Behavioural Problems Case Study

Elimination diet eliminates girl’s behavioural problems

by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist

Client names and identifying information changed

Little 4yr old Cassy was according to her mother Jan “a little shit of a kid” (Jan’s words). Cassy was like a crazy monkey, climbing the walls, had lots of daily temper tantrums, threw things around the room, screamed for attention to get what she wanted, had bursts of energy, then slept for 20 minutes and woke up screaming and attacking again.

She would constantly pick fights with her older brother (6yrs) who was afraid of her. Jan wouldn’t even bring Cassy in to see me initially as she feared that Cassy would destroy my office. I was thankful.

Jan showed me a video of her in action so I could see what she was like. Little Cassy had dark circles under her eyes that were puffy. Apparently, she had been this way since she was a baby. She also had disgusting smelly bowel motions according to mum (I took her word for this).

Jan had taken Cassy to the doctor who suggested some blood tests. That proved to be unsuccessful and just traumatised Cassy, Jan and the nurse, so nothing more was done. They were referred to a behavioural psychologist, but this was unsuccessful as Cassy couldn’t settle enough for the psychologist to talk to her.

The doctor tried sedation so Cassy could settle enough to see the psychologist, but the sedatives made her unresponsive and calm but not able to listen or engage. Reducing the dose just made her level of hyperactivity increase again.

Poor Jan was beside herself with anguish for her little girl and had to resort to giving Cassy sedative anti-histamines to settle her enough to be calm at bedtime. This gave me a clue, because the anti-histamines seemed to have a positive effect on Cassy, I suggested that Cassy might have an allergy. Her eyes showed that something was not right with her immune system.

Dark puffy eyes can be a sign that the kidneys are not handling a substance in the diet, which is often gluten, dairy or food additives. So we started here and Casey was put onto an elimination diet of all of these potential reactive foods.

After only five days off the potentially reactive foods Cassy was a normal little girl. Remarkable.

She was actually much better from day two, and then gradually improved as the days went on. She didn’t need to exclude the foods for any longer than a week before we began to re-introduce foods again.

Casey asked her mother if she could have some milk. Normally I would not suggest going straight for the worst offenders, but Jan decided to go with her daughter’s instincts (or was it addiction?) and gave her the milk. Within 15 mins she was ‘crazy’ again.

So Cassy was kept off dairy for some time, until at a later date, we trialled casein and lactose separately. They were both bad for her, so dairy was completely eliminated from Cassy’s diet.

Most other foods we re-introduced were fine, but both gluten and gluten free grains gave her a tummy pain and she became angry and aggressive towards her brother. Tomatoes gave her a rash around her mouth. Sugar was fine, provided it wasn’t combined with any food colouring, or the combo had her climbing the walls again with hyperactivity.

Once sorted, Cassy and Jan were both very happy and settled and Cassy’s brother could be friends with his little sister. He kept a watchful eye on her, especially when she started school, as he knew too well the results of her reactions.

Every now and then Cassy would sneak a food she shouldn’t have, but after a while she learnt not to do this as she started to feel how it wasn’t right for her body. I saw her again when she was eight and she was amazing.

She was so smart and was telling me that she wanted to be a naturopath when she grew up. Couldn’t she share some experiences!

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