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Can Going Gluten-free Improve Mental Health in Some Children?

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.

Photo: CC--xopherlanceLochner 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.

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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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3 Responses:

 
Tracey
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
23 Jan 2013 11:57:18 AM PDT
Very interesting! Gonna try it!!

 
Marianne
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said this on
23 Jan 2013 4:02:22 PM PDT
Shared it on Facebook- very interesting for sure!

 
Sue
Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
said this on
28 Jan 2013 11:30:42 AM PDT
Many of us "adults" have known this for a long time. It always hurts my heart to see parents put children on harmful psychiatric medications when a simple change in diet is really the cure. Hope the word spreads. There is great hope for these kids if the word gets out to as many parents as possible.




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Thanks for that. Will get her tested for deficiencies. I did take her to a naturopath and get her on a bunch of vitamins, but she never was tested via bloods, so will get on to that, thanks

Hi Could a mod please move this post: and my reply below to a new thread when they get a chance? Thanks! Matt

Hello and welcome Firstly, don't worry about it but for ease your post (and hopefully my reply) will probably be moved to its own thread. That will make it easier for others to see it and reply and also help Galaxy's own thread here on track and making sense. The antibodies that the celiac tests look for can drop very quickly, so... maybe? Celiac is difficult to test for, there are different tests and sometimes someone doesnt test on one but does on the other. If you can get a copy of the tests and post it here the community may be able to help explain the results. It may have shown damage to the villi, the little tendrils in your intestine that help you extract nutrients from your food. Celiac is one, but not the only, way in which they can get damaged leading to a vast number of potential symptoms and further making diagnosis a tricky proposition. Definitely, there's a connection. Here's a page that explains it in detail: https://stomachachefree.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/liver-disease-in-celiacs/ Fantastic It sounds as if your doctors were happy to diagnose you on the basis of the endoscopy? It may be then that you've found your answer. I hope so, you've clearly had a rotten and very scary time. I'm sure with the positive reaction to the diet you want to go on and get healthy, but I would only add that you should discuss this with your doctors, because they may want to exclude other potential causes if they've not confirmed celiac at this point. Check out the advice for newly diagnosed here: To your family I'd simply say that celiac is a disease of the autoimmune system, the part of our body that fights diseases and keeps us safe. In celiac people the autoimmune system see's the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, or rye grains as a threat to the system and it produces antibodies to attack it and in doing so attacks it's own body as well. It's genetic in component so close family members should consider a test if they have any of the many symptoms. There's roughly 1 person in 100 with celiac but most of them don't know it and are risking getting or staying sick by not finding out. There's further info for them and you here: https://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/announcement/3-frequently-asked-questions-about-celiac-disease/ I'm going to ask a mod to move your post and my reply to a new thread, but wanted to give you an answer first The good news is you've found a great site and there will be lots of support for you here. You've also got 'lucky' in that if you're going to have an autoimmune condition, celiac is a good one Most react really well to the gluten free diet and you will hopefully have much more healing to come! Best wishes Matt

Please share what was so difficult about starting your account.

I'm new here so please forgive me if I'm in the wrong forum. But I could use some clarity and input.. So I'll try to make my story brief as possible? So about 8 months ago I began itching uncontrollably and after going to the Dr for labs she found my liver enzymes were 5x what they should be and was referred to a gastro Dr. Gastrointestinal Dr ran multiple scans, blood work over the next 2 months and referred me to teaching hospital with a " tumor board" apparently I had a mass within my bile ducts that was blocking bile from liver. Was given a grim diagnosis of rare cancer and told would be dead within the year. Then had an endoscopy done to get tissue of the mass and for some reason it had partially resolved and was no longer blocking bile duct. At this point they could not find and cancerous cells. So fast forward 3 months I'm still in pain and had another endoscopy and the biopsy taken showed high possibility of celiacs. The blood work was negative for celiac but after the grim cancerous diagnosis I had been unable to eat for 2 weeks or so and so I'm not sure if that would have skewed the labs?. How could the biopsy show high possibility of celiac? And had anyone heard of celiac causing inflammation in the bile ducts? I have been gluten-free for 6 weeks and have been feeling remarkably better pain in the upper right quadrant is less, and migraines ( I have had for my whole life) have lessened. So all this to say I don't understand celiacs and how to explain it to family. Or how all of a sudden this happens. Ask if anyone can shed any insight I would appreciate it. Blessings