A few weeks ago we figured out that in addition to being lactose intolerant Maya is gluten intolerant. How I came to figure this out is a longer story, but it really surprised me despite the recent media hype surrounding food sensitivities. Don’t misunderstand me. I have friends and friends whose children have severe food allergies. Both myself and my husband have more than a small problem with dairy. Food allergies and problems aren’t a joke, phase, or craze, but I always take the latest wave of popular medicine with a grain of salt.
Maya has a flair for drama so before figuring out this problem we chalked up her persistent whining as a habit she had gotten into. When it comes to CP it’s already difficult to sort through symptoms and discomfort and determine their origin. So imagine my surprise and guilt when the evidence for Maya was clear enough for me to empty our pantry and start preparing gluten free meals for her. Her ongoing complaints about headaches and stomachaches stopped within two days of removing gluten from her diet!
Here is the interesting piece: For the last two weeks Maya’s spasticity has felt less to me. In fact, one of her therapists brought this up (without me saying anything) and asked me what we were doing differently. I wasn’t sure if this was simply a regular fluctuation in her muscle tone so I decided to stand by and observe. Three weeks later, the reduction in her overall spasticity remains the same to me. How much I can’t quantify. Could it be coincidence? Perhaps. I don’t have clear research here, but I am her parent and I have been working with her body and helping her to move her entire life. Something feels different to me.
Here are my questions:
Is it possible that if her spasticity is truly less could it be due to removing foods from her diet which her body was having trouble processing?
Is it as simple as she was uncomfortable every time she had something with gluten (because HER body was having trouble processing it), and therefore her muscles tightened in response to that discomfort like when people clench their muscles in response to pain?
Is there something deeper that happens to the nervous system when the individual has difficulty processing a food and can that affect muscle tone?
Aside from having an intolerance or food allergy I wonder if there could be links between food and muscle tone? What if researchers could identify specific foods that were triggers for increasing or reducing muscle spasticity in the individual or even the CP community?
Does having a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy possibly make the individual more susceptible to having difficulty processing certain foods?
Am I saying gluten exacerbates spasticity and you should start cleaning out your pantry? NO! But for Maya eliminating two foods which she was having a lot of trouble processing alleviated her headaches, stomachaches, and after removing the gluten, seems to have coincided with an improvement in her spasticity. Maybe it’s simply her muscles relaxing because she isn’t uncomfortable anymore. Maybe it’s coincidence. Again, I don’t know and I am not making any claims beyond noting some observations and correlations I have recently made in my own child.
In the last six months I have seen many reports of studies looking at connections between the brain/nervous system and gut, as well as more focused research on this subject particularly within the Autism community. Perhaps in the future we will know more about how diet and the nervous system relate to one another (or don’t). For now, I will continue to observe Maya’s spasticity and feel grateful that we were able to figure this out and that she feels better.