This is a guest blog post by Beth George
I am a mother, child advocate lawyer, food activist, and entrepreneur. This is a story of how focusing on diet made a huge difference in my son’s life. I hope our story may help others.
As a child advocate attorney, I worked with many children in juvenile courts, in state custody, and in special education. I was alarmed by the number of children being diagnosed with various disorders and systematically placed on drugs with no real testing, and worse, no quantifiable improvement.
Then the issue hit home and my son (who was then 4-6) started to exhibit significant behavioral problems, along with serious health issues. I became motivated to take immediate action. At a young age, he was (mis) diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and other maladies. I was not convinced of the accuracy of the diagnoses, and chose not to put him on the recommended psychotropic drugs.
Along with significant stomach upsets and a compromised immune system, my son would sometimes flap his hands, moan, and get red-hot ears; he could rock, become extremely agitated or hyperactive. At times, though, he was quite calm, introspective and manageable.
By the time he was 8, we started exploring diet as a possible cause for our son’s various behaviors. We removed common wheat (replaced it with the ancient grain spelt), and removed all artificial additives, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and anything that reeked of an artificial process.
The results were profound.
After implementing a regulated (but very satisfying) diet, our son’s life was completely turned around. By middle school, he was placed in the gifted math program and did quite well in school. He is now free of any diagnoses. He was never was put on any medications. He is well adjusted, creative, and grounded. At age 14, he is now taking courses at the local community college.
My son is a very sensitive individual who still gets incredibly itchy from his own haircuts, is extremely empathetic to people and animals, and is exceptionally bright. His environment and the foods he eats profoundly impact him.
A little bit more about my son’s diet; We implemented diet change through a process of trial and error.
My son clearly has trouble digesting common wheat. When he eats too much of it, he literally shuts down. When he was younger, he would go into a complete fog; he also had significant digestive issues (frequent vomiting or constipation). We didn’t know the cause, but it was suggested to us that he might have food sensitivities. So we started with removing wheat and dairy.
We would test my son by removing wheat from his diet and then putting it back in – a modified elimination diet. When we witnessed the recurrence of head fogginess, irritability and digestive issues, we knew wheat was a culprit for him.
We tested him for celiac and found that he does not have the autoimmune disorder in which all gluten should be eliminated.
We heard that the ancient spelt might be a good alternative. Spelt does not cause the same reactions for him. The gluten is water soluble and much easier to digest. Plus, as an heirloom grain, it is loaded with many nutrients that have been stripped from the new varieties of grains. We have heard similar stories from many of other spelt eaters.
As for the artificial additives, we were able to determine his reactions by process of elimination. My son would get red-hot ears and have meltdowns after eating foods with artificial colors – especially the reds and yellows. There is a study published in the Lancet in September 2007 demonstrating the connection between artificial additives and hyperactive behavior in “normal” children. The Feingold Association is a great resource on the problems they can cause.
My son would get extra hyper after eating food with high fructose corn syrup. He once had such a bad reaction after chewing bubble gum (it was the only thing we allowed him to have from his Halloween booty). We then learned it was the BHT preservative in the gum that was the likely culprit.
We also did metabolic testing and learned that his body lacked essential Vitamin Bs. We supplemented him with complex Bs, omega 3s, and calcium and magnesium to help with the absorption.
My advice to parents is to look at all foods as suspects (it could be wheat, corn, soy, eggs, or whatever for some kids), but there are some biggies out there to start with: wheat, dairy, and, of course, all of the artificial junk. We just don’t need that stuff in our diets. Also, parents should consult with medical professionals who are knowledgeable about metabolic testing to see if their children might be nutrient deprived.
This wrinkle in our lifestyle – the options for all natural, no common wheat options were quite limited a few years ago. This led us to creating a small baking company, Spelt Right, with the dual mission of making the best tasting healthful spelt products anywhere and to do outreach on the connection between diet and behavior.
But back to eating well….The importance of which is nothing new. It is simply the amnesia of the American Public to have forgotten what has been known for thousands of years:
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine; Let Medicine Be Thy Food.” Hippocrates, 460 BC
Beth George is a mother of three (19, 14, 9), a child advocate attorney by trade, and an entrepreneur, food activist and founder of Spelt Right Baking Co by passion. She currently spends her time between Coastal Maine and Metro New York, speaking on and writing about her experiences with diet change, while also building her natural food business.