Trials and Eliminations

February 24, 2011

Seeing as I get so many questions from other ADHD parents about food allergies and sensitivities, it seems like a good time to share what I have learned so far on this issue.

So many parents are now having to ask themselves some difficult questions when it comes to feeding their children. Food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more prevalent than ever…or are they? The debate rages on about whether food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more common or whether we are simply armed with more information now to recognize that our children’s symptoms are affected by what they eat.

This is not a debate I wish to enter into. What I do know is that within J’s family and mine, there are many factors that increase the chances of Baby Q having food allergies and sensitivities like his big brother D.

It is an incredibly difficult situation when a small child is sick and you need to suspect foods that you have carefully chosen for their vibrant colours and nutritional value. Suddenly the comforting cup of milk your 4-year-old is drinking could be the culprit in your baby’s recurrent ear infections. The delicious whole grains that you chose for your little one may in fact be causing their immature guts great discomfort. It’s all very overwhelming and most parents feel like they no longer know what to feed their children.

I have been there and I am still there. Nearly 9 years ago, I changed D’s diet based on MANY MONTHS of trials and eliminations and now I have a baby that I hope to protect from a similar fate.

With D, I eliminated nearly everything except rice and then slowly and carefully reintroduced the different foods, while watching for symptoms of a Type I, Type II or Type III allergy. I also watched for signs of suspected sensitivities to extras like colourings and additives. It was a LONG and difficult road and we were both exhausted (and hungry) by the time it was over.

In the end, D and I switched to a dairy-free diet consisting of only natural foods and basic recipes. And though I believed that we were eating a healthy diet before this all happened, this new lifestyle was drastically different from the traditional North American diet.

No food pyramids here and I wasn’t giving D any big glasses of milk to accompany his cheese sandwiches, like the moms in the commercials were. Actually, I frequently had to answer questions about why the kids in the commercials got to drink milk all the time or why they got cheese on their broccoli and he didn’t. I still have to answer these questions when talking to parents, teachers or D’s friends because they don’t understand why I feel the way I do, when society tells them I am wrong. I’ve grown accustomed to the reactions and cynicism and I don’t let it get to me anymore.

I felt so alone and depressed back then, trying to manage the situation without any support from my family (whose notions of parenting were simple – “If it didn’t kill you, it won’t kill your kid either”). Can’t argue with that flawless logic, now can I? Even our doctors were sceptical (ok that’s generous) of what I was trying, until they witnessed the results for themselves. Then I had their attention but they still had very little data and resources to recommend to me. I had to spend hours searching databases, libraries and websites to find what I needed. Then I had to cross reference the information I had found to ensure I was making the best possible decisions, backed with the best science available. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my least favorite person. It was, and still is, exhausting.

Even after we removed the culprits from our diet and earned the support of our doctors, it was no easy road from there. I had little to work with in terms of substitutes. The little that was out there was expensive, only available in health food stores and often tasted questionable. So I started reading labels, buying fresh foods, going to the local markets and just avoiding anything in a can or box. It worked but left us with little to choose from if we got bored.

It ALL paid off in the end. The recurring ear infections and bouts of tonsillitis and strep stopped. The colds and sinus infections stopped. His asthma attacks significantly decreased and became manageable without medication. His stomach upsets stopped. More importantly though, his behavior improved significantly within 3-4 weeks and consistently over time. It made the many bowls of rice worth it.

I am happy to say that we’ve come a long way since then and there are much better resources, more support and better alternatives to ensure we can still prepare and enjoy delicious foods at home and when we’re out.

This is great news for parents facing this issue today.

Our little guy, Baby Q, is nearly a year old now and still on a very restrictive diet, closely based on what Canadian expert Dr. Joneja’s suggests (see resources below). We have successfully avoided dairy, gluten, egg, nuts, citrus, all berries (except blueberries), spinach, tomatoes, etc. Slowly and over time, we will continue to introduce new foods and we will carefully monitor any possible reactions. With any luck, we can prevent many of these allergies from occurring. Regardless, we are better prepared to deal with whatever comes our way. I hope the same will be true for any parent out there, whether their child has ADHD or not, because there are options and we do have choices.

To help you get started on your quest for information, I wanted to share a few resources that have helped me with Baby Q’s diet this past year. So if you have a baby and want to prevent sensitizing your child to allergy inducing foods (and you can!), the resource below may be helpful for you too.

