Here is what I have to say about diets from my other blog. I will update and write more, but for now I’ll just put this up. I hope to give you a better overview later.

How Diet causes autism, and why the Gluten Casein Free Diet is not the answer

OK, I admit, the title is purposefully sensationalistic. I don’t actually know what causes autism, but after reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome from Doctor Natasha Campbell-McBride I’m 150% convinced that diet is one of the main factors in what causes autism.

I’m not a Doctor, or medical expert, just a mom who does a lot of research. However, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is not only a mother of a successfully recovered autistic child, she is also a trained medical doctor (Neurologist, and brain surgeon), as well as having specialized in nutrition after finding out her son was autistic. So if you don’t believe me for my lack of training and titles, then read her book. No need for me to re-invent the wheel. It’s pretty easy to understand, and it will give you all the details and explanations of what I am about to summarize below, with research and scientific studies quoted to back her up.

I found myself chanting mentally on every page “Why didn’t anybody tell me about this? Why didn’t I know?” (and if I’m honest with myself, I did have a friend who told me about this, and at the time I thought it was too extreme, and that I didn’t have the guts to do it, because I myself was addicted to carbs). In my previous post about what to do when you suspect your child is autistic, I said that if I could go back and know then what I know now, I would have started a GAPS or a SCD diet immediately. I constantly think of all the things I could have done differently but after reading this book, I would prioritize this as the MOST IMPORTANT INTERVENTION ALONGSIDE ONE ON ONE EDUCATION.
So here is why I tell you: don’t shy away from the work. You will soooo regret not doing this. I’m convinced that this diet is 50% of the solution (with the other 50% being training the brain through one on one intensive education and something like Brain Balance or Neurofeedback).

OK here is the explanation of why I recommend you do this diet summed up as simply as I can:

Our gut is the first line of defense to foreign objects, bacteria, toxins, etc. and a very important part of our immune system. Normally the gut is populated with good and bad bacteria. They are in balance and take care of anything that doesn’t belong in our body. In children and adults with Autism, ADHD, ADD, Dispraxia, etc their digestive tracts are out of balance (omitting explanation why, for brevity but it’s in the book), and therefore their immune system is compromised. When there are too many bad bacteria and not enough good the body can’t handle the toxic load. Foods and toxins get into their blood stream and into the brain that shouldn’t and cause heaps of damage (This condition is called Leaky Gut). And on the other hand important nutrients that the body and brain need for normal development do not make it to the brain because food isn’t digested right, thus the brain doesn’t develop the way it should, making it all worse and compromising the immune system even more.

The idea of the diet is to replenish the good bacteria with pro-biotic foods like fermented vegetables (and perhaps some supplements), and at the same time starving the bad bacteria of it’s main source of nutrition: starches. The foods allowed on the diet are very nourishing and simple to digest, thus giving the stomach a chance to repair itself and supplying the body with nutrition. Essentially this diet is a complete sugar free, grain free diet (although fruits, and honey are allowed, just fyi). You do that for about 2 years or until your child has been symptom free for at least 6 months. Now before you throw your hands up in the air and say: no way, that’s too hard, let me tell you what it looks like after you’ve waited a few years and tried other stuff first (like the GFCF diet, Feingold, etc).

  1. Autism doesn’t go away or get better by doing nothing and waiting it out. In fact it gets worse and the gap to catch up to peers widens (which -you’ve guessed it- means more work for you, mama, or daddy)
  2. Trying easier things first only works for a little bit, because the root of the problem is still there. Only GAPS, or the SCD diet address and cure the actual problem in the gut.
  3. No matter how finicky of an eater your toddler is now, when he’s older he’ll be stronger, more verbal, and more finicky, and the tantrums and control battles are more aggressive and louder.
  4. Two years of work are nothing compared to the work you’ll have to put in if you don’t do it. You’re child will develop more food allergies, more intolerances, and refuse anything besides starch. Every meal is a battle.

Now what about the Gluten and Casein Free diet? I did that for 3 years now. At first we saw a huge improvement, and so will you, but it won’t last long. Here is what Dr. Campbell-McBride says about that:
“If you transfer this child to the GFCF diet, processed carbohydrates containing gluten are replaced with gluten free processed carbohydrates, made with rice, sugar potato starch, tapioca flour, soy, buckwheat flour etc. This sort of food will feed the abnormal flora in the child’s gut just as much as the previous diet did, perpetuating the vicious cycle of a damaged leaky gut and toxicity escaping from this leaky gut into the blood and brain. Of course the fact that out of dozens of various toxins, flowing from the gut into the body, two toxins have been removed -gluteomorphin and casomorphins – does some good.”

