How I approach feeding my children has been inspired by my own journey going gluten free. Living gluten free, I believe, literally saved my life. Gluten made me tired, groggy, lethargic, and asthmatic. Taking gluten out of my diet led to inhaler-free workouts. I could run, walk, and swim without needing my inhaler at all. What freedom! No longer was I lethargic during the day, but could sit through college classes without constantly yawning, and I could sit in my dorm room doing homework without falling asleep.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, “Mish Mash Beginnings,” the book Infant Nutrition by Dr. Mark Percival has been an excellent reference for me as I feed my children gluten and cow-dairy free. I highly recommend this book. To begin with, it discusses infant digestion. When discussing grains, Percival states that “grains are less likely to be digested properly until between 1 and 1 1/2 years of age. My advice to you is to hold off the introduction of grains as long as your child is content and developing normally. Remember that vegetables are the most important foods we eat” (page 63).
Experiencing my health difficulties with gluten, I found Percival’s recommendation to be something I wanted to follow to feed my children. My daughter’s first grains were rice and quinoa around 15-16 months of age. My son, who is currently 14.5 months, has not had any grains yet. His first grain will probably be in the next couple of months and will be rice. My daughter, almost four, still eats gluten free. I have tried giving her some wheat/gluten to see how her body would handle it, but it gave her terrible diarrhea.
We have cow dairy intolerances in our family as well. I, personally, had a high intolerance to it when I was little. My brother and mother still have strong reactions to cow dairy. Eating a bit of ice cream every now and then or putting some sour cream on a bowl of chili doesn’t bother me. However, I find adverse effects if I eat, say, sour cream with dinner, ice cream at dessert, cow dairy yogurt the next morning, and cheese at lunch. Jumping back to when I was little, cow dairy gave me terrible stomach problems as an infant and young child. So, my mother gave me goat milk. I wasn’t a fan then, but I am in love with goat dairy products now. Why goat dairy? It is easier to digest. “Dr. Sherilyn Renya of Washington State indicated that it takes less than 20 minutes to digest goat milk and cow milk can take almost a full 24-hour day to be digested” (http://www.dairygoatjournal.com). The fat molecules in goat milk are smaller than those in cow milk, and goat milk contains less lactose. (http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk.html#b)
As you can see, the preference for eating gluten and cow-dairy free begins with digestibility and what is easiest on our system. We’ve found this is best for our overall health. My health is better without gluten and cow dairy. And I feel my children have benefited immensely. They function better and have strong, stellar health with our focus on gluten-free foods, limiting cow dairy, and emphasizing vegetables and fruit. (Not to mention, they are both excellent poppers which, in my opinion, is a telling sign of how well food is being digested and handled by the system).