are pretty safe unless you're looking for the rare tomato and certain fruit sensitivities. We pretty much ate oats for breakfast, fruits and veggies for lunch, and quinoa and veggies for dinner, all with no fancy sauces or toppings. Sounds dull...was dull...but it's just for a short season. Good luck! let me know how it goes!

  5. Oh okay so you didnt do the oat = possible gluten intake. I read that it could be either way, cross contamination etc... but yes maybe too much to try to eliminate oats hehe. I will just need to experiment with quinoa more ;-) I'm planning to do it in August (going on a trip for all of July) but getting recipes together now, will let you know! Thanks :-)

  6. Your comment is the first I've heard of oat contamination. Huh. Yeah, I guess it's safe to say that we didn't worry about that :D We never went back and finished the test after the kitchen remodel chaos ended, but with Joe and I going vegan, Hunter, of all of the kiddos, has really latched on to just plain old cut up veggies, rice, qinoa, and basic good stuff, so we haven't really felt the need to go back. That said, he still hasn't eaten a single egg, his previous favorite food. It's been at least a month or two since his last egg and while he's still a bit reactive, he's mellowed quite considerably. I'm almost tempted to give him some eggs just to see if it's a fluke and he just happens to be maturing a bit, but I don't feel up for what will happen if it wasn't a fluke. I'm enjoying him more than I have in years, so I think we'll just let him forget eggs.


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