Diet

The body cannot help heal itself without the proper nutrients and healthy foods. Where do you begin? Start with “cleaning” up the diet.  Eliminate artificial ingredients, flavors, colors and preservatives.  I took it a step further and eliminated MSG, high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup, no nitrites/nitrates and of course any artificial sweetener.  The Feingold program can help you understand and learn what to buy or avoid.  For more information on the Feingold program, phenols and salicylates, click on the tab to the left under Pages.

My son’s body was overloaded with toxins he could no longer excrete and we had to reduce the toxin load. One way to do this is eating only organic fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy.  When we can’t afford organic meats and dairy, I buy products that are hormone and antibiotic free.   Buying all organic fruits and vegetables can be costly, so I did find a resource that listed in importance, which twelve fruits and vegetables to buy organic and the clean fifteen foods you can buy conventionally grown. You can find this information at http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php?key=38863688 . They also have a free app for you iPhone titled Dirty Produce.

The next step for us was to go gf/cf (gluten free/casein free) and corn free. My oldest son tested allergic to all corn ingredients. Wow, I thought eliminating all things with gluten/wheat/dairy/casein was tough, but try getting food not made from corn products or byproducts.  As soon as I’d find something gluten free, the replacement ingredient would be rice or corn. Ugh! But it’s doable. I definitely needed help and one great resource with the gf/cf diet was TACA’s (Talk About Curing Autism) website. They have a lot of information on how to get started, menu planning with recipes, how to read ingredient labels and what gf/cf foods you can buy at supermarkets (Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/Health Food stores). Go to http://www.gfcf-diet.tacanow.org/index.htm for more information and guidance.

There are other diets that families find their child needs based on food allergies/sensitivities. In no particular order they are:

Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

Body Ecology Diet

Low Oxalate Diet

A wonderful resource on diets for children on the spectrum is Nourishing Hope at www.nourishinghope.com

25 Responses

  1. Hi, I find your blog very informational. My son was just diagnosed with Autism. He is almost 5 yrs. old in 2 more monhs. I want to be sure I’m giving my son the right foods and supplements for his age. I’m currently giving him 2 gummy bear chewables every day but I’m not sure if that’s sufficient. What dosage of vitamins can I give him and do you recommend a liquid vitamin instead. Any suggestions would be very appreciated and helpful! : ) Thank you!

    • There are a lot of options out there for children’s vitamins and in liquid and powder form too. I like http://www.ourkidsasd.com for their variety of brands. They sell Kirkman vitamins too, but you can get them direct from Kirkman at http://www.kirkmanlabs.com. Our Kids ASD has an autism starter pack that provides a powder multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, probiotics (capsules but can be opened into food), liquid EFA’s (Omega 3s) and liquid vitamin b12. This pack would cover the initial supplements that can be beneficial to children with autism. It’s on sale now too. I don’t believe the gummy bear chewables have the necessary vitamins and minerals in large enough dose for kids on the autism spectrum.
      Best wishes on your journey to help your son!

      • Thank you soo much for the quick response and the information! I’m going to order the the starter pack from Kirkmanlabs.com. I really appreciate all you are doing to assist parents with ASD children. There’s alot of information out there on what can help with ASD but it can be overwhealming. Your blog alone answers all my questions and concerns! Thanks again and best wishes to you and your sons as well!

      • Thank you!! I am so glad my blog is helping others. 🙂

  2. Hi My son is 5 he was diagnosed when he was 3..im finding it very hard with his diet…he will only eat all carb related foods…white in colour..and salty foods….no fruit or veg or any protein..im giving him vitamin b12 in powder form…he drinks lactose free milk…wont drink plain water only watered down juice…should i find a dietician to take him to…also any suggestions on how to get him to eat properly.

    thankyou.

