Could Gluten be Affecting your Child’s Behavior?

small-intestine.gifI decided to post about something that I deal with on a daily basis and many parents are now becoming aware of as well. Last year I found out that I was allergic to gluten. This is also known as Celiac Disease.

“Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in products we use every day, such as stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins.”
From: The NDDIC

I was shocked, stunned and horrified, but as I cut gluten out of my diet, I never felt better. In fact, my studying got better, my concentration improved, my sleep was deeper and I felt more rested and…I lost 30 pounds.

So what does this have to do with you? Many schools in the Los Angeles area are now banning gluten cupcakes, donuts and other foods for birthdays and holiday in-class parties. They are doing this because many teachers reported that after kids ate gluten they were much more rambunctious and hard to handle for the rest of the day and with gluten-free foods the kids remained more calm!

Overall, gluten is now in almost every meal that we eat, lines ice cream containers, lurks in dry roasted peanuts, salad dressings and even marinades. If you think about it, I bet you and your kids do not go one meal without having gluten, and I think nothing is good when you have it all the time!

If you or your kids are having trouble paying attention in class, doing homework, sitting for long periods, trouble sleeping or really any kind of odd health problem, gluten might be a cause. Gluten intolerance has many, many symptoms and can be hard to diagnose, but if you feel like a challenge, try to do a week without gluten and see if you notice any change in your kids issues or behaviors.

Here are a few websites if you want more information:

Wikipedia’s Page on Celiacs

Here are also some suggestions for your week-long gluten break that will even be appealing to your kids (if you do not mention it, they might not even notice the difference)

-Bread subsititutions:

There are great pre-made substitutions for bread, pasta, cereal, muffins even pancake and brownie mix. Many of these are available online or at your local health food store (In Los Angeles many regular markets are now also carrying gluten-free substitutes.

-Use fruit and veggies for everything:

I make a quasi-pasta by peeling zucchini into think strips like noodles and sauté it with meat sauce (I think it is tastier than pasta)

-Load up on protein:

Make lettuce wraps with stir-fried chicken, instead of a sandwich or a wrap, just skip the bread part and roll the lunch meat up with a little bit of mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. Skewers of meat and chicken with rice is also a fun dinnertime option that does not include bread.

-Don’t forget dessert!

There are great gluten free pudding mixes, yogurt with fruit, chocolate covered bananas and smoothies with whip cream are super fun!

I want this post to raise awareness that gluten intolerance can be an issue that contributes to behavioral problems. I also think lots of variety for anyone’s diet (gluten intolerant or not) is really important to a healthy body and mind.

Try it for a week, even a few meals and see if you notice a difference!

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7 Responses to “Could Gluten be Affecting your Child’s Behavior?”

  1. Margit Crane
    January 11, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Hey Vanessa,

    Here’s a great blog about raising gluten-free kids: It links to other blogs about gluten free living.


  2. Vanessa
    January 11, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    Thanks Margit,

    I am also a member of LA Celiacs yahoo group which is great!

  3. Sarah Stone
    January 11, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    Thank you for your article. My 14 year old daughter was diagnosed with Celiac and type 1 diabetes within the last 5 years. Since she was an infant she had had chronic difficulty with her digestion and bowels, was inattentive in class, and had trouble sleeping. Her behavior was erratic,: angry, moody, and often very hyper. We were told by every professional we went to that she had “cholic”, “ADD”, “ADHD”, possible bi-polar type psychological problems requiring medications. It wasn’t until we discovered the gluten sensitivity and removed gluten from her diet that everything became so much better. It all made sense in hindsight. Gluten intolerance presents with the many of the same symptoms as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. I feel so sorry for my girl that she had to put up with the teachers, and the doctors, and her parents treating her like she had a psychological imbalance when what was going on inside of her was chemical. She is now a healthy, happy straight A student with lots of friends and none of her previous symptoms. I HIGHLY suggest that any pediatrician, parent or teacher noticing a child who seems unable to focus or settle down, has hyperactivity, who may have bowel trouble, headaches, sleeplessness, “Cholic”, or any number of inconclusive symptoms which may be of concern, to check first for gluten intolerance. My daughter could have been spared years of discomfort and unhappiness if we had just known what was going on.
    Best wishes to our fellow celiac friends.

  4. Vanessa
    January 11, 2008 at 6:12 pm #

    This is an article from the Wall Street Journal about fod allergies affecting kids beahvior:

  5. Pam
    April 28, 2008 at 11:05 am #

    I think my 3 yr old has celiacs, he is having tests. He had colic from birth to 1 then continued to have runny nappies, { but not always} a rattlely chest , fixated about food, and snacks all day on healthy foods, but still eats main meals. He can’t keep up with his peers , he also has cyanosis when he becomes fatigued or ill, which is frequently. He has times in the day when he is a happy content little boy, he his very clever but has peaks & troughs in behaviour. He can be a very unhappy upset, short tempered and unreasonable chap. His behaviour hinders his developement. I just hope we get some answers so we can have him happy & well all the time. We have a 5 yr old who is happy clever & content. We manage their behaviour well but it can be challenging with our son. I feel he will be labled with behavioural problems if we don’t get an answer . worried Mum

  6. Vanessa
    April 29, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    Hi Pam

    Wow, that is so hard and it really sounds like many of the symptoms we talk about in my Celiac support group. Have you tried taking him off gluten just to see what happens? You can also try testing for casein and dairy allergy, I have heard these types of responses as well, so sorry for his illnesses, good luck!


  7. Vern Lang
    February 5, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    Vanessa Did you know there is a Certified Gluten Free Bakery in Phoenix, AZ Called Gluten Free Creations Bakery at 2940 E Thomas Rd.
    602-522-0659 Thank you for the information.
    Vern Lang

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