Low muscle tone, hypermobility & food intolerance – their effect on childhood development

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time. Then I found out I’d been nominated for an award and it put the post to the front of my mind again. I mean me, little old me and my little old blog? It’s a lovely honour that someone should think of this little corner of the virtual world as being a contender for the Allergy Blog Awards UK and it is a reminder of why I started it in the first place. That’s what I wanted to talk about today.

My youngest and third born child arrived early, on Christmas day of all days, in 2008. I breast fed him, just as I did my two girls, but it soon became apparent that third time around was going to be a bit different.

When you hear about projectile vomiting, you don’t necessarily appreciate the extent to which the word ‘projectile’ actually describes the process.

After sitting in a dimly lit nursery for the best part of an hour, I can’t tell you how disheartening it was to be winding my baby son and the entire contents of his stomach being emptied to a distant spot somewhere on the other side of the room. With him so unsettled after feeds, I struggled through the early months on a mixture of bottle and breast feeds. It’s all a bit hazy now, but I just remember it being a relief to get him on to solid food.

What followed then, was my battle to find food he would eat and again, unlike the girls, I couldn’t bribe him with that ‘one more mouthful’ because at most meals, he would gag and throw up everything he’d just eaten. There he would be, sat with a plate full of sick in front of him, the same plate that I’d set before him containing his meal.

I disagreed with doctors who dismissed there was anything wrong with my son because he was growing at the correct rate. I argued that what he produced in his nappies was nowhere near normal, but again, that was dismissed as being infantile diarrhoea, something that was due to an immature digestive system.

My son was coming on three and he didn’t talk, wouldn’t entertain potty training and his pre-school were flagging up developmental issues.

Unable to jump off the ground with two feet, balance on one leg and reluctant to play on the slides or climbing frames, my son wasn’t meeting his developmental targets. We took him to Little Kickers, but he was unable to kick a football more than a few centimetres in front of him and co-ordinating around cones, was too much of an ask. I tried him at Micro Sports, but he couldn’t co-ordinate on anything without help and he wasn’t engaged with it as a result.

As a mother of three, by the time you’ve done this a couple of times you are less stressed about whether your child is on the right lines for this and that. He didn’t talk, so what? He has a sister to do that for him. And he was shy, so playing out with the others wasn’t his thing. No big deal right? But I could see he was behind his peers in terms of his gross motor skills. Then there was the W-sitting, an absolute no-no in terms of development. On top of that, he wore his Bob the Builder hat constantly for the major part of a year and what I thought was cute, anyone with any childcare experience was keen to tell me was a security thing he was hiding behind.

A 'Free-From' Life
We even had to customise it to make an Easter Bonnet!

I should say, that throughout this time I was testing him for cow’s milk and lactose intolerance, with some success. What I really wanted though, was back-up from a paediatrician and somehow, after many times of trying, I managed to get a referral. By this time, his pre-school had also put him in the system, registering him first for speech therapy (which I never took up, because I didn’t feel he needed this).

Thank goodness for the lovely doctor we saw who decided it would be worth referring my son to a physiotherapist as well as a specialist about his diet.

Firstly the diet. Together with the doctor, we identified both lactose and cow’s milk intolerance, as well as wheat and gluten. Eliminating all of them to begin with, then introducing each back in turn and monitoring the results. It was such a relief to get all my suspicions confirmed and backed up.

Secondly, the physio. She identified low muscle tone and hypermobility. With an inability to control his muscles, my son was having difficulty performing the necessary gross motor skills that were coming easily to his peers. However, with some exercises as prescribed, we managed to make steps towards building up his muscle strength and this in turn led to increasing his co-ordination and balance overall. My son’s pre-school used the exercise programme in conjunction with their own and I also started him at Taekwondo, which helped enormously. In addition, I sent him to Tumble Tots and they were brilliant in helping with his balance, plus they were so encouraging too, knowing the background.

