A kid’s life without gluten

We have passed the halfway point in The Little Helping’s gluten elimination diet. Can I just say, kiddo aside, this is a monumental achievement for me, the mom, who hasn’t been sleeping well for months and whose brain is pretty much a cloudy, foggy, Swiss cheesed, mess. So yay! He has taken it all in stride because when he is hungry there is food, so life goes on as it always has, thanks to The Mom Behind the Curtain.

Only, I’m not sure all is as it seems. I have been going along marveling at how simple this shift has been. In the kitchen I already had a supply of gluten free flours so I swapped those for my usual whole wheat and continued to bake. Our gluten free goodies, good by any measure, have included gluten free soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, Peanut Butter-Oat Cookies, and our new favorite pancake recipe. (I just realized we liked those recipes so much I made each one twice – so far!)

Now I am fretting. Have we really eliminated gluten from The Little Helping’s diet? Maybe everything wasn’t such smooth sailing after all. I thought I knew enough to navigate a month without gluten. I used to say if you sound like you know what you are talking about people will believe that you do, except, at some point I may have forgotten what I never knew in the first place. Whoops. Per The Little Helping’s doctor his diet does not need to be completely sterile for this experiment but I don’t want to waste our time (or money buying slightly pricier alternative foods). I want to give this my due diligence for the sake of my son and his over all health. Blurg.

I think it is time to call my nutritionist.I thought everything was smooth sailing, then I was asked a question about gluten free flavor extract. After that I read that baking powder needs to be labeled gluten free, as do several other ingredients.

Self-doubt aside, there is not much to report as far as his physical symptoms. At this point I expect to have a more clear idea of his body’s reaction to gluten when we try to add it back into his diet. The tiny bumps on his face and body may be smoother but I really can’t say for sure. I have realized that the trickiest part of this experiment is The Little Helping’s limited ability to describe how his body is feeling. I do my best to check in with him by asking open ended questions, but, at four years old he lacks the experience and language to give nuanced feedback.

I have been able to observe one change. The Little Helping used to regularly stop what he was doing to say, in a slightly pitiful voice, “Mom, my tummy hurts.” My reaction has been to assume these complaints came from hunger, occasional over eating, or boredom. I tend to eat when I am bored so I guessed he might as well. However, even as I shrugged off his complaints they didn’t always make sense in the context of his activities. A couple days ago it struck me that I couldn’t recall the last time he told me his tummy hurt. I mentioned this observation to Mr. Second Helpings and he was a bit surprised to realize he couldn’t either. Of course this is purely anecdotal at this point. As we wrap up his experiment I will be paying closer attention to his lack of tummy complaints (if that makes sense).

The biggest surprise has been his reaction to the day to day the process of avoiding foods containing gluten. After the hiccups of the first day I braced myself for an ongoing disappointment that there were suddenly foods off limits. Miraculously he has done an admirable job of asking questions before eating something and accepting when foods are not okay for him to eat.

For example: He shocked me at a party by happily eating fruit snacks across from friends who were eating chocolate cupcakes! We have done our best to have familiar alternatives available when we aren’t sure about potential food options. This habit of traveling with healthy snacks originated with our weight loss and was easy to translate to encompass The Little Helping’s needs. I have always said he was a kid who rolled with the punches and these last few weeks have proved the rule rather than the exception.

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