The Gluten Wars

O has some food sensitivities, mainly to gluten, and less so to dairy and caffeine. We figured this out early, when he was two months old. The research says that most babies grow out of these sensitivities and don’t have any further problems. Since O is still almost exclusively breastfed, it means I have completely eliminated gluten from my diet. He even reacts to ‘hidden’ gluten (like MSG in packaged foods).

This week I decided to reintroduce gluten into my diet, to see if he was still reacting. The Verdict: an emphatic YES!

It’s mainly affecting his nighttime sleep, and his mood. We’ve had several horrendous nights in a row, so I’m back on what I like to call the rice-cakes-and-water diet. Works wonders for the waistline.

People sympathise when I tell them the situation and say ‘that must be so hard. And it is. And it isn’t. My pocketbook is the main area that’s hurting. Gluten-free foods are very expensive. Check it out next time you’re in the health food store. On the other hand, I’m amazed at how easy I find it to avoid the bad foods, just because I know it will hurt my little guy. I’m not known for my tremendous willpower, especially when it comes to food, so I would have expected this to be harder for me than it is. If it were ME with the issue, I think I’d find it more difficult to resist those delicious carbs. But just thinking about how it hurts his little tummy makes me turn away.

If you’re wondering if your little one has issues with certain foods, this is what we noticed, and then how we narrowed down the posibilities:

O was always a very fussy baby, not colicky, but certainly not one of those ‘easy’ babies. My mom-sense was that he was in pain a lot of the time and we pulled our hair out trying pin down cause. We tried gripe water, and Ovol, keeping him upright, probiotics, singing, dancing, shhhing, the whole gamut. Nothing seemed to help much.

I was reading through The Baby Book by Dr. Sears (great investment, btw, if you’re expecting!) and it said that food sensitivities can be distinguished by, among other things, a sandpaper-like rash on the face, elbows and knees. Well, I’ll be darned if O didn’t have exactly that. We hadn’t thought much of it. Infants can get a lot of weird skin things, for no reason.

I immediately went on an elimination diet, cutting out all dairy, gluten and soy, the three most common causes. I did that for two weeks. That really was the rice-cakes-and-water diet. I reintroduced soy with no problem. Then I tried gluten and it was really apparent that we had an issue. He was super fussy, the rash came back, he had diahrea, was waking up at night all rigid and crying. He has less of a reaction to dairy, but I still avoid it for the most part.

So moms – if you have a really fussy little one, it’s worth trying an elimination diet of at least dairy, to see if it helps. It’s made such a difference for O.

We’ll be waiting a LONG time before we introduce anything with gluten into his diet, once he gets more onto solids. I’m hoping it’s not a life-long things, but I do have a family history of celiac disease and gluten intolerance on both sides of my family, and one of Jeff’s cousin’s has celiac disease as well.

Interestingly, a naturopath was explaining to me that it’s likely that I’m also not processing the gluten very well (most people don’t!) and I just wasn’t showing any symptoms. It can do bad stuff to your digestive tract and put you at higher risk of some cancers, if you have a sensitivity. I’ll probably stay away from it, for the most part, even after O is weaned.

It’s been 36 hours since I’ve had anything verboten. I’m really hoping we both get more sleep tonight.

Does anyone have any experience with food sensitivities, either for themselves, or for their kids? Do you have any advice for me as we move forward? I’m struggling with when to try again with gluten, and when to introduce it into O’s diet directly.



Filed under Food Sensitivities

9 responses to “The Gluten Wars

  1. Sherry

    I have a client who comes for respite 2 weeks every month. He has autism and Downs and he is SEVERELY allergic to gluten, lactose, and food in general. You should SEE his allergy reports. However, if we followed those exactly as stated he would be on tube feeds, I am sure. Anyhow, if he even so much as gets a crumb of something he shouldnt have, he digs holes an inch deep in the side of his neck. It is so crazy to me. I had never really heard about all that stuff before meeting him.

    Even though Gage is formula fed, can it be the same? We tried lactose free formula but it was curdling the second it his his poor wee belly, and coming right back up so we went back to his regular formula.

  2. kickypants

    That’s hard, Sherry – I have no experience with formula, but I expect he could easily be having a problem with something in the dairy based formula (it’s not the lactose, as there is WAY more lactose in breastmilk, and it’s very unlikely that he has a lactose allergy). Have you tried soy based formula? Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a breastmilk bank here! They have them in the US in the bigger cities.

    Sometimes I’m amazed at how sensitive O is to gluten. It’ll be a tiny bit in something I eat, and then he reacts to the even tinier amount he’s getting from my milk!

  3. April Hardwick

    Do you know about the sandpaper rash in older kids?? My kids have never been super fussy (except Libby and I did the elimination thing to no avail sigh – luckily the shhhing, swinging, etc worked for her.) but both the girls have a wierd sandpaper rash almost all the time. We just chalked it up to red heads because it doesn’t really seem to bother them… hmm?

  4. Beth

    Well, celiac disease does run in the family (although i think it’s on my mom’s side, but my dad refuses to get tested and I’m suspicious about him). Lactose intolerance and celiac disease often go hand in hand (that’s me), although that doesn’t seem to be an issue for Owen, thankfully. I hope it’s just a sesitivity that he’ll outgrow – for both of your sakes. Being gluten-free is not easy. If you need any recommendations, just let me know. Take care!

  5. kickypants

    I don’t know, April. It could be the same thing. I know you’re having problems with Elie and stuff that you’re eating. Maybe it’s the same thing with the other girls? Once you’ve narrowed down what Elie’s issue is, you could try restricting that in Libby & Danya’s diets as well… fun, I’m sure! I got the initial info on food sensitivities from a Dr. Sears book, if you want to look it up. It was ‘The Baby Book’ I think.

  6. April Hardwick

    Thanks! I checked out the website and found a bunch of stuff there too (the Sears’) I think I have the baby book somewhere.. I’ll have to look!

  7. KayTar has a peanut allergy that just recently emerged, so we are all getting used to that little adjustment. We’re all on peanut-free diets (at least at home or when she is around) because it isn’t worth the potential harm to have it in the house. It is quite the lifestyle change, checking restaurants beforehand, scrutinizing labels, Googling various ietms to see if they are “safe”. It is tricky, though I supposed soon it will be second nature.

  8. kickypants

    Kyla, I find that I do scrutinize labels a lot more, and then I have a mental list of my staples that I know are acceptable that I can now go shopping mostly without thinking about it. It took a while to get to this point, though. At least O’s sensitivity is not life-threatening. Peanut allergies are no fun 😦

  9. Pingback: My Breastfeeding journey « Kickypants

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