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Autism Diet Challenge: Just Try It! March 1, 2010

Posted by hopeauthority in Autism, autism diet, Children, Health, Parenting, specific carbohydrate diet.
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Right off the bat I want to warn you that I am sticking my neck out here in an effort to save the world, instead of  just worrying about helping my own son. And I’m sure someone is going to make me regret that I did, but I’m going for it so I can sleep at night…

Ok. I try to be open-minded, and I love a good debate. And I really try to be respectful of other people’s opinions when they differ from mine.

But if I’m being truly honest with myself, I need to face this one pet peeve I have that sort of deviates from what I just said.

I can’t for the life of me understand why parents won’t at least TRY an autism diet to see if it would help their child!

Let’s examine some top reasons why people won’t try it:

1. There’s no proof it works, and recently, there have been reports that say it doesn’t.

To that I say: Not everything, especially something like the implementation of a diet and it’s affect on behavior, can be adequately tested in a study. Is there anyone out there who wouldn’t trust their own gut and eyes over a medical report? Let’s not forget how many decades the government and medical establishment let us go on thinking cigarettes weren’t harmful…

2. It’s too expensive.

Yes, it is more expensive in the sense that you will spend more money on food for a special diet than a mainstream diet… unless of course your regular diet is one of take-out food. But, if your child felt better and behaved better, wouldn’t that be worth the cost? Maybe you’d offset the diet’s cost with the money you might save on other treatments that may now not be needed.

3. It’s too hard to do.

It is hard, at first. And at times, like parties and holidays. But parties and holidays with a wild child are hard too. What if the diet helped your child and you and he could enjoy the party for a change? In time, the diet  just becomes a part of life and that’s how you’d have to look at it. Look at it as a lifestyle choice, not a diet. Otherwise, like all diets, it’ll be doomed to fail. 

4. I can’t imagine “doing this to him” for his whole life!

First of all, take small steps. Tell yourself you’ll just give it a real try for 30 days. And then give it a real, honest try. Even when it’s difficult. And it will be hard at first…especially if it is working! No cheating. You will know in 30 days if there’s some noticeable improvement in your child. And when you see that change, that is where the strength to continue the diet comes from. And support groups online. For me, I saw improvements in my son within 2 weeks, but it took about 18 months on the diet before his gut healed enough that he finally had a formed stool…just days before his scheduled colonoscopy and endoscopy, thank God.

In my son’s case, we were fortunate enough to have very specialized labwork done through an autism study he was involved in (lab work you can’t just order from a local lab) and we KNOW he has some mutations and can not digest the proteins in certain foods. In fact, his body breaks them down into harmful opiates, which, when released into the bloodstream, travel to the brain and contribute to the autistic behaviors. For me, feeding him the typical American diet is like feeding him poison. What if your child has that kind of mutation, but you don’t know it?

5. He won’t eat that food. He’s picky.

Okay, who is the parent here? This is the time to get tough.  And the earlier you implement a diet, the easier it is to do. My son was just turning 3 and you have more control at a younger age. Plus the diet will be well established by the time he starts school and he won’t even remember McDonald’s nuggets, so he won’t long for them, though he may be curious about them.

Think of those processed foods as the enemy. Most kids are picky eaters. It’s in your hands whether you are going to let your kid’s chosen 4 favorites be healthy ones or not. If you stick to your guns, your child will eventually give in since his survival instinct will make him eat this way if that’s all you offer. Plus, some kids are actually addicted to foods their bodies are craving because bacteria in their guts need those foods to live. If that’s the case in your child, you need to break that cycle by depriving the bacteria from feeding. You do that by eating differently. You starve the bacteria and they die. And the gut heals.

6. It’s not healthy.

Come on. How balanced do you think the typical American diet of chicken nuggets, hot dogs and pizza is? With so many children becoming obese and diabetic, these diets are actually a gift of health that you can give to your child.

Even adults would do well on this diet. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet that my son is on has been helping celiacs, Crohns and IBS patients for over 50 years. Have you noticed how middle aged folks are suddenly unable to tolerate dairy or gluten? I’ve been told it’s because our bodies haven’t evolved fast enough to keep up with the processing of the foods we eat today. We so-called healthy people can’t break down these chemically-processed foods. How can our children then?

Under the supervision of a medical professional and with the proper nutritional supplementation if needed, these diets can resolve intestinal and digestive problems that you may not even realize your child is suffering from. Don’t you want to feed your child a diet that makes him or her feel their best?

7. My child doesn’t have any food allergies or sensitivites so he doesn’t need the diet.

Maybe. Maybe not. A doctor can give a diagnosis. But a mother’s instinct says a lot, too… if she knows what to look for. Does your child have any of the red flag signs of an allergy or sensitivity…such as red cheeks, skin rashes/eczema, dark or reddish circles under their eyes? Maybe constipation or diahhrea? Does he eat certain few foods to the exclusion of most others…almost like an addict? Can’t sleep at night?

8. I don’t know where to start.

First, find a doctor who supports autism diets. A recommendation from a friend is best, but failing that, look for a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctor or chiropractor. Allergists and immunologists with autism practices may be able to help you. Some, but few, pediatricians may too. Be sure they have experience with autism diets.

Do some research. There’s a few different diets out there. The best one (in my opinion only) is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet  my son has been on for 5 years and you can learn all about it by reading the fascinating book Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall. SCD is like GF/CF to the extreme since it allows no grain at all and my challenge is to try this diet for 30 days if you think you can handle it! (For more info, see the Autism Diet Help tab in this blog). But there’s also regular GF/CF (gluten free/casein free) diets and the Feingold Diet.

****I’ve always been an advocate of therapies that may improve the lives of our autistic children …so long as they do not have the potential for harm. These diets are healthy ways of eating for anyone. There is no harm if a doctor is on board with any nutritional supplementation. It may not make any difference in your child’s behavior, but it won’t hurt him or you to try it. 

But what if it helps him? What if it even recovers him?

Can you live with yourself if you didn’t take that chance? It could be the simplest of answers. Just 30 days to see if it may help. You don’t need Jenny McCarthy or me to tell you. You will know if it’s helping. And if it’s not, go off it with the peace of mind of knowing you gave it a real try, instead of living with the nagging wonder if you should do it.

By April 1st, those persistent red cheeks and shiners could be gone. Maybe even some language. Please trust me and just try it. And come back and let me know how it went!

What has your experience been with autism diets? I want the good, the bad, and the ugly…