My regular readers know of my struggle/quest to help my son, Bug, with his weight. It has been an on going concern since a pediatrician commented that he was on the heavy side back in 2008. Bug was 4. Looking back at old pictures of Bug, he looked just fine. He looked healthy! He was bigger than other kids his age though. He also had an obsession with food.
As a boy who loves to cook, there was a passion for culinary arts anyway but Bug’s obsession was beyond that. He was always wondering about the next meal and seemed to never be full. Older adults loved this! So many kids have food aversions and small appetites and so they enjoyed seeing a child who liked to eat. They would rave about how wonderful it was as they catered to his requests for 2nds, 3rds and even 4ths on foods like hot dogs and pancakes.
It wasn’t just junk food that Bug would devour. He’d been known to inhale a bag of baby carrots or nosh on a bundle of celery.
As Bug grew, so did his belly and my worry. I felt like a bad mom. His diet and health are my responsibility and he was looking less and less healthy. He had a few comments regarding his bulging belly from classmates and he was becoming self conscious about it. My family is by no means a bunch of health nuts but we are not habitual junk food or instant meal eaters either. It just didn’t seem to make sense to me that Bug was gaining weight when the rest of us weren’t.
There was various speculation and advice from friends and family as to how to help Bug eat healthier and lose some weight. There were also those in the camp “he’ll grow into it.” They are of the thinking that as he grows he’ll thin out. My concern was that, even if it were true that he would lean out as he grew, his insatiable appetite may not. I worried that he was fostering a life long habit of bad eating.
I consulted a dietician who gave me great literature on children’s eating habits and how are attitude and language towards weight and diet can cause life long effects. I agree whole heartedly with this theory. When body, weight and food are given lots of attention they become warped and can cause huge problems in our children’s adult lives. Even seemingly positive focus on food, diet and body can create issues. The best way to prevent that is by not putting focus on those things. Yes, we encourage healthy eating but it’s no big deal to have non-healthy foods every now and then. In fact, banning foods can cause over eating of those foods because it increases their desirability. The book strongly discouraged putting children on diets (that includes high schoolers) as it has negative emotional, mental and physical effects in the long run.
My family quit talking about what’s healthy and what’s not and just continued to eat the food instead of discussing it. There was no more, “Now, is that the healthy food to choose?” Or “hey, I like that you are eating your vegetables. They are so good for you!” Seemingly helpful comments. What they say though is that there are foods that are bad and you are bad for eating them. It says, you’re not healthy or don’t look healthy.
Bug seemed more relaxed and eventually stopped talking about it so much as well.
He did keep eating though. He was still obsessed with food and his next meal and he still was gaining weight.
I called the dietician again. He had gained a pound a month! Despite swim team and lacrosse and the defocus on food and body. She recommended we had some blood work done.
The blood work showed that Bug’s body was responding to some sort of inflammation. He had numbers in various areas that were higher than she had seen in a long time and had never seen in a child. When the body has an inflammation it produces more insulin which is a sugar. The unused sugar turns to fat. Bug also had elevated numbers in Leptin, which is a hormone that can cause an increased appetite. (This is where everyone who struggles with diets says, “oh! That’s what I have!” Haha!) I wish I could remember how or why the increased Leptin is also a sign of the body fighting inflammation…
So what is causing this inflammation?
“Gluten,” said the dietician.
Oh boy…here we go…, I thought.
“There are proteins added to our wheat now that used to not be there. Not everyone’s body can process it. According to Bug’s numbers, I imagine that he’s been experiencing a lot of discomfort most all of the time. Children are not very vocal about it because they don’t know that it’s not normal. What are you thinking?”
she asked as I’m sure my expression said it all.
“I am not a fan of the gluten free craze. I believe it’s a fad and I’m not a supporter of fad diets.”
“I understand and, in a way, it is a fad. That’s only because it wasn’t something that was in our foods before. GMO’s are a fairly new thing so it does seem very much a ‘fad.'”
“How do you know it’s gluten? What if there is something else causing an inflammation?”
“We can run another test to be sure but I can tell you that in my experience, when there’s this sort of inflammation, the culprit is gluten.”
We decided to put Bug on a Gluten Free diet and to return in 4 months to re-evaluate everything. We also went ahead and ordered the other test that would tell us if it was for sure gluten.
It is with great regret that I tell you…it’s gluten. Argh! We’re one of THOSE people now!!!
