autism journey, nutrition

The Beginning of Our Journey with Autism

My son was officially diagnosed at the age of 5 with moderate autism. He met all of his developmental milestones on time. He crawled early, walked on time, played ball, laughed, smiled, had eye contact and said first words, “mama”, “dada”, “ball” at 10 months. At 12 months his language progression halted, but his behaviors were still typical at this point. At 18 months he still wasn’t saying new words and quit saying the few words he had been saying. At this time, he also started showing obsessive compulsive tendencies with lining his cars up. He would get down on the floor and study the wheels and had to make sure they lined up perfectly with the carpet. He was no longer interested in play and only wanted to walk up and down stairs…nonstop. He would go up and down, up and down until we put a stop to it. He would stare at his cars for hours, open and close all the doors in the house numerous times, turn door knobs repeatedly, stare at door hinges and inspect exactly the way they were working. He became obsessed with certain objects like a specific cup and place-mat. They had to be placed in just the right way or he would have a complete melt-down. Specific doors had to be open and others had to be closed, the sunroof in the car had to be just as he wanted it or he would scream the whole way home. He would have severe laughing fits followed by screaming and crying. These behaviors completely ruled our life for a while--the places we could go was very limited due to how he would act. He had no interest in other kids and did not want to play. I spoke with doctors of my concern with him having autism and I was told he just needed more time.

We began speech therapy when he was 2 and for the next few years, speech was very gradual and minimal and it was in an echolalia manner. He had entire books memorized, but could not tell me he was hungry or in pain. I started researching on my own to see what I could find out. I came across several books that spoke about the Gluten Free Casein Free diets. My initial reaction was, “oh he could never do that! That’s all he eats! Macaroni and cheese, pizza, breakfast cereal and grilled cheese.” I mentioned it to my husband and he said the same…no way! That is everything he loves…if we took it all away he wouldn’t eat! After many months of researching, I felt this was exactly the way to go. We found a few highly recommended functional medicine doctors and we began our journey of healing. We learned the reasons the behaviors were happening and what was happening in his body on a biochemistry basis to cause these behaviors and to make him not be able communicate with us. We had our son tested for food allergies, food sensitivities, specific bacteria, yeast, viruses, parasites. He tested intolerances to gluten, dairy, eggs, and citrus. The gluten and casein were reacting like drugs in his body which is why that was the only thing he would eat. His gut was low in good bacteria, and high in bad bacteria and yeast. He tested low in several critical nutrients such as B12, Vitamin E, and Chromium--all very important in neurological function. The bacteria, yeast and food intolerances were preventing him from absorbing important nutrients. It is important to mention that during this time he was also sick a lot with ear infections, stomach issues, and numerous colds and infections. He was even hospitalized at one point for a severe stomach bug and double ear infection which led to significant dehydration.

Once meeting with the doctors and nutritionists, we started addressing the underlying issues and we started seeing all kinds of positive changes. For 3 days, he only ate gluten free waffles and gluten free Rice Chex with almond milk. After 3 days, he tried his first piece of steak ever! Then a few days later he tried broccoli, green beans, and many other new foods began to follow! This was the most immediate change but it was so crucial because we didn’t think it would ever be possible for him to try anything new. If we ever put anything new in front of him, he would scream and cry and throw the food. If we forced him to take a bite, he would gag and vomit. This was so huge!!! Within a few months, he was saying a few more words, his screaming fits were becoming less and less and his OCD was greatly improving. We were seeing big changes with his speech therapy and began occupational therapy. Our son was very behind at this point in language development, and fine and gross motor skills. With the nutritional implications we had set in place, he was so much more able to focus and learn in his therapies. We continued improving his diet over the years. It is a process. We added supplements needed based on blood work for nutritional deficiencies. He is still gluten free, though he does occasionally consume dairy now. We make sure he is very limited on sugar. If he has sugar, his behaviors get out of control and he is not able to concentrate or focus. We have him on a few different supplements and vitamins to assist his methylation pathways and systemic inflammation. He has made incredible progress. It has been a process and he still has improvements to be made but he is continuously progressing. He is in a mainstream classroom and he has friends and is very social---something I did not think we would ever see! He no longer has obsessive compulsive behaviors. He has imaginative play. He is very interested in sports and has excellent gross and fine motor skills. I wasn’t sure at one time if I would ever hear him say “mama” again, or hear him say “I love you”. It was very hard to foresee any type of conversation with him. Now, we have conversations and he asks very intelligible questions. He is curious and wanting to learn now. It’s pretty awesome! There is a checklist online called the ATEC (autism treatment evaluation checklist). It is in no way a diagnostic tool, but it helps mark progress and see improvements based on therapies and treatments you are using. When we first took the ATEC when he was 5 years old, his ATEC was in the 80’s. The higher the number, the more severe the autism. Now he scores at a 6, which is a very mild form of Autism.

The more I researched, the more interested I became in the biochemistry of our bodies and the impact they have to heal themselves in so many ways. I became extremely passionate about nutrition in every way and decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition. So many chronic conditions are on the rise; it is not just Autism. It is the same concept for so many of them! Heal the gut and full body healing will follow. Genetic components with environmental triggers make for a very chaotic cascade of detrimental health problems. These same components are also responsible for allergies, ADHD, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. Research is showing that all of these inflammatory conditions begin with the malfunction of the GI tract. These children are born to mothers who have had many antibiotics, GMO foods, pesticides, and chemicals from our foods, plastics, and air we breathe. These components kill off the good protective bacteria in our digestive tract putting the immune system at critical risk. The good bacteria in our guts is crucial in keeping the GI tract intact. It is being destroyed in the mothers prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy, setting up this downward cascade. Cesarean babies are put even more at risk because they are lacking the good bacteria picked up in vaginal canal through natural childbirth. When they are born, their immunity is already put at extreme risk. They are born with genetic risk factors which lower the immune system and methylation issues which decrease the body’s ability to get rid of certain toxins. Methyltetrahydrafolate-reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation is just one of these major pathways that is so critical, yet very commonly destroyed, resulting in very low levels of methyl folate which causes an inability to process folic acid as it should in the body. This, in turn, causes mitochondrial weakness, Tcell immune weaknesses, food intolerance's and environmental allergies, limited toxin clearance and limited dopamine production. (More on all of that at a later time.)These gene mutations are linked to the aforementioned GMO foods, pesticides, and chemicals in our foods, medications and environments. These children are our future and it is critical that they are healed and protected.

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