Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Behavior/Food Relationship

In one of my original posts, I briefly explained how we ended up here.  I'd like to take some time to elaborate on Bubs' foods and why we he is on an elimination/rotation diet.

From about the age of two on, this boy was high energy.  He loved to run, jump, play....and hit.  He was aggressive towards other kids and us, his family.  At first we chalked it up to the terrible twos.  Then the trying threes.  Then the f'in awful fours.  He was with a group of rowdy boys during all this time, so it just seemed like normal, rowdy boy behavior. 

Once he started school, he definitely stuck out as a rough kid.  His kindergarten teacher was really good about communicating with me and implementing behavior modification techniques and ways to limit overstimulation for him.  The principal knew us by name and joined us at parent-teacher conferences.  Things only got worse in first grade.  And as the other kids matured and became more calm, he continued to stick out like a sore thumb as an aggressive kid.  He was beginning to be labeled a bully.  Most people think of bullies as kids whose parents are irresponsible, don't discipline their kids, beat their kids, or plain just don't care about their kids.  This most definitely was not us!  We were trying everything we knew to get this boy to act appropriately, including seeing a child psychiatrist. 

My hubby and I sat down with Bubs' first grade teacher and principal to discuss his behavior.  It was suggested that since he is so bright but lacks appropriate behavior in social situations that maybe he has Asperger's.  I know enough about this spectrum disorder to know he doesn't.  They were just grasping at straws like we were.  The principal mentioned that the district works with a behavior specialist who works in schools all over the state who intervenes in these types of cases.  We were happy to try anything. 

David met us at our home, and we spent a lot of time discussing the problems we were seeing and what we have done to try to correct the behaviors.  It came up that he has diagnosed food allergies (milk, egg, and peanuts).  David asked if he had been tested for any other foods besides these.  I told him he hadn't because there hadn't been a clinical reason to (meaning that he hadn't had an allergic reaction to any other foods).  David suggested that it is possible that Bubs could have some food sensitivities affecting his behavior.

The analogy that David used has stuck with me.  Imagine you have a thorn in your foot and it has become abscessed.  Because of this, you are limping.  Someone is giving you candy to walk straight, but you can't because your foot hurts too bad.  You try and try, but you just can't do it.  You have to remove the thorn and heal your foot before you can walk straight.

It turns out this is exactly what was going on with Bubs.  His body was so messed up because of the foods we were feeding him that he was constantly on edge.  We tried countless forms of behavior modification, but it didn't work because he didn't feel right.  Once we healed his body, he could learn how to behave. 

We took him to a naturopathic doctor who did blood work to test for 184 foods.  All 184 foods were tested for IgG (food sensitivity) and 12 were tested for IgE (traditional food allergy).  11 of the 12 came back as positive for a traditional food allergy.  WHAT?  He has been eating most of these foods without a reaction.  How could this be? 

Here's what came back positive for IgE:
egg white
cow's milk
The only one that came back as normal was oat (but I find it difficult to find gluten-free oats that are not processed with other allergens).  Peanuts is considered a Class VI allergy, milk and eggs are considered a Class IV allergy, and the rest are in Class II or III.

Here's what was positive for IgG sensitivities:
bean, lima
bean, pinto
brazil nut
cheese, blue
deer (venison)*
egg white
egg yolk
hazelnut (filbert)
milk, cow's
milk, goat's
pea, black-eyed
pea, green
pepper, red
pike, walleye
walnut, black
The doctor said this is one of the highest number of positive results he has ever seen.  He suspected that a lot of these foods came back as false positives because Bubs' body is so screwed up.  He had a list of foods that he still considered safe(*) for Bubs since they are mostly hypoallergenic.  It was also recommended that beef be from grass-fed only cows to avoid wheat contamination.  

He wasn't actually tested for artificial colors or flavors, but we were told to avoid these as well. There is so much research out there linking these to hyperactivity and difficult behavior. 

So now what?  We were sent a booklet of which foods he could eat on which day of a four day rotation.  The purpose of the rotation is to allow the body to digest and clear each food before it is reintroduced.  So, each food can only be eaten once every four days.  After some tears and frustration, I came up with a four day meal plan that we just rotated through. 

We were told to be very strict at first to get things under control.  He ate mostly whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, meat, and a side grain.  I learned all about the ancient grains quinoa, amaranth, and millet.  I learned to navigate my way around the local health food stores. I learned new types of food preparation and how to be creative for school lunches.  Once we got into a routine, it wasn't so bad.  In fact, it made meal planning quite simple since he always had the same thing. 

We saw changes in Bubs' behavior almost immediately.  It was absolutely amazing!  If I hadn't lived it, I wouldn't believe it.  He turned into a completely different kid!  The daily behavior reports turned positive rather than negative.  He stopped hitting others.  He stopped raging.  His behavior was that of a normal first grade boy!  I am forever grateful to David, the man who suggested this might be the root of the problem.  It has changed our lives!

So what about this boring, four day rotation diet?  Well, as Bubs' body healed from years of inappropriate food, we could slowly reintroduce one food at a time.  If he could handle himself while eating these foods, they pass the test.  If his behavior worsens, we cut that food out again.  We have now been given permission to allow him to have rice daily (rice milk and rice bread) and to simply not eat the same foods two days in a row.  So we can interchange days one and three and days two and four on his rotation.  This makes things much easier.  We have successfully added back to his diet apples, cantaloupe, green peas, and watermelon.  We have tried and failed at adding garlic, tomatoes, and oranges. 

I wish his reaction was more black and white.  It is often difficult to determine if a new food is causing him to act out, or if it is just age-appropriate behavior.  We are quite sensitive to his behavior, so we don't take chances.  Last summer he was doing good with tomatoes and oranges, but he had some increased behaviors at one point, so we cut them back out.  I would love to get him retested, but this is a very expensive blood test that is not covered by insurance.  It was worth every cent to diagnose the problem originally, but for now we will just use trial and error. 

Now that I am blogging and getting more involved in the food allergy blog community, I am wanting to branch out and try new recipes, modifying them to meet our needs.  I have posted a few things that are under the Recipes tab, and I will continue to add new ones that we find successful.

What a blessing and life changer this has been.  Yes, it has made food preparation more challenging, but, again, totally worth every bit of inconvenience.  I hope this information can help others who are struggling with similar problems.  Food in this country is so highly processed that it has really taken its toll on our kids.  So, please don't feed this monkey any food unless it has come from mom!   


  1. So interesting! I shared it on my daughter's food allergy page.

    1. Thanks for sharing. What is your daughter's food allergy page? Please share here.