To Gluten or Not to Gluten: That is the Question

Okay, okay, I know this is not a verb, like to “google”, but with the amount of press lately and converts to gluten free diets, it may enter our worlds as a verb in the near future!

I had recently been asked to comment on the ‘gluten’ question regarding kids and their diet, and I know that there are many families who follow the gluten free path for a variety of reasons.
I have to confess, I don’t totally understand what they are, but I am a big believer for adults, in the adage: “Whatever works.”
First off, a disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist. I am a psychotherapist with specialized training in eating disorders, child development, and human behavior. However, in the 25 plus years that I’ve been practicing, I have received a lot of information from nutritionists; particularly while researching my book “Take the Fight out of Food: How to Prevent and Solve Your Child’s Eating Problems.” As such, I will be commenting on the issue from this vantage point and I am happy to share some of the anecdotal information I have received from nutritionists I spoke with recently
while presenting at Harvard Medical School’s Eating Disorder Conference.

Basically in a nutshell, (gluten free, I might add), the message goes like this:
Unless a child has a specific medical problem that indicates the necessity to eat gluten free, it is not at all recommended.
That being said, there definitely are medical conditions that result in kids needing to have restrictions in their diet. I was just brought in to consult with the Mount Sinai Hospital Pediatric Metabolic Disorders team, as they were struggling with patients who have severe medical illnesses
requiring them to follow a highly specific and restrictive diet.
This necessity, while absolutely vital to a child’s development and even survival, presents kids and their families with very specific problems, and often results in major non compliance; rebellion, fighting between kids and parents, frustration, fear, and severe eating disorders.

A lot of great care and work needs to be done in order to help these families work out preparing restrictive diets, especially while kids grow, develop, have play dates, and only want to fit in and eat what other kids eat.

Obviously if a restrictive diet is an absolute necessity, this is a non issue. I have worked with many families and kids who have differing medical conditions specifically on the problems that arise when a child has to follow a restrictive diet. It is vital to help kids and parents navigate problems, with the goal of taking the stress and anxiety out of feeding, while at the same time empowering the kids to help them develop, grow, and be able to make independent decisions and take the best care of their bodies.

So take it for what it is and of course most importantly you need to do what you know is best for your child and their health, and for your family; but this is it in a nutshell:
PROCEED WITH CAUTION; If you think your child actually does have a gluten problem and you have seen great miraculous changes in his/her health, behavior, mood if you have taken gluten away and you are convinced that gluten is the culprit, continue.

If however, you are seeing gluten as the culprit based on your own health, or you have heard of links between gluten and moods and behavior, try to look at any other factors that may be impacting your child, and before limiting one thing in their diet, try other approaches that may make more sense.

There will always be fads in diets and information year after year that is popular. It is useful to make sure we don’t jump on bandwagons based on lousy science. You will always find one study or another to support what your beliefs are as well, so again, PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

You don’t want to create problems where none exist.
Happy Eating!

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