Surprisingly, two of my earlier BLOGs about autism and my 3-year old son Matt have garnered a lot of interest and certainly a lot of traffic. In one of them I listed ways in which the wife and I have tried to help our son, which includes a better diet, and have since received a few questions and requests to expand on that.
A (very) brief history of diet and autism.
Although there is only minimal evidence to support that certain diets can positively (or negatively) affect autistic children, there seems to be a growing wave of support that gastrointestinal problems may, at least to some degree, underlie some symptoms of autism. It’s believed to be all the toxins, chemicals, growth hormones, pesticides and steroids (that’s right, steroids) in our food that seem to affect children with autism more so than children without.
In Matt’s preschool class, there is one child who almost exclusively eats graham crackers and another – and admittedly I need to learn more about this child – who eats virtually nothing at all. And there have been many more examples of how certain foods seem to dramatically alter the behavior of a child with autism. So while the proof may not be scientifically publishable or overwhelmingly pervasive, parents across the country are finding that even the smallest change in their child’s diet can result in improved awareness, communication and social behavior.
So what changes have we tried with Matt?
We spent considerable time on a gluten and casein-free diet. Although this takes a bit of getting used to, personally it helped me lose about 14 pounds in a few months and made both the wife and I feel great. Unfortunately, this diet had little effect on young Matt – at least not the dramatic results other parents have testified to. Still, this diet helped lay the ground work to the healthy way of living we still adhere to today (well, mostly).
The base of our diet today can be summed up in a single word: organic.
- Organic milk – free of growth hormones and antibiotics
- Organic eggs (free range/cage free organic)
- Organic fruits and vegetables
Unless you go organic or use a product such as Veggie Wash, be leery on eating potatoes, apples, peppers, carrots, celery, grapes, lettuce, radishes, pears, peaches, and cherries. (And the list goes on, but you get my point.)
Where to shop?
My wife tells me that, hands down, the best places to find healthier and organic choices are Costco and Trader Joes. And if you’re wondering, Sam’s Club is not a very good alternative to Costco in terms of healthy options.
Additionally, if you can, find a local co-op/farmer’s market. Locally grown, often means fresher food with much less (if any) preservatives, pesticides, wax, etc. Last summer, I believe, we paid $275 up front and once a week for about 12 weeks the wife came home with the freshest strawberries, peaches, carrots, onions, peppers, etc. It was far better, and ultimately less expensive, than going to the store. Needless to say, we’re doing it again this summer.
As a family, we’re healthier (although the wife and I cheat far too much now and desperately need to get back on the program). As for Matt, we’re absolutely convinced that a healthier diet has played a huge role in his improvements. There is no cure for autism, but there are convincing signs that diet plays a major role in the growth and development of children diagnosed with it.
Combined with regular visits to his Health from Within chiropractor, speech and occupational therapy, and a diet that reduces the toxins and chemicals in his body, Matt continues to take the journey to the time when he’ll shed the autism label and live a long, healthy and happy life.