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Healing with Food

IMG_0464Where do I begin?  This is a journey to find healing foods for my family.  In Spring of 2011 my then 15 month-old son began violently banging his head.  It began in his crib and then worked its way into the days and was joined by a whole host of behaviors that were either very peculiar… or typical terrible twos.  The idea that a child HAS to have full body melt downs and roller coaster behaviors just didn’t seem right with me.  The head banging was our main concern but in the discussions with the doctor about what this might be he started questioning us about his other behaviors and going down the autism checklist. He was also not registering on the weight charts and where he was previously a pretty big baby he was now steadily losing weight.

Our pediatrician couldn’t come up with a probable cause for anything we were experiencing.  He was pretty sure it wasn’t autism, but suggested that we might consult a specialist to confirm.  There were so many avenues we could take, we just started working down the list. He first sent us to an ENT to check Action Boy’s ears and for possible allergies.  When we saw the ENT, he was sure it wasn’t ears and ran a simple blood test which showed there were no food allergies.  He sent us to a sleep specialist.  Meanwhile upon doing some Internet research, I found many links to diet and behavior so I researched a lot and settled on a gluten and dairy free version of Feingold.  It was a very ambitious task to undertake, but I wasn’t sure what sort of intolerance we were dealing with so I thought I’d better go as clean as possible.

The sleep specialist said she thought we were dealing with two different issues.  A gut issue that was keeping Action Boy awake and a self soothing issue that was making him bang his head.  I forgot to mention, the head banging isn’t a typical case either– each doctor told me that it was very common for toddlers to bang their heads to fall asleep and it could last 15 minutes at a time and they never hurt themselves.  Well, in our case the banging could last for hours and he could easily develop a kind of rug burn from his crib bumper along with a goose egg and bruise.  He always looked like he had taken a nasty fall. The pediatrician had told us to ignore him and he would stop– but when you’ve got a child who is so violently banging his head for so long– you can’t just ignore it.  We tried everything from intervening, to staying with him, to padding down his crib, stern voices, soothing voices– you name it. The head banging continued.  Back to the sleep specialist; she thought a sleep study would be too invasive and scary for such a little guy so she decided to do nothing.

I started his diet right after Thanksgiving of 2011. By mid December his days were beginning to rapidly improve. The spinning and outbursts were getting less frequent and he was beginning to talk up a storm.  Two weeks into the diet he just started talking– in full sentences.  By his second birthday (December 20) he had become an animated and happy little storyteller who enjoyed people and even gave his first kiss (to me! yeah!). We were thrilled at how well he was doing and were hopeful that his nights would also improve.  Turns out that wasn’t in the plan.  We decided to consult with a naturopath because I had read that craniosacral therapy had helped some other kids stop head banging.  Worth a try.

The naturopath was very nice and gave us a couple of remedies to try but we didn’t see any change.  She started Action Boy on a digestive enzyme and Grapefruit Seed Extract.  He was beginning to gain weight which was a good sign. She wasn’t able to do craniosacral therapy at that time though because he was too fidgety.  He wasn’t able to sit still for seconds, let alone the minutes it was going to take to work on his head. We put therapies on hold at that point and I went back to the Internet.

I heard of a college friend who was an MD in Texas and had a little bit of experience with head banging kids.  I contacted her and we did a phone consultation– I think that was in the Spring sometime- probably late Spring 2012.  She asked me all kinds of interesting questions from how well Action Boy hears (incredibly well) to how he handles change and how he prefers to eat and what kind of PJs he wears. She said that without a doubt Action Boy had Sensory Processing Issues and I needed to get a weighted blanket and a sleeping cap for him.  We were just about to move him into a mattress on the floor (pediatrician recommended) so I thought the new blanket and hat would be a nice addition to his new room.  I made the blanket the very next day and found little hats at the Gap that fit perfectly.

His first couple of nights in his new bed were Heavenly.  He not only stayed in his bed but he slept.  Really slept.  I thought we had found it.  However, the dream only lasted a few days.  By two weeks in his new bed he was hanging over the side to bang his head on the floor. He seemed to really like his sleeping hat so we made sure he had a few and kept them on him.  We also scheduled an appointment with an Occupational Therapist to get an official SPD diagnosis and hopefully some help.

The OT confirmed the SPD and said she felt as if listening therapy would be beneficial to him.  Coinciding with the OT visit we had also found an Osteopath who wanted to try craniosacral therapy on him again so we made the choice to go that way at first. He actually sat very well this time and enjoyed the therapy.  We saw no change and the Osteopath told us she felt like he had an allergy of some kind and we should consider allergy treatments but also think about a neurologist to rule out any underlying issues she couldn’t see.

After a lot of careful thought we decided to go with the allergy testing.  Action Boy was rapidly gaining weight on the diet and I felt like we were on the right track.  We had managed to keep him off any meds and his behavior was so incredibly improved I just knew that if we could find what he was allergic to we could help heal him for good.

We’re doing the allergy treatments now. We also had bloodwork done last week which showed he was Hypoglycemic. Along the way I have tried forms of every diet from Feingold to paleo with hints of failsafe and SCD– just trying to figure out what might be causing what seems to be insomnia and the ongoing repetitive headbanging. I haven’t found the right fit yet but my dream would be to just be able to give him a balanced real food diet with a little bit of everything good.  He has an incredible attitude and doesn’t seem to be too bothered by what he can’t have– but it breaks my heart that he is so limited.

I am hoping I will be able to keep track of my meal plans and reactions here.  There is much, much more to our family food healing story and I will try to incorporate that into my posts.  Basically I have a household that includes ADD, SPD and sensitivities to salicylates, food dyes and flavors among other things.  We’re mostly Feingold at this point with a number of additional exclusions that I am hoping to expand over the next few weeks.

Prayers are always welcome.  I have learned that taking on the challenge to heal my son of something the doctors can’t seem to find is very overwhelming and all-consuming. I know my husband grows tired of hearing all my latest food findings so I’m hoping this site will allow me to document what I find and help me to process all of this in some kind of organized way!