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Can Going Gluten-free Improve Mental Health in Some Children?
- By Jefferson Adams
- Published 01/23/2013
- Schizophrenia / Mental Problems and Celiac Disease
Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams
Celiac.com 01/23/2013 - Can going gluten-free bring about a major improvement in mental health for some children?
This question is addressed in recent article by Mary Lochner. In the article, Lochner talks about the challenges she faced in trying to raise her daughter who, for the first couple of years, seemed to become more and more emotionally volatile and unstable, even while her daughter's twin brother seemed just fine.
Lochner details her trips to multiple pediatricians and behavioral therapists in an effort to get an answer for her daughter's behavior.
Initially, the behavioral therapists pretty much dismissed her concerns and, when Lochner asked what she could do to calm her daughter down, told her to “Try distracting her…Give her a toy that makes noise. Or sit her down in front of the T.V. for a while.”
Unimpressed with the advice, Lochner says she knew, as a mother often does, that something was, in fact, wrong with her child. In the mean time, her daughter's temper was becoming progressively more volatile. She began having behavioral episodes during the night, as well as during the day. The first time it happened, she woke up screaming hysterically at 2 a.m. Lochner found a new pediatrician for her daughter, one who took her concerns seriously.
He ran Mary Jean through a test or screening for everything from iron deficiency to autism. At the same time, she continued to do her own research, and began to wonder if the problem might be Sensory Processing Disorder.
It was during this time that Lochman stumbled onto the writings of nutritionist, Kelly Dorfman, who had co-authored an article in the Huffington Post which claimed that gluten intolerance sometimes manifests with “neurological symptoms.” The basic thrust of the article was that, for some people, gluten-sensitivity can cause neurological symptoms.
While she was investigating that possibility, s came across an article from the March 2012 Huffington Post called “Is Sensory Processing Disorder the New Black?” The article described the case of a child whose extreme behavioral symptoms disappeared after her mother put her on a gluten-free diet after consulting a nutritionist.
For Lochman, the article hit close to home, and led her to read Kelly Dorfman’s book concerning nutritional origins of childhood illnesses: What’s Eating Your Child? Initially, Lochman says she was skeptical of claims of major behavioral improvement in children who had gone gluten-free, and regarded much of what she'd heard about gluten-free diets with some doubt.
However, she did bring up the book with her pediatrician, and, rather than dismissing her, the doctor confirmed that gluten can cause behavioral problems in some gluten-sensitive children. He suggested that her daughter go gluten-free for a month, then back on gluten for a month, then gluten-free a second month, and that she keep a journal of her daughter's behavior.
By doing the gluten-free trial twice, she and the doctor would be able to confidently confirm that any improvement in my daughter’s behavior was due to the removal of gluten, and not to coincidence.
During the first month on a gluten-free diet, her daughter’s episodes decreased sharply, but Lochman was still skeptical. However, when she went back to eating gluten during the second month, the emotional outbursts and episodes came back in less than a week. By the end of that second month, she found herself looking forward to returning her daughter to the gluten-free diet for month three of the trial. In the third month, her daughter’s episodes rapidly decreased during the first two weeks. By the end of the month, they were down to only two or three times a week.
This is when Lochman really knew something was up. She says that she thought that her daughter was seeing a major shift, if not a miracle cure. She quick to tell people how she was wrong to think that. That's because, Lochmans says that taking gluten out of her daughter's life was, in fact, a miracle cure. She says that after just six weeks on the gluten-free diet, "her daughter's 'awful screaming and flailing episodes, the ones that would last for hours and come out of nowhere, were gone. Vanished. A thing of the past. It was like she was a completely new, and different, person."
Lochman describes a daughter who now only gets upset with good reason, and who is highly responsive…a daughter who now looks her in the eyes again, who easily relaxes to snuggle, and who is ebullient, curious, affectionate, and "so thoroughly level-headed you would be hard pressed to connect her to her former self."
For her part, Kelly Dorfman notes that non-celiac gluten-sensitivity has only recently been identified as a distinct medical condition, one that resists conventional tests for diagnosing celiac disease. She says that she commonly sees patients in her practice for whom behavior and mood issues are the only symptoms of gluten intolerance.
Dorman's new book is due to be re-released in April under a new title, Cure Your Child With Food, and includes a new chapter with more on information on 'bizarre' gluten-related effects on behavior and more.
Read Mary Lochner's full article in the Anchorage Press.
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