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To change the diet, or not to change the diet? THAT is the question.

When J was four years old, I started reading about how diet can really affect kids on the spectrum. I asked my pediatrician at the time (the one I think I mentioned we no longer use) and she said that there was categorical evidence that diet has absolutely nothing to do with autism and that there was research proving that fact.

A few months after that appointment, I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try a restricted diet. J had been mostly dairy free already. He always had a difficult time digesting it. (This should have been my first clue!)

We went to a strictly gluten and dairy free diet. All of our experts kind of poo-pooed the idea. They all said to try it but don’t expect a miracle.

I was willing to try it for six weeks but after three something amazing happened! We were at Jackson’s speech and occupational therapist office. The two therapists were doing a recap of J’s sessions that day when out of nowhere, J said, “Excuse me Miss L, Miss R, thank you so much. I love you Miss L. I love you Miss R.” with FULL EYE CONTACT!!!

At that moment both therapists grabbed my arm and said, “Don’t change the diet! Whatever you do!”

Months later a friend told me about a study going on at UMDNJ (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey). It was a study being conducted on Autism Spectrum Disorders and food intolerances. We signed up.

After a very traumatic blood draw, we waited a few months for the results.

What we found out was awesome. First off, J hadn’t had any dairy for months before his blood draw, yet there was still dairy protein in his system. Gluten didn’t seem to be as big a problem but he had a lot of candida yeast in his system. Candida feeds on sugar and, when you think about it, foods with gluten are carbohydrates and would break down into sugar. Also he had a lot of soy in his system. We had substituted soy products for dairy all that time and now had to get rid of that too. Apparently, it is very common for people with dairy intolerances to develop a soy intolerance at some point. The doctor told me that although gluten didn’t seem to be a problem, if I noticed him having a problem with it, to omit it from his diet, which we have.

The study at UMDNJ did two things: it saved us tens of thousands of dollars on lab tests, which we NEVER would have been able to afford; and it changed J’s life.

We do allow him to have dairy and gluten on occasion. We feel that it is worth him feeling more socially accepted, than to adhere to a strict diet.

The doctor who did the testing suggested we start J on probiotics to help clear his gut so that when he did have those foods, his body had a better chance of digesting them. We started him on a children’s probiotic.

Another mom of a a special needs child recommended a Homeopathic pediatrician who she had taken her son to.

When we saw that doctor, she told us to put J on an adult dose of probiotics and omega-3s because the children’s versions are low dose and tend to be full of sugar so that they taste good.

We have done that and definitely see a difference. Has it cured J’s autism symptoms? Absolutely not! But, we can see a huge differentiation in his behavior when he has these foods (dairy, gluten, sugar) and from when he hasn’t had them. Generally, even with the strong doses of probiotics, it takes about 3 – 5 days for his behavior to return to normal after he has these foods.

My recommendation to parents of kids on the spectrum or ADD or ADHD is to try changing the diet. Just TRY! There are a ton of gluten and dairy free products out there. The change may be another difficult transition for your little one, but, if it helps, it is so worth it!! Also, try to find a homeopathic pediatrician or nutritionist who can give you a supplement plan for your child.

Here are some links that may be helpful:

Bio-K  is the probiotic we have had the most success with.

The Omega-3 that we use is Nordic naturals

Whole Foods (yes, it is expensive, but they have an in-store expert who will walk through the store with you and tell you what products are DF/GF)

Simply Organic makes really great GF/DF cake mixes. J’s favorite is the banana bread which I make into banana muffins with vegan chocolate chips

Bob’s Red Mill has a huge variety of GF flours

Babycakes bakery in NYC and LA has a great cookbook.

If you have another recommendation for a food or supplement that you have found helpful, please feel free to share.

Bon Appetit!!

Categories: Diet & Nutrition


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