Well, I officially sprung the plan into action this morning when I dropped Jacob off at daycare and told the director and a couple of the teachers about it. We'll see how it goes. I'm hoping no one slips up, but then again, it's in their best interest for him to behave better as well!
The responses I've gotten have been interesting. Honestly, I feel a bit crazy even talking about all of this, since it seems a bit pseudoscience-ish. It's definitely not a well-known connection, judging by the response from the daycare director and the woman who handles their food. They joked that maybe they should take most of the kids off milk and see how it goes! However, one of the teachers (not Jacob's) who was in the room at the time is gluten-free, and she mentioned that when she made the change she noticed a lot of changes beyond the physical. It had an impact on her emotional state as well. It seemed to give the whole thing a little extra validation, and everyone seemed to agree it's worth a try.
As I said, the whole thing seems a little far-fetched even to me, but knowing that there's some research, plenty of bloggers, and even someone I actually know who's seen it work, it makes me feel like it's worth a try. I'll admit that when I hear people screwing around with their kids' diets, I'm always a little suspect and wonder what bit of "research" they happened to read that prompted the change. There's absolutely no reason for me to really think that way, because no one can judge anyone else's choices until you've been in their place. Deal with a problem long enough and you'll be willing to try almost anything to solve it. When it comes to Jacob or even my loss of smell issues, that's definitely the case. Some fixes are harder than others, and this seemed like an easy enough one to try. The long term maintenance may take some work, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
I know there's the whole prevailing wisdom of, "We all ate dairy/gluten/nuts for our entire lives and never had these problems," but how many kids lived in pain and misery for years because no one knew any better? It's sort of like the argument about modern safety measures, like car seats. I hear people talk once in a while about how years ago, some of us had no more protection than a nip-nap in the car and yet we survived. But what doesn't come up is how many kids didn't survive because of the deficient safety standards? Same argument...except in the case of nutrition, kids are exposed to so much more now in the way of chemicals, crappy processed food, and God knows what else, so it's potentially a very different world than previous generations grew up in. I also think that as people with hidden recessive genes for allergies and other issues reproduce, the genes become dominant and problems keep getting worse. I'm no expert, but just an educated guess based on years of those brown eyes/blue eyes charts in science class. And with autism and ADHD, perhaps we finally have the research and knowledge now to know that kids aren't just learning disabled or "difficult" children, but that there's a real, specific problem causing their troubles. Increased diagnoses may happen because people are quick to jump on the bandwagon, but I think there's some legitimate things going on there, too.
I did a little more searching around yesterday and seemed to see a lot of blogs and articles talking about taking out both dairy and gluten together. That seems to be the combo of choice for a lot of people, especially when it comes to autism. I don't think Jacob is autistic, nor do I think he has full-blown ADHD, but I think he exhibits some characteristics that might make some wonder. It's a fine line, though, between normal three-year-old behavior and more troubling behavior, so it's hard to tell. Jacob can sometimes be very social, but then at other times he won't look you in the eye or answer direct questions. Sometimes he can't focus long enough to put on a pair of pajamas without being reminded 20 times that he needs to do it, but then he'll spend an hour playing contentedly with his hockey guys. He's so clumsy, but then he can sometimes throw a baseball better than I can. So, in either case, I still think that he'd be on a functional level, which is a relief. Maybe things could get worse, but for now at worst things are still manageable. I would just rather spend less time yelling at Jacob.
If taking milk out of his diet works, great. If we see small improvements, maybe we take it to the next level and strip out all dairy. If it doesn't work and things seem to get worse, maybe we'll have to resort to the experimenting with gluten, too. Even crazier, my friend emailed me something she read about a child whose behavior improved when salicylates were removed from her diet. They're found in, among other things, grapes and apples. Those are two major fruit staples in our world (not to mention juice!) so I'd hate to have to resort to something like that, either. I suppose the possibilities are endless.
I'm in awe of people that have to strip their diets of certain things due to allergies or other sensitivities. I marvel at how Craig's brother's family has done with managing our nephew's nut and egg allergies. That's certainly more of a life-or-death situation so the motivation is considerably stronger, but considering I struggle to figure out what to cook my family now, I can't even imagine what I'd do with other limitations. You make it work, but I really don't want to go there unless it's truly necessary. It makes eating (especially in public) a major challenge, and it's a heck of a lot more expensive, too. But if I see a major improvement in Jacob, I assume it will all be worth it. It's just hard to know early on how it'll work or how far you'll be willing to take it, particularly in a case like this where it's more or less a voluntary change.
I'm not particularly excited by the dairy-free options out there, unfortunately. My other sister-in-law emailed me last night mentioning that they use coconut milk, rather than soy, because soy can mimic estrogen in the body and have negative side effects of its own. I remember reading that a while back, too, though from other things I've read it seems like it's ok in moderation. We've used some soy meat replacement products before without issue, and I think one cup of milk at dinner should be fine. If not, we can look into coconut milk or almond milk as a replacement/supplement. The non-dairy milks lack certain vitamins or minerals, even when they've been fortified, and Jacob's diet isn't always broad enough to be able to add those things back in with other items, so that's a concern as well. Jacob still has to like the taste, too, so that's going to be another consideration. I don't want the go-to beverage to automatically be juice, either, and I know water only goes so far even though he loves it a lot of the time. Suffice it to say that we'll have a lot of research to do, regardless of the result of this experiment. We might have just opened a crazy can of worms...
I'm not even sure what I should be wishing for at this point. Part of me is so desperate for a sweet, good listener of a child that I hope it works. But that would mean he could have life-long issues with behavior and be banned from milk and potentially other dairy products, which stinks. I feel like I should just be hoping it's a phase, that I can suck it up and deal with the difficulties until he simply outgrows some of this behavior. But, oh, to feel instant relief and know we didn't cause his behavior by bad parenting...but that could mean it might be in our genetic makeup and show up worse in another child...
Yep...can of worms, indeed. More to come...