Could there be a link between your child's learning difficulties and their diet, in particular the consumption of gluten?
The main symptoms of dyslexia are problems with reading, writing or spelling. One very classic symptom of dyslexia is reversing letters like b and d. But most people with dyslexia also have other more subtle problems, like poor short term memory, brain fog, and difficulty with concentration. Often people with dyslexia are very bright, and their verbal ability far exceeds their written ability.
The Symptoms of Dyslexia
Gluten and Dyslexia
So, how can gluten affect the symptoms of dyslexia? It is thought that intestinal permeability, commonly called "leaky gut”, could be behind some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Leaky gut is where there are larger than normal spaces present between the cells of the gut wall. This can be caused by inflammation, food intolerances and other environmental influences such as stress or exposure to pollution. When we have these large spaces in the lining of the small intestine, undigested food and other toxins are able enter the blood stream. This can cause the immune system to mount an attack against the "foreigner" resulting in food allergies and sensitivities. The release of antibodies triggers inflammatory reactions when the foods are eaten again. To make matters worse, it is believed that if gluten is not digested properly it is able to travel to our brains and lodge in opiate receptors where it can affect behaviour and exacerbate symptoms of dyslexia such as brain fog, problems with short
term memory and inability to concentrate.
Studies have proven a link between dyslexia and gluten sensitivity problems. Celiac disease (allergy to gluten) is 13 times more common in people with dyslexia, than in the general population.
A specialist dyslexic boarding school in Northumberland gave its pupils a gluten-free diet for 6 months. During that time 90% of their pupils improved their reading by between 12 to 36 months.
If your child’s performance is very inconsistent, if there is a huge difference between their ability on a good day and on a bad day, then you might want to consider whether their diet could be contributing to their symptoms.
Liz first found out about the connection between dyslexia and gluten while trying to help her daughter who had severe dyslexia. At the start of Year 5 (aged 9) she still couldn’t read despite intensive interventions at home and at school since she was aged 4. Removing gluten and dairy from her diet helped significantly, and over the course of the year she finally learned to read.
Tips for going gluten free
If you know or suspect your child may have dyslexia it is really important to try cutting out gluten. Six weeks is usually the amount of time needed to experience changes in symptoms and what better time to start than during the summer holidays? Here are some handy tips to help get you started:
The main gluten containing grains are wheat, barley and rye but be careful as there are many variations of these grains that have different names - get in touch with Giulietta if you want a comprehensive list and make sure to stick a copy on your fridge door and take another one with you when you go shopping.
Preparation is key - set aside time at the weekend to menu plan and cook for the week. There are lots of good online resources where you can find gluten free inspiration so enjoy experimenting.
Processed foods are often laden with gluten so try to steer clear of these and make your own food at home.
Be aware that a lot of food that is labelled gluten free can be very high in sugar and other nasties so again, steer clear of anything processed (even if it is labelled gluten free).
Most big supermarkets now have a gluten free section so take your time and spend a few minutes browsing and becoming familiar with what they have to offer.
You may want to consider becoming a gluten-free family for six weeks - not only will this make food preparation easier but you made be surprised at what other health benefits other family members experience. Most people could do with reducing the amount of gluten they eat so why not give it a go?
How can I measure my child’s progress?
You could measure your child’s reading at the start, and after being gluten free for 6 weeks, to see if gluten free is helping. There are many different ways to measure reading, and 6 weeks isn’t very long to make an improvement.
I recommend videoing your child reading a passage, and taking a reading speed test like this one: (www.dyslexiagold.co.uk/ReadingSpeedTest/Start). Then in 6 weeks video your child again and repeat the reading speed test.
This article was written by Liz Sedley, the creator of Dyslexia Gold (www.dyslexiagold.co.uk) an online dyslexia treatment program that treats vision and phonological deficit problems that cause dyslexia symptoms, and Giulietta Durante, our Uxbridge based Nutritional Therapist.
If you are interested in Dyslexia Gold, use this link (www.dyslexiagold.co.uk?DC=BTH) to get £10 off the normal price. (Discount applied at checkout).
Giulietta is happy to answer any questions you might have on going gluten free. She also offers personalised health programmes that can support a gluten free lifestyle. Please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 07983 704 882