Introducing Solids to Your Baby

If you already suspect an allergy, the resource below may be helpful in understanding the different types of testing and their accuracy.

Diagnosis of Food Allergy

If you would like more information, I would  highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Joneja’s book, Dealing with Allergies in Babies and Children. I found this book TREMENDOUSLY helpful when planning for our second child’s introduction to solid foods. It allowed me to not only recognize the foods to avoid but also to understand the science behind each decision I was making.

PS – Want to learn more about the author and why she cares so much about this work?

Read Her Story

Good luck to all the loving parents out there dealing with this stuff everyday! You are not alone. 🙂

My recent post on ADHD and Substance Abuse was THE MOST VIEWED POST I have written to date. 108 hits in 8 days for a little blog like mine sends a pretty clear message.

I have also received many emails asking me to focus more on this subject because so many in the ADD/ADHD community seem to be dealing with the issue in their own lives. Alcohol and drug abuse (illegal and prescription) are certainly a very real challenge for someone with ADHD, as it is for many others.

My favorite resource to share is an informational booklet, created by Al-anon Family Group Headquarters, and published just this year. It is current, easy to read and filled with the basics to get you started. Whether you’re a parent, a child, a spouse, a sibling or a friend of someone with a drug or alcohol problem, this booklet is a great first step to understanding what you can do to help yourself live a healthier life.

Al-anon Faces Alcoholism 2011

If you feel that Al-anon or Alateen could be right for you, please reach out to them and find out about meeting times and locations in your area. To check out their website, click here.

I will be writing a post about my personal connection to this disease, once I find the words. I’ve been trying for 3 weeks. It’s a great deal harder than I had imagined it would be. I’m working on it.

I know…I know…it’s Wednesday. I choose to focus on the fact that I finished this post, and not on the fact that I am a day late. 🙂

So, what do I have for my loyal readers today? (Side note…I HAVE READERS!!! I actually looked at my stats yesterday and saw that there are 25-30 of you that seem to be checking in regularly to read my posts. I knew I had a few supporters out there because some of you send me such lovely messages or link your blogs to mine. Thank you so much for that support! But 25-30 readers?! I had no idea! A big hug to each of you. 🙂

Anyhow, now that I realize I have actual readers, I will do my best to be a better blogger. You can’t see me right now, but my hand is on my chest. I’d lay my other hand on the bible to make it an official oath, but I’m not religious enough to know where my bible is. Or if I even own a bible. 😛 )

Anywho…back to my tip of the week….

Check out the link for a Family Barometer Satisfaction tool I found, from the website www.ADHDSupport.com. I really like this tool for a few reasons.

1 – If you have a child on medication, you should really try to measure their progress and success, at home and at school, on a regular basis. This is the only way to objectively get a reading on whether the medication is helping over a longer term. (I haven’t been doing this, but I will be starting after our next appointment with Dr. M as we’ll likely be trying a slightly higher dose of D’s Vyvanse.

2-This document can be used, as is, by simply printing off several copies (4 for you, and 4 for your child’s teacher) and placing them in a binder to keep them organized. Easy!

3-You can also use this document to create a list of expectations for your child. Grab some big paper (newsprint, flip chart paper or bristol board) and write out the items you and your partner feel are important for your child to work on. This needs to be written in a way that is age appropriate for your child, supportive and with a little creativity and colour! 🙂  You can use the document as inspiration.

For example: In my house, my son has daily chores and weekly chores. He’s 12 so I took some colourful paper and wrote up what is expected of him each day (tidying his room, taking out the compost and emptying the dishwasher) and each week (cleaning his room, sweeping upstairs and folding some laundry). I used washable markers to make it more colourful and interesting and then posted them on the wall, where he can see them.

This makes it easier for him to remember what is expected of him. I still have to remind him that it’s time to do his chores, and I still have to check to make sure he is completing them properly but I don’t have to keep repeating what he needs to do.

Trust me, that’s something. It’s one less broken record playing at him all day. 😛

ADHD and Substance Abuse

January 25, 2011

Photo Credit

Though I like to focus on the strengths that come with ADHD, the reality is I wouldn’t be blogging if it was always smooth sailing, now would I? I promised to be real on here and the reality is that anyone living with ADHD knows that the condition comes with a fair number of challenges.