    • Based on my experience, kids will eat what their body craves to feed the unbalanced flora in their digestive system. White carbs convert to sugar, juice does as well. Yeast and bacteria feed and thrive on sugar. He may be feeding a yeasty gut. Have you had any labs run to see if he has bad bacteria/yeast/parasites in his gut? If you are not already, start him on probiotics and zinc. He needs to balance his gut and zinc will help with gut healing and accepting new foods. I’m not sure his level of functioning, if he has language or anything, but you are the one that buys and prepares his food. It’s in your control of what he eats, YOU need to clean up his diet. Once you have him on probiotics and zinc, give him vegetables, whole grains and protein.( Fruit will feed yeast since it converts to sugar.) He may refuse to eat for a while, but he will be hungry eventually and eat the healthy foods you give him. You need to get his diet under control now while he’s young…it’s very difficult once these habits are established for a decade. Do your research on how to shop and prepare a well balanced, healthy meal for your son if you don’t know how. Be aware that once you start to kill off any imbalance of poor gut flora, he will crave the white carbs/sugars for a while, then it will subside. Be strong and believe you can change his diet. Once that goal is achieved, look into getting him onto a gf/cf diet to assist in his gut healing if needed. Best wishes for success with your son.

  3. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could help me? We are waiting on an official diagnosis but have been told to prepare ourselves for an ASD diagnosis – honestly, I’m not surprised. So, we’re doing our best to wrap our heads around a GfCF diet as the nurse practitioner at the DAN doctor office told us to get started while we wait for an appt (4 months away 😦 ).
    The more I read, the more lost, anxious and disheartened I become. I cook a lot at home so I don’t see an obstacle necessarily there but more with ingredients within foods and other toys/staples in the home. Namely, arts & crafts, health & beauty (toothpaste, shampoo, body and face creams). Would you believe that last week when we enrolled at a new school I was happy to say she had no allergies and was pretty easy. Now I am going to have to try to explain on her 1st day of school tomorrow how we’re now a gluten/dairy free environment and that there’s a good chance that the supplies in the classroom will have adverse affects on her. Were these things cut out or substituted for your kids?
    Lastly, I am totally confused here…are gluten free vegan foods safe? Is there a particular ingredient(s) that I should look for for these types of foods or indeed foods that say gluten/dairy free foods?
    I so desperately want to get this right but honestly, I am drawing in ingredients, science and confusion.
    Thanks for any help you can give…your site is a wonderful resource!

    • Vegan GFCF should be fine, casein is an animal protein – for the classroom products – you can send non latex gloves to school, along with some Trader Joe’s soap (we don’t let him use what is in the dispensers) for day to day products – we use Tom’s toothpaste (it’s gluten free), we’ve gone through a lot of lotions but generally find things at Whole Foods or Trader Joes. The hardest thing for us was finding lip balm that was GFCF and soy free – Badger Balm was the answer – but I don’t know if they have changed their formula.

      If something isn’t labeled gluten free, there is no guarantee that even if you read the labels and it didn’t have any ingredients in it with gluten or casein that it was processed in a plant that is allergen free without cross contamination. Labels won’t say casein free so you will need to read them to determine. There is a great resource on TACA’s website for a grocery list to shop for gf/cf items. Their website is http://www.tacanow.org/tag/gfcf/ Good luck and hang in there!

  4. I have a 7 year old grandson who was diagnosed with adhd and high functioning autism. His diet is and always has been terrible. He eats all carbs and chips and breads no veggies or fruit. He also is allowed a ton of sugar. I am a nurse and have suggested the food elimination diet to my daughter and to read Doris Rapp’s book. “Is This Your Child” what can I do as a grandparent the parents are in denial about the diet affecting him. He still bed wets and is milk and soy intolerant.

    • It’s a difficult position to be in with your grandson. I know from my own experience that denial is safe and self-serving. Ask your daughter to read my blog and to have an open mind about helping her son. Her unwillingness could stem from her fear of the unknown, the over-whelming thought of restricting his diet, the battles to change his diet, etc. How is her diet? Does she eat fruits and veggies? Have her read “Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life”. (I wrote a review about the book on my blog). Maybe the fear of her son getting diabetes/cancer will change her mind on his diet. It’s not just ADHD and autism that is affected by poor diet. He’s establishing a foundation for poor physical health too. Good luck and let me know if you have any specific questions on steps she could take to change his diet.

