Then, it stopped. At about a year he was just fine. Sometime between 5 and 6, the problems came back. And got worse and worse and worse. We thought perhaps it was a nervous stomach. He can be a nervous child. The doctor and the specialist (who ran no tests) told us he had to use the bathroom more. No. By the time we got to the specialist he was almost 8. He knew if he had to use the bathroom. We knew this was not the issue.
I had done research nearly a decade ago, when a friends son was diagnosed with aspergers. I read about the affects of gluten and casein on some children. I've spent a lot of time over the last 10 years reading about food and nutrition and food politics. My thoughts and my practices have evolved over time. It started with needing to be thrifty. I dabbled in vegetarianism, I learned to cook from scratch. I learned to bake bread. I turned to local foods, whole foods. I stopped being afraid of fat. I learned to embrace animal proteins. I've read a LOT about food.
We do not have a perfect diet. I try to keep to 80/20. Sometimes we're closer to 60/40. Sometimes we're more 90/10. It works itself out.
It is not easy adapting your family's diet. Especially when your family is not totally on board. Especially when your family loves their Western diet. Sure, they'll eat my homemade bread, but they love their boxed cereal and Doritos as well.
Over the course of many years, I've recommended a gluten free/wheat free diet to many people. I've read over and over again the signs and symptoms of allergies. I know for myself how incredibly amazing I felt when I stopped eating wheat. But, you know, we didn't NEED to cut out wheat or gluten. We don't have a history of celiacs or autism.
Yet, my 'healthy' middle son kept having stomach aches. They got worse and worse and worse until some days he was afraid to go to school. I had wondered for years if perhaps it could be gluten. But honestly, selfishly, I didn't want that to be it.
We went back to the doctor. This time, we had a doctor who believed us. He ordered immediate testing for crohns and celiacs. Both tests came back negative. He was 'diagnosed' with IBS.
I have a hard time swallowing that some people can just have ongoing intestinal issues with no cause. That their bodies just aren't working. Especially a 9 year old child. So, I did more reading. Turns out, the a huge amount of people with IBS symptoms find almost full relief following a gluten free diet. I knew this, I think, all along. But the idea of giving up my beloved homemade bread, of no more pasta . . . well, it's sad.
So, for the past 6 weeks Colin and I have been starting the path of gluten free living. We've done, um, not great. We've avoided the obvious (mostly). We've had a few accidental slips and a few on purpose slips. But even without perfection, Colin has admitted he feels better and can tell when he's had too much of the wrong foods.
It has not been easy. He's almost 10. He has friends, he goes places and does things without me. I can't be hovering all the time to tell him what he can and can not eat. He will need to learn to advocate for himself. He will need to learn if he chooses foods that make him feel bad, that he's going to feel bad!
My husband, who is normally very skeptical of my nutritional ideas, is even on board. He's already seen the difference in Colin. However, he does not want to give up his bread (I could never get him off white bread even) or his pancakes. He is not into substitutes. He is not into going gluten free with us. Luckily, because we are not dealing with celiacs, the cross contamination is not a huge concern for me.
I read that after cutting out an offending food for thirty days, that when you reintroduce it, if you are intolerant, you should have an immediate reaction. Apparently over time your body gets somewhat tolerant and if you are eating it everyday, then it can take up to 72 hours for a reaction, which can make it hard to pinpoint which food is causing the issue.
For the most part (my husbands bread and pancakes aside) we are doing a strict 30 day gluten and wheat free diet, in and out of our home. I will be hovering. I will be reminding. We will be concentrating mostly on foods that are naturally gluten free and treating bread-like concoctions as treats. We are purposely doing this in July, because we are all home and because there is so much fresh produce it should help ease the transition.
The truth is that I know I feel better without wheat. I have my suspicions that my 2 year old and 14 year old will also benefit. The more I read, the more I see possible symptoms in them. I highly suspect my husband would benefit as well, but I've learned that you do not mess with this mans food. Ok, I've sort of learned. I may or may not have put flax seeds in his pancakes this winter. That did not go over well. At all.
I expect this will be difficult. I expect there will be sadness and feelings of loss. I expect this can be expensive and we have a tiny food budget. I expect a lot of reminding. A lot of exasperation. A lot of wanting to throw in the towel.
I also expect it will get easier. I expect we will feel better. That in time, it will be normal.
I should note that as I was proofreading this Colin asked if he could have a cookie that his dad had brought home from work a few days ago. I said yes without thinking. It might be a long month.