One of them is substance abuse and the statistics are staggering. It is said that between 30-50% of those living with ADHD will try drugs or alcohol in the hopes of improving their abilities, numbing their fears, decreasing their anxiety, and coping with painful issues and past traumas. Self-medicating may seem like a good idea in the short-term, but in the long-term it will result in a host of other addiction-related problems.

Wendy Richardson MA, MFCC, CAS, author of the best-selling book The Link Between ADD and Addiction explains, “The problem is that self-medicating works at first. It provides the person with ADHD relief from their restless bodies and brains. For some, drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, diet pills and “speed” enable them to focus, think clearly, and follow through with ideas and tasks. Others chose to soothe their ADHD symptoms with alcohol and marijuana.

People who abuse substances, or have a history of substance abuse are not “bad” people. They are people who desperately attempt to self-medicate their feelings, and ADHD symptoms. Self-medicating can feel comforting. The problem is, that self-medicating brings on a host of addiction related problem which over time make people’s lives much more difficult.

What starts out as a “solution”, can cause problems including addiction, impulsive crimes, domestic violence, increased high risk behaviors, lost jobs, relationships, families, and death. Self-medicating ADD with alcohol and other drugs is like putting out fires with gasoline.”

That last part has been stuck with me since the first time I read it in her book. It makes so much sense to those of us on the outside, looking in. It is so easy to see clearly when you aren’t the one affected. It isn’t that simple for the addict though.

They can’t see what we see. Addiction is a disease that fools even the addict. It sits on their shoulder and tells them whatever they want to hear. It blocks out the ugliness they can’t deal with by covering everything with darkness, until they feel nothing. Their families and friends struggle to reach them and pull them back into the light but it’s never easy for either side. The brightness can be too harsh and the pain too much to fight with only good intentions. And so the struggle continues.

It doesn’t have to be a losing battle though. So many have overcome addictions using treatment plans that include medical interventions, therapy, 12-step programs and the support of the friends and families. There are so many inspiring stories out there and so much support to be found in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, from people who’ve been there and survived to tell about it.

So, where do you start if you or someone you love suffers from this disease?

The first step to dealing with a substance abuse problem is recognizing that there is a problem. To do that it helps to understand the disease better.

  • What signs should be looking for?
  • What might be causing it?
  • What part do genetics have to play?
  • What changes can be made to improve your situation?
  • What treatment options are right for you or someone you love?
  • How do you take care of yourself, if you love someone suffering with an addiction?
  • Etc.

I’ll be posting some helpful links over the next few weeks to help address this challenge. If you’re reading this and have any links to share, please feel free to comment below or send me a message.

Substance abuse is something I hope to teach both my sons to avoid. Given our genetic pre-disposition for it and the fact that D has ADHD, it won’t be easy.

I can use all the help I can get.

Photo Credit

** Please help me shine a light on the other side of a condition so often stigmatized by negativity. Share this ADHD Success Story with those around you to help them understand how ADHD can inspire great change, innovation and talent in the world! 🙂

Excerpt from ADDitude Magazine  (article by Kay Marner) :

In our recent interview, Howie Mandel spoke passionately and articulately about the stigma attached to having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or any condition that falls into the whole “mental health” category.

Here’s what he had to say:

“I wasn’t an easy child. My behavior in school and at home was not to be applauded. But my parents were incredibly supportive. I don’t have a high school diploma, and I’m sure that’s not a source of pride for them, but I never felt any less loved and supported by them than I would have had I gone on to higher education. I didn’t finish high school because I am, and always was, incredibly impulsive. It’s really hard for me to focus and listen for any length of time; to sit for any length of time. I spent more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom.

One of my last pranks was, I didn’t want to go swimming, so — this was years before Caddy Shack came out — I threw a candy bar in the pool, and you can imagine what that looked like. After the whole school was gathered around trying to figure out who defecated in the pool, I dived in and came up with it in my mouth. I thought it was funny at the time, but the administration didn’t.”

“After I impulsively revealed that I have OCD on a talk show, I was devastated. But when I eventually emerged into public that day, I was approached by all kinds of people saying, ‘Me too.’ Those were two of the most comforting words I’ve ever heard. Whatever you deal with in life, you’re overwhelmed with feelings of being alone. Well, you’re not, and I wasn’t from that day forward.