It does help a tiny bit, and I can testify to that, but it hasn’t solved his picky eating and carb addiction, and his gut flora is still a mess. In addition to those problems the gluten free products are very high on the glycemic index, even higher than the gluten containing ones (because gluten is a protein which slows down digestions, i.e. requires less insulin). High glycemic foods cause inflammation in the body. Children with autism already have chronic inflammation in their bodies and brains, so when you give them GFCF diets it doesn’t abate the inflammation, it makes it worse, and the bad bacteria are still fed.

Here are some resources to help you get started with a GAPS or SCD diet (by the way SCD stands for Specific Carbohydrate Diet. It has been around since the 1920′s with 90 years of scientific evidence to back up it’s effectiveness. However it wasn’t specifically created for autism. The GAPS diet is based on the SCD diet, but was specifically altered for patients suffering from autism, ADD, ADHD, etc.)

Book Gut and Psychology Syndrome
Cooking class to reverse food allergies
Meal Plans
FAQ from the Gaps Site
Dr. Campbell-McBride on youtube.
SCD Recipes and help

DISCLAIMER: I have not yet started this diet with Ezra. WHY? Because I have abnormal gut flora, and I have struggled with a carb addiction my whole life (thanks to not being breastfed, and having multiple courses of antibiotic treatments because of ear infections). It’s difficult to break this vicious cycle for me, but I know I will do it. I’m now in the process of purging my kitchen, taking the cooking class, and gearing up for a full blown assault on our collective digestive issues as a family.


2 thoughts on “Diets

  1. I am dying to hear how this went. Have you started it? I have an 11-month-old diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I know it is very young, but it’s totally obvious. I am considering trying gap with him, but am scared because he is such a baby and I am afraid he won’t like foods that aren’t sweetened with fruit and then will go hungry. I also have a 3-year-old who is super crazy picky eater – wheat and dairy only, basically – who has sensory integration issues. Want to try Gaps with him, but am terrified. I am also carb-obsessed and very skinny as it is. I don’t know if I can do it either, but I feel I’ve at least got to try it with my baby. How could I not? Please let us know how it goes with your toddler.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I can’t even see when I wrote this post. So here is an update.

      I tried it with my boys for 6 months. It was quite hard. The first two weeks are brutal when you wean them off of their sugar and carb fixes. During that time was the first and only time they were not hyperactively bouncing around the house. The good thing about doing the GAPS diet was that my boys actually eat vegetables now. Not a lot, but they eat it. The bad thing is that when you forbid all things grain and sugar and give them nothing they want to eat, you successfully implant in them the desire for grain, sugar, and all the things they can’t eat, because they think they are missing out, especially when they are in school, and have to have special food while everyone else eats junk.

      There are a few things I learned while doing this diet. First of all, you have to be 100% committed to doing it. It isn’t easy, and requires a lot of extra work on your side.
      I learned to deal with my fear that if they don’t eat they will starve. They won’t. No matter how much they cry, eventually they will eat (for the first week that was 1.5 hours of crying and tantrums before they would eat at every meal).
      After 6 months though, I gave up for three reasons: 1) because the improvements were simply not that significant and therefor in my opinion not worth all the trouble and 2) out of religious conviction that too much meat is simply not good for the body and 3) that medical evidence and science don’t really back up the claims she makes. And that is the downfall or pitfall of the GAPS diet. Now, lest you think that the author really advocates lots and lots of meat, she doesn’t. In fact, best is just vegetable soup. That would be ideal. But you might find it rather challenging to get your kids to eat just vegetable soup.
      Now from a medical point of view (please understand that this is just my own conclusion, and I am in no way a medical professional), the GAPS diet isn’t healthy, not even for an autistic child. Meat is very acidic in the body, even if it is organic grass fed. The body is much better off with fruits, and vegetables. (And in case you think “But where will they get the calcium and protein from”, please read Dr.Fuhrman’s book “Disease proof your child”. Dairy is a major no no for anyone.)
      Also, having a craving for sweets can indicate mineral or vitamin deficiencies, so check those out first. My alarm bells always go off when someone says their kids eat only dairy and wheat. That is a sure way of knowing that it is bad for them. My observation is, if there is any food you can’t resist, and it is making you picky, excluding other foods, then it is bad for you. I would wean her off dairy first. Just go cold turkey. No soy milk either, not yet. Just give her water, or fresh pressed homemade juice. In fact, if you purchase a juicer, and have her help you, that can be a good way to get her to drink fresh veggies and fruit. The only way to succeed however is this: You must believe in what you are doing. If you KNOW or strongly BELIEVE it is what they need, nothing can stop you. And yes, the earlier you do it the better. The older they are the more they will argue.
      As far as doing GAPS with a baby, I can only say, the earlier the better, but GAPS is too hard on a young digestive system. Vegetable soups are GREAT! Pureed fruit is great! Meat, not great.
      Best of luck and let me know how it goes.

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