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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Musings on Gluten Intolerance, Teeth, and Mineral Deficiency

I took my kids to the dentist not that long ago.
I was not too happy by what I found out.
My 4 year old has a ton of cavities. One so bad that the dentist said that there's a good chance that he'll need a root canal on that tooth.
My 2 year old son has fewer cavities than his older brother, but still a lot. The dentist diagnosed him with "bottle mouth", a "teeth rotting" issue that usually comes when kids fall asleep with a bottle of sugary juice or formula until a later age.
Which is incredibly strange, because my 2 year old never took a bottle. I wish he would have. Had he accepted a bottle of pumped milk occasionally, it would have made my life that much easier, but no. Never. He was a boob-a-holic, he only wanted to nurse. And nurse. And nurse.
But that's not the point.

The dentist pointed out all their cavities and told me that she wanted to get started on getting their cavities filled, filled with amalgam fillings. She said Ike especially had so many cavities for someone his age- its not common to see a kid that young with that many cavities, and that Lee also had a lot for his age.

Do you know what my first reaction was?

OMG!!!! What the heck???? How is this even possible????? HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!

No exaggeration.
Ok, I didn't say that out loud, I was just screaming in my mind, but I was seriously flipping out and I didn't understand it!!!
Why???

I need to get to the dentist at some point in the near future, but as of the last time I went to the dentist, I had no cavities in my mouth, never developed any in my 23 years, despite having really poor brushing habits as a kid. And my husband also never had a single cavity in his 25 years.
So how do my two little boys have such bad teeth? How do they have so many cavities???
Need I point out that our children aren't growing up with candies and sugar rich foods, aren't constantly eating sugar rich and sticky foods like taffies, etc... And they get very nutritious foods and have well rounded diets, so that should make them have strong teeth...


Help?!?! Why them? Why me?

I was eating myself up over co-sleeping and nursing Ike all night, thinking that that must have been what caused his "bottle mouth". But still... I didn't nurse him till such an old age- I weaned him at 19 months old. But maybe that's what caused him to get bottle mouth...
Anyhow, in my guilt, I posted on a natural parenting message board, asking if people thought I shouldn't co-sleep and nurse my kids at night, especially not once they get teeth, and got a surprising answer that makes so much sense...

A lady shared that she co-slept and nursed all her children, and the only ones who developed "bottle mouth" were the ones later diagnosed as having celiac.

DING DING DING! We have a winner!

I am definitely gluten sensitive, possibly have "official celiac". My dad has gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity runs in our family, that's for certain. And I suspected a while back that Ike was sensitive to gluten because of his eczema, which is why I put him (and the rest of a family) on a strict elimination diet last spring (which I promptly ended as soon as I became pregnant and the one type of food I was able to tolerate eating (and not hurl) was anything wheat based).
Anyhow, even though I am back off of gluten (and feeling so much better because of it), the rest of my family is not. My husband eats gluten and I sometimes make him cheaper glutenous foods while making myself the much more expensive gluten free alternative. My kids generally eat the gluten filled foods. I usually don't make deserts or snacks for myself, but will prepare wheat based deserts and snacks for the boys. Their breakfasts are often gluten based or at least have gluten in them (whether they're pancakes, cereal, cream of wheat, etc...)
My kids and husband certainly are eating less gluten now than they did a year ago, simply because I am not making gluten based dishes for myself, and by default am making a lot of naturally gluten free foods (like corn, rice, and potato based dishes). Our lunches and supers tend to be gluten free for the whole family. I think the fact that the family is eating less gluten now is probably why Ike's eczema disappeared...

Now, what exactly does gluten have to do with cavities, you may think...
Well, its actually documented that one of the known side effects of celiac is terrible teeth.
The connection between the two lies in the gut.

When people have celiac, when they eat gluten, their body has an autoimmune reaction and starts attacking itself, killing off its villi in its intestines, finger like projections that absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. Because the villi are destroyed, the body isn't able to absorb the necessary nutrition from the food you eat, leaving you with nutritional deficiencies.
Our teeth are made from calcium and many other minerals. If your body isn't absorbing the nutrition it needs, it won't be able to supply your teeth (and the rest of your body) with the nutrients necessary to keep them strong and healthy, which would make them much more susceptible to cavities.

