Autism- What Gluten & Dairy Do To My Child

For people who do not have a gluten intolerance, it can be hard to understand what happens to kids who cannot digest it properly.

My son has been gluten-free since he was 2.5 years old. What is gluten? Why did I choose to remove it from my son’s diet?

In 2005 I had a beautiful little boy. As he grew older he started sending us red flags. I always imagined myself teaching my son so many things. However, he was a difficult baby. Always throwing up, screaming, and crying all hours of the night.

We tried everything, from Ovol gas drops to chiropractic. They both helped him with the stomach pains but something was still off. He was in and out of the doctor’s office, he had a chronic cough, runny nose, and was on and off antibiotics.

When I first switched my son from breastmilk to formula and started to notice the difference in him I ask the doctor if he could be allergic to milk. His response was “No the chances of that were one in a million, Milk allergies are so rare. So I believed him and for months we had these issues. I was a young mom having had Wesley one month after turning 20. Prior I had no real experience with babies.

I was a straight edge parent, following everything the doctor said to the tee. But things were not right and milestones were not being hit. Wes was not crawling at the same time others his age were. He sat there all the time and stared into space.

Finally, after one day when Wes was 11 months old, I noticed mucous in his diaper. That was it, I called around the city and finally booked an appointment with a pediatrician.

Our new doctor immediately sent a referral for Wes to go for allergy testing. After waiting for 4 months to get into the specialist we got a call.

A few weeks later I held my little boy down while they marked his chubby arms with little a pen. They made marks to match a little grid with all the possible allergens on a paper.

Then they started scratching those pen marks with little needles. As he screamed they wrapped his arm up in a paper towel and taped it. I was instructed that it would take about 15 minutes for the results to be available.

He screamed and screamed, finally I opened the door and asked the nurse if this was normal. She told me some kids have a harder time than others. So I tried cuddling and rocking him and nothing seemed to help.

My last resort, I reached into my diaper bag and pulled out a sippy cup of milk. This settled him, just in time. The nurse came back and removed the paper towel. She said he seems to have a reaction to the one item, the milk. I looked down at my baby’s tear-stained face and he sucked back the white poison.

The doctor diagnosed Wesley with a milk allergy and we were sent on our way. No instructions, no guidance, nothing. They never gave us a paper that told us what all the secret words like whey and casein. Just sent on our way to figure it out. 

I drove us to the local public health nurse clinic where I knew several of the nurses from our Healthy Baby group we attended till I went back to work. She called in the nutritionist and we came up with a game plan. 

Do you know what happened next? A few days later my clumsy crawler stood up and walked for the first time at 15 months old. 

Wesley started developing language well and at 18 months had about 15 words he used regularly. Then we went for our 18-month check-up and that’s when things went downhill. At the visit, they gave him his regularly scheduled vaccine, and that night he had a terrible fever. Poof! He stopped using the words he once did.

I started thinking about removing gluten from my son’s diet after reading Jenny McCarthy’s book “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism” when he was 2.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat. Similar proteins are also found in rye, barley, and possibly oats. At this time I was in denial. It was apparent he was language delayed. But I refused to believe he had autism. But deep down I think I knew.

It wasn’t until that terrible day in January 2008 when Wesley was diagnosed with autism did I revisit the idea of removing the gluten. A month later we visited a naturopathic doctor. She also had me remove gluten and soy from his diet.

It wasn’t easy. Gluten can be addicting to some children. Wesley went through a withdrawal period, where his behaviors went through the roof. But after the rough stage, things did get better.

His speech started to improve. He started adding in little phrases, seemed happier. Another thing is we were able to start potty training him because his digestive system started to work right.

Basically what was happening to my son was that gluten was affecting the lining of the intestinal wall and large particles of food were getting into his bloodstream and affecting the brain. The body was then sending out antibodies to fight the particles. This was causing my son little body to go into overload.

You can see a MAJOR change in his attention to detail, and if he accidentally has something that has gluten in it he does act up and has trouble concentrating. One day we will try to reintroduce it, but for now, he’s doing great.

UPDATE: Read how we cured my son’s dairy & gluten intolerance HERE and HERE

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