Grant’s cousin discovered she had Celiac disease a few years ago. Once she gave up those foods that contain gluten, she lost about 30 lbs. and she looks and feels fantastic! I am currently looking into a gluten free bread option that I can live with. If giving up gluten can help me lose a few pounds, I am willing to try it! The trouble is, gluten seems to be EVERYWHERE! I need to know exactly what foods it is in and how do I possibly go about giving it up?? That’s why I am looking forward to checking out Jax Peters Lowell’s new book: The Gluten Free Revolution: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know about Losing the Wheat, Reclaiming Your Health, and Eating Happily Ever After. (Stay tuned for this book review and giveaway!) The following guest post, also written by Jax Peters Lowell, discusses how gluten is now being scientifically linked to behavioral problems in some kids. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Check it out!
Gluten and Behavior
By Jax Peters Lowell,
Author of The Gluten Free Revolution: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know about Losing the Wheat, Reclaiming Your Health, and Eating Happily Ever After
More and more parents are putting their children on gluten-free diets because of behavioral problems. There are many reasons for hyperactivity, mood swings, depression, and angry outbursts in children, some of them serious enough to warrant medical and psychiatric attention. But just as more and more adults are having a problem with gluten, you’ve got to wonder if the ever-increasing number of children labeled with mood disorders and in counseling may also be reacting to the toxic effect of gluten in their diets.
In a paper entitled “Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism,” published in the Journal of Child Neurology, researchers discussed the case of a five-year-old boy with digestive problems and diagnosed with severe autism. When put on the gluten-free diet, the child’s digestive problems resolved quickly, along with the symptoms and signs of autism. The study concluded, “All children with neurodevelopmental problems should be assessed for nutritional deficiency and malabsorption syndromes such as celiac disease.”
The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition presented a study supporting a well-known fact that the gut is hardwired to the brain. This one measured the incidence of leaky gut (intestinal lining that has become hyperpermeable, resulting in larger food molecules, yeast, and other toxins the body doesn’t normally allow through to get into the blood circulation, leading to inflammation) in children with autism as well as their first-degree relatives and compared them to a normal, unaffected population. Researchers found a much higher percentage of leaky gut, 36.7 percent, in the first group as compared to 4.8 percent in the control subjects, and a high percentage of autistic children presenting with GI problems such as constipation and diarrhea. The study concluded, “Results support the leaky gut hypothesis and indicates that measuring intestinal permeability could help identify a subgroup of patients with autism who could benefit from the gluten-free diet.”
Neurologic problems such as anger and depression are well documented in adult gluten intolerance. So why not look for it in children who aren’t responding to counseling, medications, or other mood disorder interventions? Kelly Dorfman, author of Cure Your Child with Food, says that three or more positive responses to the following questions may suggest gluten intolerance as the reason for your child’s behavior problems.
- Does your child crave or strongly prefer gluten-based foods, such as bread, pasta, cereal, and pizza?
- Have psychological and/or behavioral strategies to control your child’s outbursts been mostly unsuccessful?
- Are any of your child’s immediate family members sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease?
- Does your child currently have or has he or she in the past had chronic digestive symptoms, such as excessive gas, diarrhea, or stomach pain?
- Is your child on the small side, despite eating plenty of food?
Neurologist David Perlmutter, in his excellent book Grain Brain, cites a virtual epidemic of neurologic disorders not seen in previous generations and tells of treating many young patients diagnosed with neurologic problems like ADHD, developmental delay, learning difficulties, tic disorders, even autism and Tourette’s syndrome with a gluten-free diet. He reports improvements in test scores, emotional stability, and concentration. In the case of one toddler, the results were so dramatic, the school nurse called the parents who had refused to put their child on medication, to thank them for changing their minds and doing so.
There does seem to be a troubling uptick in pediatric neurological problems. Many parents worry that their children are being given medications that may affect their long-term health. Any concerned parent would want to take matters into his or her own hands.
But I would add one strong caveat here. In your eagerness to see the depression lift and the behavior resolve, you don’t want to overlook celiac disease and the serious ramifications for your child’s future of letting it go undiagnosed.
Test before you toss the gluten. And test again periodically.
Jax Peters Lowell, author of The Gluten-Free Revolution, diagnosed with celiac disease more than twenty years ago, was the first to bring national attention to the gluten-free diet. In addition to writing bestselling books on living well without wheat, she is an award-winning poet and the author of the novel Mothers, released this year in a new edition. She is a recipient of the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award for fiction and poetry as well as for her pioneering efforts in bringing public awareness to gluten intolerance. She lives in Philadelphia in a restored bread factory.
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