      • I told her to read your blog and I also told her I would get the book “The Autism and ADHD Diet. I do not think her diet is great either she had gestational diabetes with this pregnancy. It is very hard to be the outsider looking in on this situation but I will keep trying in loving and caring ways to do anything I can for him. He is a very bright child however diet affect all of us. I am convinced that stress and poor diet along with environmental pollutants than any other factors on our journey through life. Thank you for your response. Jill

  5. Dear Joanne…I have a question about the GFCF diet and travel. We are about to fly to the UK for our Christmas vacation and I wonder if you have any tips for a 20 hour door-to-door journey. Of course I plan to bring some snacks and so forth and eat at the airport but I understand that accidents and contamination can happen. Could digestive enzymes help?
    I got lucky and our DAN doctor bumped us up from Feb ’12 to tomorrow. Are there any questions I should ask? Any first-time things I should be sure to do or ask?
    Thanks so much!!
    Kate

    • Hi Kate – You could try the digestive enzymes with DPP4 in it that breaks down casein and gluten proteins. I like Houston Enzymes and they have a lot of options. Kirkmanlabs.com also has some too that are good. Go low and slow on them though since you may see a die-off reaction from it if you go too much too quick. Don’t want to deal with issues on vacation. I’d get them use to the enzymes before you go by slowly working them up to a full capsule so when they eat out gluten free, you can give them one capsule with the meal. As for the DAN doctor appt, see what he/she is going to do on running labs for your child and how they will help determine which course of action you take biomedically. I’m not a big fan of “run every lab possible” due to the cost. Ask about methyl-B12 shots (if they would be helpful) and of course the enzymes. If you get started on supplements you’re not already on, I’d rethink how many to start before your trip. Your child has to adjust and may have behavioral reactions until the body is acclimated. It’s best to stick to an established routine while travelling. Best of luck with the DAN and have a wonderful, safe trip to the UK.
      Joanne

  6. how does one get tested to see if there’s bad bacteria/yeast/parasites
    in the gut?

  7. Dear Joanne,

    I have posted all over your site in the past six months. My three year old is gfdfsf and on a suitcase full of supplements including, fish oil, SNT, MB12 with Folinic acid, tmg and probiotics (kirkmans).

    I am in crisis mode, ready to hang up my hat.

    Let’s start with her diet. I have always cooked fresh, in fact I made all her baby food from scratch. So, nothing has changed there but since we started the diet in October she has very slowly gone from eating almost every meal (comprising of eggs (which we have since learnt she is allergic to), fish and meats and veg) to eating no meals at home…ever. You can imagine my frustration. We have always done family style meals and we have done serve yourself, helping to cook, sharing plates, you name it. The only thing I refuse to do is to cook her a separate meal. The only things she will eat are what they have at school (I found the gfcfsf alternatives) and they are – of course – Mac n cheese, fish sticks and baked beans, pizza and chicken nuggets with veg. If I were to make those at home she would eat them (well the meat/fish/pasta. She now won’t touch the beans or veg.

    I came to you when her tests came back and it looks like she has leaky gut. We have been treating with trienza and gastro support. But, most meals that’s all she has…trienza chewables. She can be starving, walking around the house signing and saying eat, I will show her the food we are cooking and she’ll say yum. But when she gets up to the table she won’t even try it. We have tried EVERYTHING even changing her seat position and her plate. She just won’t try anything. I have suffered through days of screaming that she’s hungry, not given any snacks and she still won’t eat ‘real food’.

    If that’s not frustrating and worrying enough, we have got HUGE problems with her gut. She was recently sick and needed antibiotics morning and night. Her DAN additionally prescribed fluconazole for midday to keep yeast at bay. She ended up being on it for two months. We’re 10 days off and things are worse than ever. Her pee smells like fish, she has diarhea that takes your breath away, stimmingsuper (which had entirely gone) and her language has suffered a massive setback.

