Is your child acting strangely? Does he become enraged or hysterical at the slightest provocation? Is she having difficulty learning in school? All children act up once in the while but if your child seems almost constantly upset and aggressive, the problem may be something you’ve never thought of. Find out more about how gluten intolerance can cause aggression in children and what you can do about it.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. People with an intolerance to this protein often exhibit gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms that are commonly misdiagnosed.
What are the Typical Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?
• Chronic Diarrhea
• Unexplained Weight Loss or Gain
• Abdominal Cramping
• Skin Rashes
• Learning Difficulties
• Deep Circles Under the Eyes
• Behavioral Problems
• Brain Fog/Concentration Issues
If the above symptoms don’t seem familiar to you, you may rule out gluten intolerance or celiac disease. The truth is, even if your child shows no physical signs of gluten intolerance, it may still be the cause of your child’s unruly behavior.
Your son or daughter’s unusual behavior can come in the form of:
• Meltdowns (Hysterical Crying and Screaming)
• Throwing Things
• Rocking Back and Forth
• Difficulty Socializing with Peers
• Memory Problems
• Learning Disabilities
• OCD/Repetitive Behaviors
When taking your child to the doctor, he or she may be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Bi-Polar Disorder or even Schizophrenia.
Don’t let these diagnoses deter you from checking for gluten intolerance. Putting your child on medication for a mental illness she does not have will only compound the problem. The symptoms may be loosely controlled, but they won’t go away and there could be dangerous side effects.
The Gut-Brain Connection
According to Dr. Rodney Ford, gastroenterologist and pediatric neurologist, gluten acts as a neurotoxin in the brains of sensitive individuals. Not only does gluten directly affect the brain, it also causes brain damage. Gluten makes a direct attack on neurological tissues. When this attack happens, the neurological tissue becomes damaged, which results in a malfunction of behavior. There may also be some other neurological symptoms such as lack of coordination, muscle tics, staring gaze, or speech difficulties.
What You Can Do
To test for gluten sensitivity, your first thought may be to take your child in for a celiac antibody blood test. The only problem with that is sometimes celiac antibodies will not show up even in a gluten-sensitive child! Frustrating, huh?
The most effective way to test if gluten intolerance is causing aggression and other behavioral problems in your child is to try a gluten-elimination diet.
Do this diet for one month. If your child’s behavior improves, especially dramatically, you’ve found your culprit!
If think your child’s unusual behavioral problems are your fault or some sort of disciplinary problem, you’re not alone. Millions of parents are going through what you’re going through. Gluten intolerance affected my behavior severely as a child and as a young adult. I didn’t find out about my gluten intolerance until I was 22 years old. By then, some of the damage was permanent. I’ve been gluten-free for a decade and my health has improved by leaps and bounds. I still have many of the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome and I’ll always have some stomach problems, but I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been.
The problems you and your child are having is what prompted me to create this website. Try the gluten elimination diet. If gluten intolerance is what has been causing your child’s behavioral problems, you’ll be amazed at the wonderful difference you’ll experience when it’s eliminated from the diet.
Locating and eliminating gluten from the diet can be a bit overwhelming at first. For a step-by-step guide to living the gluten-free lifestyle, check out Felicity’s Gluten-Free Handbook. Also, dealing with child behavioral issues can be incredibly challenging. The Happy Child Guide is another excellent resource for parents that helps you overcome just about any behavioral problem in just a few simple steps!
Photo © Gabriella Fabbri
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