Looking at complementary therapy

Before he started school, I took my son to see a chiropractor. They’ve worked with a few children who had various developmental delays and had some amazing results with their treatments. It’s only anecdotal, but even so, what they found was fascinating. Basically, my son was still operating some of his primitive reflexes. There were at least four still going, including the moro, or startle, reflex and the toe curl. What this meant, essentially, is that without these reflexes dying off, he was unable to move on to the more complex movement. In other words, it was inhibiting him. With the help of the chiropractic treatment, we were able to get rid of these reflexes and allow the central nervous system to recognise those areas like the base of the feet, for example, that it had basically been missing.

I firmly believe that a body trying to fight against food is less likely to thrive developmentally

By the time my son started school, he hadn’t decided which hand to write with and he was still way behind the other kids when it came to co-ordination and balance, but it wasn’t as noticeable as it had been and during his reception year, his co-ordination and balance improved massively. This is all thanks, I believe, to the exercise programme (and the Taekwondo), the chiropractic treatment and finally, his diet. Being able to eat normally, without experiencing stomach pains or vomiting, made such a difference.

As I have a background in nutrition, I’ve made it my mission to make sure my family are healthy. When challenged with feeding a dairy and wheat intolerant child, I found I was making most things myself because I didn’t like dry, gritty, sugar-laden products on offer in the shops.

I’ve experimented and along the way I’ve both succeeded and failed. All my successes are documented on this blog. If anything, it’s a great resource for me because most of my recipes are scribbled on pieces of paper and I can’t always find them! The problems I’ve encountered, the issues that are important to me and my family as a whole, they’re all on here too. I’ve made this a resource for all things ‘free-from’ and all I can hope for is that others in a similar situation can find a use for this information too.

You can vote for me by following this link. Look for ‘A ‘Free-From’ Life in the category Nutritional Advice (excluding certain food groups/catering for food allergies).

A 'Free-From' Life

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About Nicola Young

Freelance writer and copywriter

14 thoughts on “Low muscle tone, hypermobility & food intolerance – their effect on childhood development

  1. Nodded my way through this, so familiar. It’s one tough gig isn’t it… you’ve also brought back projectile vomit memories (so glad that has passed). Really pleased your little man is doing better. It astounds me that people don’t see the link between all this and diet!

    1. Oh isn’t it? It was the sound of it hitting the floor in the distance that used to get me. That and having to turn the light on to find it. It was so disheartening to think you’d just spent all that time feeding the baby for nothing. He used to be more unsettled after that than he was before it.

  2. Wow, you really went through a lot when your son was small! well done for following your gut (excuse the pun) and eventually getting the right referral – amazing that the real food-intolerance issues weren’t noticed for so long. Glad he’s doing so much better now and massive congrats on being nominated for an award! Very well deserved! Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting

    1. It’s hard to be taken seriously if your child is seen to be ‘thriving’ according to the growth charts. They soon start to take notice when they’re not hitting developmental targets though don’t they?

  3. Gosh, what a stressful time that must have been. Well done for sticking to your guns and getting the referrals etc. that your son needed. It’s wonderful to hear how well they have worked. Congratulations on the nomination, very well deserved x

  4. Your post was a brilliantly written insight into everything you and your family were dealing with. Glad your son is doing so much better now and as you say your blog is a real resource for readers going through similar times (as well as for you and your recipes). All the very best of luck with the Awards – how exciting. #whatimwriting

  5. Congratulations on being nominated, that in itself shows how useful your blog must be to others in a similar situation. Thankfully although I had intolerances as a child, my girls haven’t been affected. Interestingly I went to a talk about genetics (specifically about twin studies) last year and the professor talked about gut health and its importance for healthy life and turning on or off certain gene actions. He said the only supplement he rated was probiotics. As you say it’s crazy how this stuff can be ignored by mainstream health professionals but as a mother you know your child. Glad he is doing much better now. Xx

    1. Gut health is central to all health both physical and mental, but it still seems to be largely ignored. I’m a cynic, but I feel the medical profession is pressured by the drug companies and they will prescribe a pill before they would look at something as simple as diet.

  6. Wow this is really fascinating. I have always been a big believer in the power of diet to hugely impact on wellbeing, but this really brings it home. I’m very glad to hear your son is doing better now – and big congratulations on the award nomination! x

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