Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oh no, it worked

About two months ago, Marko started having ... issues. The main one was diarrhea. I figured it was all the grapes he was eating, but when we finished the box of grapes and didn't buy more, the diarrhea stuck around.

Then the diarrhea caused a horrible bleeding diaper rash -- despite the fact that Marko wears a diaper less than half the time. Then the rash caused night waking, as he would wake up screaming for his diaper to be changed because it was hurting him. Then I also noticed a few odd welts on him, kind of like blisters -- one on his shoulder, one on his finger, one on his tummy. It was puzzling, and, to me, worrisome. I am not the type to shake off unexplained symptoms... I always want to be sure it's not a sign of anything horrible.

I thought, "Perhaps it's just because he's weaning." But at the time the problems started, his nursing had steadied out into twice per day. When he was down to once per day, he didn't have this problem.

Then I thought, "Perhaps it's all the cow's milk he's drinking. Maybe he's not really ready for it yet." So we switched to coconut milk (which he didn't like) and then almond milk. It didn't make a difference.

But I thought, "Maybe it's an actual food sensitivity." You might remember that we had that issue while he was still exclusively nursing. At least, I think we did. I went on a strict elimination diet, and every time I cheated, he had issues (screaming, diaper rash, refusing to eat). And while I was still on that diet -- down to just eliminating chicken and tomatoes -- we also went grain-free... more or less. Family meals were grain-free, but since it was for John's benefit and not mine, I did eat bread at lunchtime and the occasional cookie. Eventually I reintroduced chicken and tomatoes, and had no problem. Once he was eating solid food, I carefully tested him on those foods -- no reaction. I figured his gut had just matured and he no longer had any food sensitivities. I kept him grain-free till a year, though I've heard two years is better. I just couldn't think of what to feed him and caved to giving him crackers all the time.

But, of course, I hadn't introduced any new foods lately. He was eating what he always eats. So it wasn't a case of simply going back and cutting out things I'd lately introduced. Our diet has little variation, and there was definitely nothing new. My only recourse was to guess and check different sensitivities ... which would take awhile. Since it's him and not me, I can't cut him back to nothing but rice for a couple of days like I did with me. He demands variety, and it's hard enough to deny him even one thing he likes (which lately means a second or third banana). I had to cut out one thing a week.

First I tried to eliminate all dairy, not just his bedtime milk. But in our house, this is very hard to accomplish. I kept accidentally giving him things with butter in them, or sprinkling cheese on his noodles. I probably eat dairy 3-4 times a day -- it was hard to catch it all. But finally I did get a solid week of pretty nearly no dairy. It didn't make the slightest difference. (I did heal the diaper rash, mostly, by going almost entirely diaper-free [NOT recommended for a kid with diarrhea, but what can you do?] and slathering him with Desitin every night. But it would reappear at the slightest provocation.)

So I thought, maybe it's gluten. And then I accidentally gave him a ton of biscuits. I am so unaware of what we eat these days! And that's after all those months of elimination diets for the whole family, too. After several falls from the wagon, I finally managed to get 24 hours of giving him absolutely no gluten. (Since I am not into buying a ton of alternative flours or breads, the only grains he had were rice and a little corn.)

To my mixed relief and disappointment, the diarrhea instantly resolved. Relief, because I'm glad to know what the problem is and have fixed it. Disappointment, because I was really hoping it wouldn't be gluten. Gluten is really hard to eliminate. Couldn't it have been, I don't know, squash? I would like to believe that it just coincidentally resolved on its own, but it's been going on for more than a month. I don't think that would happen -- though I may do a gluten challenge down the road to be sure.

It's been four days, and the problems haven't returned. His diaper rash is just a pink scarified area (poor kid!) and the welts seem to be healing up, too.

He's still not sleeping worth a darn. A month and a half of trouble sleeping doesn't resolve overnight, and he has a cold, too. But his cold is getting better, and last night he only woke up twice, and for short times (though I was so exhausted I fell asleep on his bedroom floor before I found out they were going to be short times). And we have been getting him to bed before eight every night. So I guess we're making progress. I'm going to just assume his sleep problems are not gluten-related.

I've been eating less gluten, too, though still a little. Yesterday I had a PBJ ... and very quickly got a stomachache and headache. Huh. Today I had no gluten at all, and my usual gassy belly (which I thought was unavoidable in pregnancy) hasn't appeared ... despite eating plenty of chili for dinner. I do NOT want to go gluten-free. I love bread and pasta way too much. But perhaps it's just what we all need right now.

Maybe Marko will grow out of this. Many kids do grow out of their sensitivities. I sure hope so, because I hear gluten-free baking is no picnic, and I know gluten-free products are expensive. I don't want to have to plan around this forever!

And a part of me is tempted to cheat. Hey, so gluten gives him diarrhea. A little gluten should be fine, though, right? Because a little diarrhea never hurt anyone. But I'm trying to take the diarrhea (and other issues) as a sign that something is wrong. It's cluing me into something going on in his digestive system, something not good. If gluten causes a negative reaction that I can see, there may be more things I can't see, and the safe course is just not to give him any.

But so far, it's been okay. It's been pulling me out of my meal-planning rut and helping me try new things. This week we had minestrone (with rice instead of macaroni, sigh) and white bean chili. Tomorrow I'm going to make lasagna, with regular noodles for us and mushrooms for Marko. (I don't think he'll notice the difference -- he loves mushrooms.) I'm going to have to keep thinking, though, because I'm already tired of chicken-and-rice and fish-and-rice combos. I think I'd better break out the potatoes on Friday, for the sake of a change. Perhaps some oven fries?

Anyone else go gluten-free with their families? Did the kids ever grow out of it?


Sarah Faith said...

We're almost all grain-free almost all the time. Isn't it funny how when you start eliminating it, you don't even realize how bad it made you feel before until you try it again? I go home to NYC for family visits and give in and try some bagels or pizza and immediately look pregnant from the bloating! It's awful!
I'm doing GAPS right now to try to fix the issue. Definitely not for the faint of heart but I have high hopes!

Sheila said...

Good luck with GAPS. It sounds so promising, but oh-so-difficult! I can barely manage to cut out just gluten, but then I rely on beans and rice. We're so accustomed to starch!

Julie@teachinggoodeaters said...

I can completely relate to both your disappointment and relief when you found out that gluten was the problem. I resisted cutting it out for a very long time. But then, it was clear that my youngest had an issue (diarrhea, diaper rash…) Since I was already working around it for him, I decided that I should finally try it myself, and fortunately/ unfortunately, it worked. One thing you may want to try is going wheat-free without necessarily being gluten-free. I've actually found that both my son and I tolerate regular oats from Aldi which are definitely a whole lot more inexpensive than buying gluten-free oats. Many people have issues with gluten (and I may, in time, discover that I really do) but others still are only bothered by wheat. I hope that things continue to go better for your little guy!

Sheila said...

Oddly, the gluten sensitivity seemed to disappear when he was about two. Since John is still gluten-free, we don't eat a ton of gluten, but when we do, it doesn't seem to bother Marko.

However, we have been eating almost exclusively sourdough, and perhaps that helps too. Who knows? The human body is so mysterious ... all the more so when it's with a toddler who can't always explain how he feels.

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