“Now, I’m a big proponent of mental health awareness. I don’t think there’s anyone alive who doesn’t have issues, whether its relationship issues, job stress, or something else. We take care of our dental health, but not our mental health. We go to the dentist for x-rays when there’s no issue — when we feel perfect. But we don’t get a mental health check-up, because there’s a stigma involved.

It’s easy for someone in a big corporate arena to get up and say, ‘Hey, I have to go to the dentist, but it’s hard to get up and say I’m going to a psychiatrist or a therapist.’ “And, take health insurance — they pay a bigger percentage for a diagnosed physiological problem than a psychological one — that alone tells you that there is a stigma.

Being open about it in articles like this, and in my book, may chip away at it, but the stigma is certainly very strong, and still there.”

Click on the link below for the full article by Kay Marner, by ADDitude Magazine.

Howie Mandel At School

Enjoy! 🙂

If you have a tenacious child between the ages of 2-12, this book might be just what you’ve been looking for. I used it years ago during the “terrible twos/meltdown mania” stage and loved it!

It isn’t only for children with ADHD either. It is full of insightful information to help any parent establish a little structure and discipline. Not every idea is going to work for every child, so I was grateful that this book had lots of options. 🙂

Having used the book successfully, my advice would be to read it cover to cover before you start implementing any of the strategies and techniques. You’ll need to be ready for the possible push back if you have a very determined and clever child. They can change tactics very quickly and you’ll need to stand your ground and be consistent, so that they can understand the boundaries you are putting in place to keep them safe, healthy and happy.

It also helps if the child has the same boundaries, regardless of where they are or who they’re with. You may want to enlist the help of those closest to the child and talk with them about any possible changes you would like to make and your expectations. That way, regardless of whether they are with mom, dad, grandma, granddad or their childcare provider, they’ll feel safe and secure knowing what is expected of them at all times.

In an ideal world, parents would talk about these things together and implement them as a team. However, we know that this isn’t always the case, so just do your best to present this new strategy and new materials as a positive and healthy step towards teaching your child right from wrong. Hopefully, family members will come around once they see the results.

It’s always good to be open to the ideas of others and often family can be a wonderful resource. However you also need to trust in your ability as a parent and know that YOU know your child best. As long as you are acting responsibly and in a way that encourages, supports and nurtures your child’s development, you should stay positive and move forward. Keep trying things until you find what works.

Even if you are struggling with the issue of discipline on your own, this book will still empower you with the tips and tools you’ll need to affect positive changes in your home.

Good luck! 🙂

I still remember exactly how I felt, nearly 9 years ago, sitting in the psychologist’s office after she told me that my son had ADHD. I was afraid and relieved, all at the same time. I finally had a name and a diagnosis that made sense and that I could sink my teeth into, but I was terrified of what was to come. I needed more information and answers to my questions. I needed a place to start and resources that were supportive and encouraging to read. I needed someone who had been through it all and would understand.

I didn’t really have anyone like that then and I know there are still many people out there who are dealing with this diagnosis alone. It can be overwhelming at the best of times and you’re going to need a strong support system in place to help you be at your best as a parent, so that the sweet little person who tugs at your heartstrings everyday gets the support and love they need to thrive.

Though my family didn’t understand D’s diagnosis (and still may not quite frankly), I was able to find the information and answers I needed, from someone who understood. Instead of sitting down over to coffee to talk about things though, I curled up in bed every night and found the answers I needed to get started, within the pages of some great books.

The books I curled up with in those early days are the same books I refer back to whenever I need to shift my thinking or reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction were my ‘bibles’ 9 years ago and they remain the top books I recommend to others learning to manage ADHD in their family. I used to lend them out, but they were SO good, I rarely ever got them back. 😛 In the last few years, we have also purchased Superparenting for ADD, which we love!

(Editor’s Note: There are many other authors and resources I have since discovered and LOVE! I’ll be sharing some of my favorites over the next few months, so stay tuned.)

The link below will take you to Dr. Hallowell’s website, to a favorite section of mine, where you can find a message to parents who are looking for a place to start their search for information and empowerment. Dr. Hallowell’s website has a variety of resources to help you or someone you love with ADHD. His website (like his books) is exceptional – supportive and uplifting, with strategies and techniques to improve your whole family’s experience with ADHD.

Help! I Just Found Out My Child Has ADHD!

Good luck with your next steps! 🙂 Remember you are not alone.

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