I do online searches, I read the books, I ask doctors, I blog about it, I talk about it with EVERYBODY. And lately, a few things have jumped out at me.
A conversation with a friend about wheat addiction.
A few friends having muscle-testing done for food sensitivities.
Some alarming Facebook posts about food quality.
A conversation with a friend about possible causes of autism.
Musings of lots of FPIES moms about their health histories and traits being passed to their children.
My own history with a few mysterious health problems that have come and gone.
And then, while searching for behavior books on my library's website, I found "What's Eating Your Child?" by Kelly Dorfman.
I mean, even reading the front cover of the book helped me put together all the little clues I've been collecting. I knew this was the book for me, so I reserved it and luckily, it wasn't a long wait.
I'm not completely finished reading it yet, and I already know I'm going to have to go back and start from the beginning again because I want to take some detailed notes, but my mind has been blown.
This woman is not a doctor. She's a nutritionist. I immediately got a sense of her personality and her holistic approach to figuring out how peoples' diets influence their health and behavior. She's brilliant, but is also careful to not give "medical" advice, and is very quick to point out what she is not educated in and the kinds of things better left to a medical doctor.
For the first time I feel like someone's not telling me my kid freaks out all the time because I don't say "no" enough, or because I'm not doing time-outs the right way, or because I'm not teaching him how to put himself to sleep, or because I'm spoiling him. There could actually be a biological reason for his sensitivity and if so, it can be helped with the right diet. I'm not saying I can "fix" whatever's wrong and then be a totally permissive parent after that. Maybe nutrition would at least give him more of a level playing field so he's more receptive to changing his behaviors.
Dorfman's approach is that chronic childhood ailments are usually caused by two things: an irritant, and a deficiency. I already know some of Boo's irritants--we've had him tested for allergies. But there could be even more things like sugar, artificial dyes, pesticides, or gluten. And no doctor has ever said to me before that he might be deficient in something like Omega-3s or Zinc. In fact, no doctor has ever questioned me about the multi-vitamin Boo takes, which I'm learning now is probably not much better than a regular old gummy bear.
The best thing about the nutritional approach is that there's nothing to lose. I don't have to worry about effects of a drug or try an new approach to discipline that's hard to follow through. This is something relatively simple, especially when I have young children who are at home with me all day and I can control every single food they have access to.
So here's my plan:
1. Replace some of our conventionally-grown foods with organics. This is hard, because organic foods are ridiculously expensive. There is no way I'm going to buy all organic produce, so I'm going to go with just two things for now. The Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list shows that apples and strawberries are some of the fruits with the highest number of pesticides. They are also my kids' favorite foods and we eat both daily at our house. Washing and peeling fruit doesn't really help--something I didn't realize--because pesticides are absorbed into the fruit. So now I've started reducing our exposure to a few chemicals.
2. Go back through "What's Eating Your Child?" and figure out which supplements might best help Boo. I already know that Omega 3s are a good bet because he has a tell-tale rough skin on his upper arms that doesn't go away with any kind of cream or ointment. I think we can get a better-quality multi-vitamin than the current one he takes.
*I have a great online source for supplements, by the way. Check out vitacost.com. They sell vitamins, some organic and special-diet packaged foods, chemical-free personal products and cleaning products. Their prices are consistently better than those at our local co-ops or Whole Foods and they carry all my favorite brands like Kiss My Face, Dr. Bronner's, Bob's Red Mill, BioKleen, Seventh Generation, etc. Plus, they ship for free when you spend over $49. As we run low on household things, I throw them into my "cart" and then I make a big order about once a month.
3. Do a Gluten-Free trial for a month. This is a little bit of a shot in the dark, but there's evidence that it could make a difference. I do not suspect that Boo has gluten-intolerance (Celiac), but that doesn't mean that he's not sensitive to it. I have my suspicions that I might have a gluten (or maybe just wheat) issue, too, even though I've tested negative for Celiac, so I'm going to go gluten-free along with Boo. It's going to take a little preparation, and we have several Christmas gatherings coming up, so I think we'll officially start in January when our lives slow down a little again.
4. Switch Boo's pediatrician. It's been a long time coming, but as new parents, I don't think we realized that we weren't seeing a particularly good doctor. We need someone who listens to us a little more, is familiar with our entire family's allergy issues, and isn't going to try to write a prescription for every little thing. What I'm hoping is that if the gluten-free experiment works out well for us, we can present what we know with a new doctor and go from there.
That's all I have for now. We're going to make a lot of this up as we go along. I am excited because it looks like we finally have a path to follow. Having one good book is just the beginning because I can use some of the terms or some of the cited research to keep going. Even by looking at this book on Amazon, a bunch of other books showed up that I never would've heard of otherwise, so I'll check the library for them, too.
I just want to say thanks to my supportive friends who have sent me messages since my last blog post. Many of you know how hard it is to be a parent when things don't go the way you expected and it's always hard not to blame yourself for everything that's wrong. I'm so lucky to have you people, and your good suggestions. I hope we can get some things figured out, and soon!