Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The tipping point

Not that I'll get to everything tonight, but here's a little background to how Trillian and I finally decided to give the gluten-free, casein-free diet a try.

The GFCF diet is one of those things we keep coming across in our readings and discussions. And intuitively, the reasoning behind it makes sense to me--and also explain why it works for some people but not others. I'll do a fully researched and linked post at some point, but the short version is that some people who are especially sensitive to certain components of wheat and dairy (ie, gluten and casein) crave it more than just about anything else. Yet, they cannot process the food efficiently--it even causes them general digestive problems--and they end up with a bit of a brain fog.

I have long suspected that I should cut back on wheat and dairy. I have been aware that it affects my stomach. But, when I eat based on my cravings, I almost always go after carbs and cheese or milk. So once I read about this sort of sensitivity and also noticed that Scooter follows a similar pattern in food choices, I realized that he might have some similar issues.

Scooter has suffered from eczema pretty much since he was born. Some of the things I read suggested a link between (cow's) milk allergies and eczema, although this was dismissed by our pediatrician. A couple years ago, we tried to go wheat and dairy free as part of an elimination diet to figure out these allergy/sensitivity issues. But it was too hard for us to stick to for the time required to make the determination.

GFCF keeps coming up in the various things we're reading. And then there are the other parents I've talked to who have tried it, generally with some sort of anecdotal success. So we've hemmed and hawed over it, always pulling away because of how hard it would be to implement. Then Trillian spoke with an acquaintance of her parents who has two autistic sons. She's very no-nonsense and believes that a lot of treatments that are out there are worthless and benefit only the people who have come up with them. She researches things extensively and will only do those things that have a solid scientific basis. And she had done the GFCF diet with (I think--Trillian can correct my details) her second son. Who began speaking in sentences within 48 hours of their start. He made many great strides in the 2 years she had him on it, and now he also eats moderate amounts of wheat and dairy again.

So we're making the switch. Gradually. At home, we've got him entirely off gluten and are switching over to rice milk (currently at about 50% milk, 50% substitute). We're learning to bring snacks with us to those places where he'll expect them and have started to find substitutes that keep him from begging for his old standbys.

I am also trying to follow along on this diet, though I gave myself far more passes in the early days than we gave to Scooter. This is not so much an instance of providing Scooter with company--he's used to eating different things than we do anyway. Rather, this is also my recognition that I am likely to benefit in the same way he does from some changes.

As for any changes? It's hard to quantify improvement. And it's also hard to know when something is the result of a change and when it was just time for it to happen. Plus, we haven't made a complete switch yet. But, Trillian and I do think we're seeing improvements. Little things, like increasing complexity of sentences and conversation (though I also wonder if the omega-3s have anything to do with that). He's also been pushing boundaries, intently and unrelentingly. It feels like he's making up for lost time, covering all of those behaviors and developments that got shoved to the side before.

And so our plan is to continue and, once we move to Springfield, to complete the switch over to an entirely GFCF diet.

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