Friday, October 16, 2009

just thinking...

I overheard a woman in a health-feed store saying "But we're trying a gluten-free diet and it really seems to be working!" in relation to her autistic son. It got me thinking: there seem to be massive numbers of children with some condition or label. I'm sure this is a result of our increased ability to analyse, categorise, and define combinations of behaviour - and communicate globally so that trends or types of behaviour can be grouped and named - but is it related to what's going into our mouths?

Everyone is a little concerned about genetically modified food. We like to buy organic where possible, and are encouraged to think about food miles and processing. Should we instead (ok, ALSO) be considering the types of food that go into our mouth? Gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) are not just obvious parts of our diets (think bread, pasta, cereal, milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc) but in more insidious and sneaky ways.

According to Carol Ann Brannon, a nutritionist who specializes in diets for children with autism, gluten is not only ubiquitous, but may also find its way into your child's system through the skin:

    "Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, and any derivatives of these grains, including, but not limited to malt grain-starches, malt wash, hydrolyzed vegetable/plant proteins, grain vinegar, soy sauce, and natural flavorings. Casein is found in milk and milk products from mammals....Gluten is in even in Play-Doh, adhesive on stamps and stickers, and many hygiene products. Soy, another common food allergen, is in many foods and hand lotions, make-up, etc."
    The theory is basically that gluten and casein act as opiates upon the autistic brain. But I feel worse after eating bread for breakfast (toast), lunch (sandwiches) and dinner (ok, more likely to be pasta, but I LOVE eating toasties for dinner), and I'm not autistic. Are our nutritional choices possibly creating or exacerbating these "autistic" behaviours to the point that they're labelled as autistic?
I know, I'm rambling. I just can't help wondering how many issues we like to point fingers at are actually created. (Much like life, really.) I feel that socially we say "This happened." or "This child has..." without questioning what sequence of choices and events got us to this moment or diagnosis. 

Not terribly entertaining, but I don't think I signed any papers saying I would only be funny, and I'm aware how much my own behaviour is influenced by food. 

(Nice case in point: getting reasonably drunk on sugar last night. About eight lollies {fruit tingles, milk bottles, raspberries} and I was high as a kite. Ridiculously silly, giggly, and slightly appalled at how quickly I got to a sugar high. Hmmm. This is going to take more mulling over. 

OOH! (gee, that was quick!) Interesting: blood sugar standards are remarkably different in European countries... so here in Australia we expect a higher blood sugar level than in Germany. I don't have enough time to research this properly, but it keeps striking me that we are not sensitive enough to what we ingest and the way it plays out. Someone out there must be able to sum this up for me intelligently... COME ON!


Anonymous said...

Was it a sugar high or a colour high? Check out - we took our kids off colours and it made a huge difference. A child at Z's school who was labelled "oppositional defiant disorder"( among many other things) recently went on a failsafe diet with AMAZING results. There are colours in everything these days - yoghurt, fruit juice, cheese, biscuits, everything.

Excellent topic! I shall now stop ranting before I get totally carried away. :-)

Anonymous said...

Actually I think this is very entertaining and informative.

I've been wondering about diet lately too. I have no allergies or problems but it's not hard to think of someone I know who has allergies or intolerances etc etc.

Sign of the times?

omchelsea said...

NO! I like the carried away and the ranting!!!

Lora said...

Food additives bother me a bit. From joint pain to migraines, I always get something.

Also, I have some -well- quirks/tics/weirdo behaviors that would, according to three therapist, put me on the autism scale.

Am I autistic? HARDLY! But the spectrum is so broad that it seems that any mother who is looking for a way to make her child "special" can find something that labels him as autistic.

This is such a shame for the children who truly are autistic.

And I'm going to think about what you said about how we aren't sensitive to the things we should be. That's scary.

I'm going to go make myself an entire pot of coffee and drink it all. It takes a lot to make me feel the effects...

sigh... said...

This is totally true on 2 major points- There are more "afflicted" kids because we're better at diagnosing. Though this isn't always a good thing. I often think that kids are label things out of convenience these days. It's easier to prescribe drugs to level someone out if they "have something"
and our diet is massively important (says the chain smoking, boozing pasta/bread/cheese/bacon fiend) You're gonna get back what you put in so put in crap, expect it back. (pun not 100% intended. Maybe 75%)