If Ike and Lee have undiagnosed celiac, it could very well be that the reason their teeth are in such poor condition despite their healthy diet and lack of sweets, is because their body is having an autoimmune reaction because of the gluten they're eating, and they haven't been able to absorb the nutrition they need to keep their teeth strong and cavity free.

I also suspect celiac in my boys because they both still have mild cradle cap- at ages 4.5 and 2.5!!! And I heard that that also can be a sign of celiac.

On another note, I recently had a blood test... and despite eating more iron rich foods than I ever have before in my life, despite eating more animal products than I have in a really long time, I'm both iron deficient and B12 deficient. My B12 is so low that my father said I need to get B12 shots immediately as such low B12 can cause permanent neurological damage, but my midwife said my numbers were ok.
(I got this blood test during my 37th week of pregnancy, and my midwife said my numbers were fine for pregnancy, but my dad disagrees.)

I did some research on the subject and found that iron deficiencies and B12 deficiencies can definitely be caused by celiac, and that very low B12 can often help you realize that you have celiac, even without any other symptoms.
See, I find this strange that I still haven't been absorbing iron and B12, because I have been eliminating gluten from my diet.
But not 100%. I'll eat things that don't say on them "made in a gluten free environment". I have a "contaminated" kitchen. I'll use the same cutting board, pots, utensils, plates, bowls, sponges, etc... for gluten and for gluten free stuff, and my husband will eat bread at the same table as me while I'm also eating at the table, and its possible little crumbs of his get into my food, etc...
True celiacs often get their autoimmune reaction even with minuscule amounts of gluten such as is present in my home, and as I ingest, but I've never been tested for celiac, so I haven't been so careful. But it could be my body is having an autoimmune reaction, and that even though I cut out gluten from my diet, my villi still are getting destroyed from the trace amounts of gluten I'm ingesting, causing me to not absorb the necessary iron and b12 from my food.

I went to the doctor yesterday and got prescriptions for blood work for myself and my two boys. We'll be having general blood panels (I think that's what its called), but the main thing it'll be testing for is the presence of antibodies to gluten in the blood, to diagnose us officially with celiac.
If it comes back negative, it doesn't mean that we're not celiac, it just might mean that we'd need to do an intestinal biopsy to know for certain... but the doc said they don't do biopsies for kids my kids' ages unless absolutely necessary, because with kids biopsies are done under full anesthesia, which is not without risk.

So, I'm really hoping that these blood tests come back positive, that we can know for certain that we have Celiac, and that would give me (and my husband) the push to go fully gluten free, to help my kids hopefully not continue to have teeth issues, and to help my body stay strong by absorbing the nutrition I need from the food I eat.

Do you or anyone you know well have celiac? How are their teeth? How are their B12 and iron levels?
Do you have kids? How are their teeth? Please tell me I'm not the only mom whose kid got diagnosed with "bottle mouth" even though they never ever took a bottle... How old were your kids when they got their first cavities?

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3 comments:

  1. I live in a US state where many counties have zero fluoride in the tap water because parents have lobbied hard against it due to neurological concerns. My daughter goes to a private school in one of those counties. Our county, by contrast, has the CDC's recommended level of fluoride in the tap and we use fluoride toothpaste.

    Every single one of her classmates who lives in no-fluoride zone has suffered dental issues - even root canals on baby teeth - and I'm talking about an area that's very affluent with children who eat all organic, little-to-no-sugar, Waldorf-educated; you get the gist.

    My husband and I have a TON of fillings (I've had 6 root canals) because we were unlucky enough to have grown up in a no-fluoride zone. Sadly, our families don't have good teeth to begin with. By contrast, my daughter has never had one single cavity. Nothing. She drinks tap water at home (which has fluoride) and uses a fluoride toothpaste when she remembers to brush, which is a struggle. But she also has an annual fluoride treatment at the pediatric dentist's office. The ONLY thing I can attribute to her perfect oral health is the fluoride.

    I wouldn't give her excessive amounts but following the recommended amount seems prudent. Cavities invite a host of associated health problems when dealing with them and the ramifications are endless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Would love to get an update on this post of yours. What was the blood work result on your sons? Did you have to have their cavities filled? With what? My kids have gluten intolerance and this is helpful for me. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My daughter was not diagnosed with Celiac until she was almost 8. She has awful teeth! She had to have 3 silver teeth and 2 fillings at age 3!

    ReplyDelete

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