People always ask me why we chose to go the Gluten Free route for Stella. No she does not have Celiac Disease, which is some what common in kiddos with Down Syndrome. When Stella was about 3 years old, I attended a presentation at our local Down Syndrome organization on nutrition for children and adults with Down Syndrome. It was eye opening to say the least. That presentation led me on a road of my own research through the internet, friends, local experts and a few good books. I want to share with you just a little bit about what I learned and why we chose to remove gluten from Stella's diet. Keep in mind that I am in no way a doctor, nutritionist or expert in the field. I encourage you to do your own research.
What is gluten anyway?
Let's start out answering the not so obvious question. My experience has led me to realize that many people have no idea what gluten even is much less, what types of foods may contain it. Gluten is a name for a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It's kind of like the glue that holds the food together. It's most commonly known to be found in breads, cereals and baked goods. But gluten is also found in a myriad of other foods like, sauces, salad dressings, soups, pastas, chicken nuggets and even oats. When you ask my husband what gluten is, his response is a sarcastic, "I don't know but it's delicious!" Sure it tastes great but if you have leaky gut syndrome, it's not so great for you. If you choose to go the gluten free route, you will want to make sure to check your food labels. Some descriptions to look for include flour, wheat flour, pasta, white flour, bread flour, bulgur, kamut, whole wheat flour and spelt.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Some of the reason that so many people are not familiar with Leaky Gut Syndrome is because it's not a diagnosis taught in medical school. There is still so much to be learned about it. According to Harvard Health Publishing, when a person has leaky gut syndrome their intestinal lining may have large cracks or holes in it. These holes allow digested foods, toxins and other bugs to get into the bloodstream which causes inflammation throughout the body. This causes a myriad of other symptoms.
What does gluten have to do with Leaky Gut Syndrome?
You may have heard the terms Gluten Sensitivity, gluten intolerance or Celiac disease in recent years. One important thing to know about gluten and the food we eat now, is that we are no longer eating the same foods that our parents and grandparents ate. We now live in a world of mass production and the quest for faster and more over better and safer. Grains are now being doused with chemicals to prevent drought and bug infestations and our grains are being hybridized. I believe from everything that I continue to read, that this change in grain plays a role in the issue of intolerance and sensitivity that we see now.
There are studies being done both on patients with Celiac disease and those without. Early studies are showing that gluten increases intestinal permeability or Leaky Gut Syndrome in those with gluten sensitivities. I'm not great with all the medical terms but basically there is a protein that gets activated by gluten in some people. This protein gets released into the intestines and causes the holes and cracks that we discussed above. Again, this causes inflammation and prevents the body from absorbing nutrients.
Gluten and the brain
Research is linking several neurological conditions to gluten sensitivity- Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease, MS, Autism, epilepsy, anxiety, depression. It seems that the gluten is causing Leaky Gut which in turn keeps the body from absorbing proper nutrients. The lack of nutrients in the body is causing symptoms like brain fog, headaches, even ADHD. I've heard it said repeatedly that our gut is our second brain. It can be responsible for our moods and emotional well being. That's why it's imperative that we maintain a healthy gut!
My personal experience
I've just given you a few highlights of things that I'm continuing to learn about Leaky Gut and Gluten sensitivity. I've linked some articles throughout this post. You can also find a link to the Down Syndrome Diet presentation that I attended at our local Down Syndrome Organization. I encourage you to do your own research and remember that I'm not a professional and do not claim to be any type of expert in the field. What I am, is a concerned parent who has seen positive changes in my daughter's behaviors since putting her on a gluten free diet.
A few of the changes I've seen
Less stimming- she used to sit all day and stim and her stimming is the first thing I notice when she gets a hold of gluten!
Less congestion- We went from constant congestion to rarely any at all
Less constipation (cutting back or removing dairy will help with this too!)
Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can see my future posts. I will be talking about what foods can help with Leaky Gut Syndrome as well, as overall brain health and development. I'll also be sharing the supplements that we give Stella daily.
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