-In a matter of a week, Bug’s appetite changed. He was finding himself satisfied after meals and was not constantly asking for more or planning the next snack or meal. I wondered….could that just be an influenced effect from hearing the doctors explanations?
-Bug has more energy. Bug is the family whiner. He would complain about hikes or most any kind of active play. He’d tire of it quickly and would encourage friends to watch TV or play a video game instead. I thought that was a sign of the times or because he was just lazy or because he was overweight but after being GF we saw a new Bug. He would often ask if the family could go for a hike. He would go with a friend to the sledding hill and never complain about the hike back up the hill. In fact he spent over an hour sliding down and hiking up and only left because I was tired of standing in the cold.
-His belly is not as big and is no longer distended. The boy’s a chunk and he still is but you can see that he’s slimmed down. I wondered again if it was just in my head but friends and family have noticed it as well. One day Bug said that at school they were playing basketball. He was wearing a red penny to differentiate teams. One of his friends lifted the penny off of Bug’s belly and said, “Hey! You’re really slimming down. I think your new GF diet is working!”
-An unexpected effect has been that Bug’s sinuses have cleared up and he’s had less bloody noses. We have always been on him to blow his nose and he would get huge boogies that would block his nostrils. It never even occurred to us that there was some sort of food allergy causing the trouble. Bug still gets a stuffy nose from time to time but it’s MUCH less! In fact when he does get one he says, “Uh oh mom…I think I’ve been glutenized.”
Today we went back for his re-evaluation. They took blood again to compare the numbers from the first visit. We’ll get those results in about a month. His test result for gluten sensitivity came back positive. This can cause damage to the lining of his intestines. He has an increase of white blood cells that try to fight off the gluten. It is not Celiacs. With Celiacs, if I get this right, the body starts to attack the intestines itself. This sounds very similar but that is not what’s happening with Bug, though damage to the intestine is a side effect of having a gluten sensitivity. We caught it early enough that Bug’s damage is minimal and the body can repair itself.
He has not lost any weight but he has not gained weight either. This was my hope! He is still growing and you gain weight as you grow taller. Bug has grown 2 inches since his last appointment but gained no weight. Considering he was gaining about a pound a month…this is FANTASTIC!!
Bug reported that his stomach feels better and that he is full sooner. He told her that he’s not enjoying being GF. He prays every night that he won’t have to be GF anymore. Bug has also noticed that though some restaurants will say their burger bun is GF or their toast is GF, he ends up getting “glutenized” anyway. For a long time he wouldn’t order burgers with out a bun (“It’s the principle of it!” he says.) but he’s given in a few times and has just removed the bun.
I try to help him to not be obnoxious about it. He would walk into a restaurant and immediately announce that he’s GF and do they have a special menu. “Bug, lots of foods are GF naturally. Fruit, veggies, meat, cheese…order accordingly.” I bought a few GF cupcakes from the bakery and stock them in the fridge so when he’s invited to a party he can bring his own treat. Though I must say, Bug is so loved by his classmates, just last week a young man brought cookies for his birthday treat and he told Bug, “I had my mom get GF cookies so you can have them too!” SWEETNESS! The boy apparently noticed that Bug had to turn down the birthday treats at school because of his new diet. That’s been a blessing in a way though.
I’m the room mom for Bug’s class but I never request or ask that GF foods be brought to the school parties. The less options he has, the less he eats. There are always fruit and veggie trays and I try to remember to send him in with a cupcake. Sometimes I forget though and…oh well! He just gets the fruits and veggies!
The dietician reminded me that in Europe this is not an issue. They don’t allow GMO’s in their food and so if we travel abroad, Bug is welcome to enjoy their pasta and bread and cakes. “Can we go to Scotland again this summer?” Bug asked. Um…no. We’re not going to Europe for a baked goods feast. I do think though that if more people become more aware of the problem with GMOs that we can vote accordingly and get our government to ban them from our foods. Bug’s prayers could be answered and he won’t have to be GF anymore! I don’t like to even say that he has a gluten intolerance. He has a poison intolerance.
According to our doctor, she believes that everyone has some sensitivity to it but there are some, like Bug, whose bodies have a harder time with it. Some symptoms known to be associated with gluten sensitivity are abdominal symptoms – pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, chronic headaches, chronic sinus congestion, depression, arthritis, chronic skin problems/rashes, fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue. Some of those things are fairly new problems in our society. Makes sense that the new GMOs on our wheat and other foods would be the cause of it. If you experience these sort of things you might look into it. Or just experiment by becoming one of THOSE people with Bug and cutting gluten from your diet.