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Nourishing FoodNurturing a Special Child

For all the years I’ve spent trying to avoid the kitchen

Aug 8, 2010

During the few months after diagnosing Joaquin, I have resisted all the special diets and biomedical approaches collective wisdom recommends for autistic kids. The autism label seems to be attached to all kinds of conditions (low immune system, food allergies and intolerances, poor muscle tone, yeast overgrowth), and some people automatically assume that gastrointestinal problems must be affecting your child — even if he doesn’t show any symptoms — simply because of the fact of being autistic. Collective wisdom declares: If your child is autistic, then his gut is sick like that of all autistic children.

Joaquin does not show any apparent signs of gastrointestinal problems or a low immune system; this kid is super healthy and doesn’t show any of the symptoms usually mentioned to describe autistic bodies. However, the biomedical chatter is so loud in this dimension, I didn’t want to risk missing something important for my child perhaps because of an underlying fear of having to change his diet. So I decided to investigate and learn more about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), a very strict but nutritional diet that was developed to heal severe gastrointestinal conditions, but somehow has made an entrance to the autism scene with anecdotal reports of complete recovery via diet alone.

Now, I’m not looking here for a shortcut. I do not believe that diet alone is suddenly going to pull Joaquin out of autism. But I do believe that eating better food and eliminating refined sugar, processed foods, and artificial ingredients from his system could potentially help him take full advantage of our work with Son-Rise. As I learned more about SCD, its genesis, and how it works, the whole thing made a lot of sense to me, so I decided to give it a try just in case that my baby’s intestinal flora is in fact out of balance, and his body is not being able to assimilate nutrients he currently needs in order to develop.

SCD removes all carbohydrates except for those in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and honey. The idea is that when your intestinal flora is out of balance, bad bacteria feeds from complex carbohydrates your body is not able to process. Bacteria grows and makes it even harder for the body to assimilate the carbs, and a vicious cycle is created. So SCD attempts to kill the bad bacteria by cutting its food supply 100%. The carbs in allowed food are okay because they’re monosacharides easily absorbed by the body, but complex carbs and sugar are all forbidden. This means that you can’t trust package labels since almost everything on a package contains at least a tiny amount of starch or sugar not always included in the label. So this is a diet where you make a lot of stuff at home from scratch.

In the last few days, in addition to cooking every day for Joaquin’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I have baked cookies and breads, made chicken nuggets, fermented yogurt, dripped it to make cheese, blanched and roasted almonds, and I’ve been to Whole Foods and the nearby grocery store more times than I could ever imagine. I have to tell you, though… Nut flour is awesome, and goat milk is heavenly.

SCD walnut breadSCD goat cream cheese

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4 comments:

  1. On Aug 9, 2010, Devra wrote:

    You totally need to look up the Weston A Price Foundation and their cookbook _Nourishing Traditions_. If you haven’t already. Sounds right up the same alley.

  2. On Aug 9, 2010, Maria wrote:

    Will do. Thank you!!!

  3. On Aug 11, 2010, David wrote:

    When we lived in Portland, we had a neighbor whose seven-year-old autistic son didn’t seem to have allergic food issues, but responded well to a diet similar to what you are suggesting. Progress was slow and took several months, but his most severe autistic behaviors resolved themselves where medication didn’t help him before. You are wise to address this issue while he is still young. The developmental stage he is at is critical and autism during this time can prevent him from learning fundamental skills to where he may be years behind his peers the same age when he finally starts school.

    Committing to this type of diet change is huge as a parent. It is so much easier to just buy a loaf of bread than to make your own using nut flour. Hang in there!

  4. On Aug 12, 2010, Maria wrote:

    David!… How nice to hear from you again :)
    Thank you so much!… Yes: The diet is a big effort, and so is the therapy we’re running at home. My life is completely changed from where I was years ago, and where I was going a few months earlier than the diagnosis. I never expected the waters I’m sailing — much less expected to be happy living this kind of life. I’m sure that all of this work will pay off. It’s already showing great things… I have a smart, sweet, motivated, and very passionate little one. He’ll conquer everything!