Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gluten? Really?

So I believe I mentioned it previously, but after a couple weeks and no good reason for J's prolonged illness (and the only clue being flared up sinuses and signs of allergies in her blood work), C and I started researching common allergies.  Based on her history of symptoms -- for as long as we've known her -- it seems that perhaps she has a sensitivity to gluten.

Now I know that it's very "in" to be talking about gluten sensitivities and/or allergies -- or so it seems to me, anyway -- but according to what I've read on from various sources, about 15% of the population is sensitive to gluten.  That seems pretty common to me.

When we consider J's past, I can match her up to several of the symptoms listed (again, in varied sources, but here's a good comprehensive list).

Including this recent illness, J has always had the worst digestive issues of the five kids.  She's first to contract any stomach virus going around (and sometimes the only one) and she stays sick the longest.   I remember horrid diapers when she was an infant and several times, things got so bad, we had to throw away entire outfits when we were out in public and just buy her something new to wear.  It happened more than once or twice, I'll tell you.

She struggled with tummy issues (up and down) over the times when visits with her birthmother were most frequent.  Stress was blamed because she was too young to understand all the transitioning and her doctor even believed she was struggling with infant/toddler depression (though this could never be confirmed by a child-psychologist because she was too young).  Along with the obvious digestive strain, she would often withdraw and want to be alone for long periods of time after returning to us.  She was one and two years old.

Over the years, she has had steady patterns of behavior that has seemed extreme compared with the other kids.  Moody, but to new heights.  She'd have "up" days where she would just wildly craft up a storm, tear rooms apart, play, play, play, play, play, laugh maniacally and not want to sleep till the wee hours of the morning only to rest for a couple hours before getting up again.  She'd be like this for a couple days in a row and then the crash would come.

Then she'd be down for 4 to 6 days, weeping over every thing, clinging to me, sad, sad, tired, sad, unsatisfiable.  I'm not sure what was harder -- ups or downs.

There were times of normal in between, for which I praised God!  And the moment I started taking those times for granted, sure enough she'd be hyperactive again.

And the tantrums she would give into at 1 and 2 and 3 and 4... oh my.

Given her birthfamily's genetic history (the parts we knew) and J's addiction to narcotics at birth and how these factors increase J's chances, I started wondering whether she was bipolar.  As she grew and learned to better control herself, my thoughts of bipolar started waning, though doctor's told me to keep an eye on her, especially when puberty hits.  So it's always been in the back of my mind.  And the ups and downs continued for unknown reasons.

Oh, and iron!  Now, J is not a big meat fan, but she does eat a lot of peanut butter, nuts, beans, eggs, even tofu.  But there have been several incidences where doctors have told me she struggles with low iron.  I just figured she needed more protein -- I never considered that she might have absorption issues.  And now looking at the symptoms of gluten intolerance, that fits, too.

The girl's favorite foods are macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, pasta with butter, grilled cheese and pizza -- but she does eat other things, too (mostly fruits and vegetables). What do these favorite foods have in common?  Wheat.  And as she's gotten a tad more picky in what she'll eat, we find keeping a steady supply of $1.00 frozen mac-and-cheese entrees around are easy to give her in place of whatever meal the rest of us are having.  Choosing our battles.

But in not fighting those battles, it's possible that we slowly poisoned her until she was just stuffed with too much pasta and her body revolted.

This happened to me a few years back with sulfites.  I have asthma that developed when I was an adult thanks to some mold that grew in the walls of an apartment (the unit upstairs flooded unbeknownst to us).  For a couple years, my asthma got so bad, I was medically mandated to stop all physical activity for a while, till I got better.

Around this time, I started researching things that could be making my asthma flare up (my doctor at that time was no help).  I read about how many asthmatics have sulfite sensitivity.  And I looked at my diet at the time and realized that not only was I downing fake lemonade almost daily, but C and I were on a pizza kick and often times, pizza dough contains sulfites.  So for a good couple months, I cut out all sulfites.  I avoided them like they were poison. 

You know what happened?

I got better.  My asthma is manageable with medication now and only when I'm really, really sick does it give me any trouble at all.  And I can still eat pizza or enjoy the occasional glass of lemonade.

I think my body just was overrun.  So I had to go through a period of purification, so to speak.

For three days, we have cut all gluten out of J's diet.  For two days, she has not vomited.  The color is coming back to her cheeks.  Her energy level is normalizing.  She's adjusting to eating again at all, of course, and so her appetite is still smaller than usual, but she's eating a lot of stuff.  Most of it not on the BRAT/BRATTY diet and somehow, she's keeping it down.

So, it could be that miraculously her health was restored this very week (coincidentally) OR it could be that her body is finally getting cleansed of excess gluten that was not being processed well and just making her really sick.  I mean, think of the BRAT diet alone -- Toast is one of four!  So we were continuing to make things worse for her while attempting to give her a stomach friendly diet.  And we were still doing pasta in the form of Cup-o Noodles, upon her request.

Time will tell, I think, but wouldn't it be wonderful to find this information out?  To help normalize symptoms we've seen in her for years?

I'm not saying, J will never eat gluten again ever, but taking a break and focusing on some other food groups, as well as utilizing the numerous selections of gluten-free options out there might be beneficial for her.  Whatever the case, I'm glad to see her enjoying mealtimes, regaining her appetite and most of all, feeling better for more than just one day!


  1. I'm glad you feel like you're onto something with her issues! And it's a great time to be gluten-sensitive, because there are so many gluten-free products on the market now! Plus C is probably eager for the challenge. ;)

  2. I have to add that a lady in choir has an adopted granddaughter who was a crack baby. This little girl has had very severe problems with her digestive system; the drugs during gestation have been proven to be a factor. This, as you mentioned, can explain some of J's sensitivities.
    I'm so glad J is doing better!