    I just don’t feel like anything is working, apart from the fish oil and mb12 shots.

    This has been a downward spiral since October and my DAN just says to plod on but I am wondering if it’s the detriment of my daughter. She just doesn’t eat, and therefore doesn’t participate with us fully.

    Do you have any thoughts?

    Thanks so much!

    Kate

    • Hi Kate,

      Hang in there…you will get through this stage, but it’s going to take a lot of perseverance! Your poor daughter’s gut is so messed up and that is probably what is causing her eating problems. Have you tested her for heavy metals or done any type of chelation? I do know that the metals cling onto yeast and it’s tough to get the gut healed if there is a heavy metal burden on the gut lining. When she’s hungry, you sit her at the table, have you tried to give her food while she is in the room that she tells you she’s hungry in? Maybe a change of environment and style of eating (not that you want to start bad habits) but sometimes you need to improvise and change things up so much beyond the norm for them. Get her eating then work on the place and time she eats later. Is she on Kirkman’s Pro Bio Defense probiotics? S. Boulardii on a daily basis may help. Maybe go back to your vegetarian family style of cooking with TriEnza and she may start eating. I found that it’s better to get the kids to eat good, whole foods for their digestion with enzymes than eat all the GFCFSF prepared foods on the market. It’s not helping the gut. What about kefir? Body Ecology diet? Keeping the foods rotated is best too…but don’t lose your head over it all.

      Focus on the positive and gains made, what is working for her…like the fish oil, and mb12 shots. Baby steps…cut back to what’s manageable for you and your family. I wish I could tell you what to do, but I didn’t experience what you are going through and every kid is different anyway.
      Best,
      Joanne

  8. Hi Joanne,

    Thanks for coming back to me.

    I have been reading back over our gfcf diary (since we started) and we were having the eating problems with her when we started it. 6 weeks in and I put down that she would only eat certain foods with us. Could there be a supplement(s) that we could try that could encourage appetite? Or is there perhaps one you know of that we may be giving to her that affects her taste?

    Yes, she was tested for metals and she did test higher than normal but nothing off the charts. She is on glutathione cream for that. We haven’t noticed any difference at all. I don’t want to do IV for her, I don’t want that for her and DAN suggested that she didn’t warrant it given her levels weren’t crazy.

    We’ve tried different things with the eating but she didn’t seem interested. I will give the environment change a go though and try a fun ‘picnic’ in her playroom and see if that works.

    I give her kirkman’s pro bio chewables. We did s. boulardii for a while but with no results and then it turned out on one of her tests that it likely wouldn’t benefit her and indeed have a cross reaction to candida albicans or s. cerevisae (which she has high amounts of). It suggests that she may do well on an anti-fungal program. Other than probiotics or diflucan (fluconazole) what else is there that I could try?

    As for foods. I make my own fish sticks and chicken nuggets and pizza. The only thing I HAVE to buy is the mac n cheese. I will admit to running out of time before and buying the gfcfsf options (by Applegate farms, amy’s and Ian’s Naturals). I only feed her these four things bc the other kids in class are eating them and I didn’t want her to feel different. At home we eat a wide variety of organic veg, meats etc And by we, I mean she is offered it and then entirely rejects it. It’s hard not to feel feel, angry and offended but, she’s only three and perhaps if we had the communication she could tell me what was wrong. SO frustrating!!

    We give the trienza chewable right before the food is put in front of her. She takes that fine, it’s the food she won’t eat.

    Kefir?

    We do rotate already…we always have, it’s boring and monotonous otherwise.

    That’s just it, we’re in month 8 of this and I don’t know really how much of her improvements can be put down to natural development. Compared even to Nov of last year, she has regressed on behavior and language. She still has tantrums but they were beginning to get more manageable by Sept of last year. We started this in Oct. Her willingness to try words is there now and she points now. She doesn’t line things up obsessively but how much of that is just natural development.

