Gluten and Temper Tantrums

This is a difficult post to write because it is so personal.  My daughter, who is 10 now, has given me permission to share this with you as she knows her story may help someone else.  

Explosive temper tantrums were a part of my daughter’s routine.  She would throw wild fits that were uncontrollable and not age appropriate.  My husband and I desperately tried different parenting techniques, read books, searched the internet, and went to a child psychologist but nothing worked.    

We now know that gluten was making her sick in many ways, and one of those ways was affecting her temper.  My daughter held the front of her head in a tantrum and screamed, “Mommy, I know I’m not supposed to act this way but I can’t stop, and I can’t control myself!”  She reminds me now that I once told her (in an impatient moment) that she could control herself with the skills we had worked on and just had to try harder.  I was horribly wrong, didn't understand, and feel awful. 

I was feeding her the fuel (gluten), and I had no idea it was triggering her explosive behavior.  Thankfully, now we laugh about it.  But during those years while eating gluten, life was a constant struggle in our household.  

There is a happy outcome to this story.  We saw a dramatic change in our daughter’s behavior almost immediately after we went gluten-free.  She was much calmer and didn’t have raging temper tantrums.  The direct connection between gluten and her behavior came a few weeks after being on a gluten-free diet.  Our daughter accidentally ate pasta in a restaurant buffet line.  This was an unplanned “gluten challenge.”  She came home with instant, huge, dark circles under her eyes (classic symptom) and then proceeded to have a ballistic fit.  My husband and I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Here was the affirmation right before our eyes.   We then paid close attention to the times when she ate gluten either by choice or mistake.  The cause and effect in behavior was too dramatic to ignore and couldn't be attributed to just chance.  

Two weeks after my daughter stopped eating gluten, her 3rd-grade teacher asked how she was feeling on the new gluten-free diet.  My daughter's response was:

"Now that I'm gluten-free, I can concentrate in school better; I fall asleep easier; my behavior is better at home; and my stomach doesn't hurt anymore." 

These are the words directly from the mouth of a child.  I was surprised and pleased to hear that she could fall asleep easier and had improved concentration in school.  I didn't know about those positive changes yet.  My daughter noticed on her own that she had better focus in school after being gluten-free.  She hadn't read that was a possibility from a study in a medical journal...she just noticed the change in herself at the age of 8!  She was living her own medical journal study.

I read a powerful book titled Gluten Related Disorder:  Sick? Tired? Grumpy? by Dr. Rodney Ford, who is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Allergist, and Nutrition Consultant studying effects of gluten in children for 30 years.  This book is filled with numerous real-life stories from families who were affected by gluten just like ours. Dr. Ford gives a detailed explanation of how gluten affects our bodies and the science behind it. 

Dr. Ford says:  “...listen to the voices of our children” and “we learn from true life stories.”  His words and my positive experience of reading about others propelled me to start this blog.  Our family is a living example.  

As I look back on our lives when we were eating gluten, I now see that our generational family suffered from a higher than normal agitated state.  At times, I was extremely irritable and just plain cranky, like PMS on steroids.  And now, gluten-free, we (grandparents too) are calmer and happier than I ever could have imagined. Gluten makes our family sick, tired, and grumpy in so many different ways.  Happy New Year!

Read more about gluten symptoms here...

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