Gluten's not on my radar. At least, it wasn't. I mean I knew people had issues with it (including some of my friends). And I knew that "Gluten-Free!" labels were popping up on every conceivable food label in an almost inexplicable fashion. Yes, we all know that raisins are not made out of wheat. Must we really broadcast this on the label?!
Then in the spring our third child, then aged five, started to have issues. Already our strongest-willed child, she suddenly became angry and combative. Very. Epic meltdowns were happening nearly every hour of the day. Simultaneously she began complaining of body aches - first her neck, then her legs. "Growing pains," I thought, and dismissed it. But each day the complaint persisted; she wouldn't want to get out of the car to walk into preschool because of leg-ache. That same month she had a baffling series of bedwetting incidents at night, something that had been a non-issue for years. When she awoke wet, she was also rageful and volatile, unable to be soothed. It was all so bewildering.
We live on twenty acres, and when I found a tick on her I thought, "Maybe I missed a tick a month or two ago; maybe she has Lyme's Disease." The cluster of symptoms she displayed could be indicative of Lyme's (as I read): I took her in to see our pediatrician. After examining her, the doctor was dubious that our girl had Lyme's. When I requested that she run the test anyway, she agreed - and tacked a couple of other tests on as well like arthritis. "But if it comes back negative, I don't want to run any more tests," she told me. "These issues are within the range of normal; they'll probably go away on their own, and if they don't, it's likely anxiety."
The tests all came back negative. Since we were struggling through every day, I couldn't picture 'dropping it and hoping for the best,' so I made an apportionment with a naturopath in our town whom an acquaintance had recommended. We're holistic-type people (probably obvious from the 20-acre farm, sheep, and chickens) so this wasn't out-of-the-box for me, but I'd never visited one and didn't know what to expect.
When the naturopath conducted her assessment and said she thought all my daughter's issues were stemming from her digestive system, I was floored. Evidently she couldn't digest gluten (and several other things). It had never once occurred to me that food could play a role in her challenges. Because while she did occasionally say her belly hurt after a meal, it was hardly more often than the other kids said it - and certainly nothing that seemed significant. Food-wise, she seemed normal.
But since we had nothing else to go on, we took her off gluten. Within two weeks, it had all stopped - the body aches, the bedwetting, and (most blessedly) the combative rage. Her whole system and self calmed down. It was astounding. And as I talked to moms of gluten-intolerant kids, scoured the web, skimmed Grain Brain, I was amazed. And discouraged. How bizarre that ingesting gluten had the power to wreak so much havoc in so many ways. I learned that the ten cavities revealed in our 5-year-old's first dental check up earlier in the spring - the ones that the dentist called "highly unusual" and that had caused me so much angst - resulted from her gluten intolerance. Here I thought I was so wholesome, making up whole wheat protein pancakes from scratch for my kids before school; instead, I was practically poisoning my kid.
Once the ball was rolling, it seemed probable that gluten intolerance likely didn't stop with my daughter. I suspected my husband and son as well and - bingo - was right on the money. While their intolerance wasn't as dramatic as my daughter's, they also experienced noticeable changes when they got off gluten.
So we're a 50-50 family, half gluten-intolerant and half not. But for all intents and purposes in our household, we all eat a no-gluten diet. And where I used to find it unnecessary and a little tiresome that food manufacturers labeled items "Gluten-Free" that seemed so obvious, I now rejoice - understanding, as I didn't before, that gluten is added to All Kinds of Unnecessary Things (salad dressing? Twizzlers? Really?)... And that the implications for the intolerant are huge.
And as for the naturopath? I've become her biggest fan. We refer to her affectionately as "our witch doctor" (even to her face - and she's OK with it; she says her family calls her that too). And we stand a little bit in awe of her knowledge base. I take notes every single time I'm in her office; it's all so fascinating.
G is for gluten, and evidently it's not good (enough) for the Arico crew.