    Would you try to dial back some of the supplements?

    Two that I am unsure of are Taurine and Acetyl L Carnitine.

    Thanks Joanne…you are a massive support system in this family. It’s nice to be able to share 🙂

    All the best

    Kate

    • Have you tried Zinc yet? Zinc helps kids with accepting new foods, and I have info on it my Zinc page…if your daughter’s gut is damaged, she may be low on zinc. It’s gut healing, helps accept new foods and with cognitive issues. Taurine and Acetyl L Carnitine are good supps, I’ll get back to you on those. There are natural treatments for yeast besides Diflucan. Grapefruit seed extract, Olive leaf, and other herbal remedies. Sounds like you really need to focus on cleaning up her gut issues with the yeast…that will improve her appetite after it’s treated more. Her body just wants to feed the yeast…yeast beast we refer to it. You could try to reduce the supps…if her gut isn’t healthy and not absorbing them, then it’s not going to be a huge difference. I know some is better than nothing, but how are you getting her to take them if she isn’t eating? I’d keep the b12, fish oils and probiotics for certain. Did you say she was on SNT by Kirkman? High levels of b6 will exacerbate yeast issues…it’s such a long journey that you have to stick with it, journal what you give her, when she eats, what she eats and then look at it with your DAN. He must be able to help you with the labs he’s run and your parent observations.
      Best wishes and let me know if you have any other questions.
      Joanne

  9. My son is three years old. I am being told that he is ADHD and I dont know what to do to help him. Maybe I am not seeing all that I should. Where would I start to know what to do for my son. He cant stay focused for a long amount of time. He has been through 3 daycares. They tell me that he will not focus and that they cant keep doing one on one with him. Could you help me? What supplements can I give him to help him?

    • Hi Jennifer,

      First thing I recommend is to read through my site. On the right side column I have Categories listed. ADHD is one of them, click on it and you’ll find all posts I’ve written that has to do with ADHD or helping it. Here is one post in particular that can help you: https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/five-ways-to-help-kids-with-adhd/

      Diet is huge too. Removing all artificial ingredients, high protein, less sugar/carbohydrates, no MSG/nitrites. Start a food journal of what he eats…that can be very telling if he’s not getting enough nutrients or too much “junk” in his diet. I also have a Facebook page titled “Cleaning Up Your Child’s Diet” and the link is on the right side of my blog pages.

      Get him started on a children’s multi-vitamin, a probiotic and Essential Fatty Acids (DHA/Fish oils). A great source is Kirkman Labs in Oregon. http://www.kirkmanlabs.com. They sell all supplements and also Nordic Naturals EFA’s. Probiotic will help with digestive health, along with a good diet and daily movement of bowels. Read the book by Dr. Kenneth Bock: Healing the New Childhood Epidemics, Autism, Asthma, ADHD, & Allergies. Let me know once you’ve been able to research more on my site and the vitamins, if you have any more questions.

      Hang in there…you can help your son and don’t doubt the power of warrior moms! You will be able to help him…have faith!

  10. I have 7 years old son and know as ASD with low fuction and non verbal. I need to know what supplement or vitamins I can give to my son and the dosage. I have never do any Allegra test or nutrionist. I just try to eliminate gluten, casein, MSG, sugar from his food but not in a strict way.

    Awaiting for yr advice.

    • Have you read through my entire blog yet? I have a lot of info on helping with supplements, diet, exercise, and a whole food diet. Big help for language is methyl b-12 shots prescribed by a doctor. Let me know if you have more specific questions on any posts I’ve written.

  11. Do we need to see a physician to test for bacteria in the gut, or are there home tests available?

    • You can certainly order an Organic Acid Profile from any lab but the results may be difficult to interpret. Find a doc that can read the results for you. Genova, Metametrix, GreatPlainsLabs all do this test.

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