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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.

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