The diet that started this journey of healing…
Shortly after Chase’s diagnosis, in early 2013, someone recommended to us that we start him on a gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet and that it would help with some of the “symptoms” of Autism: meltdowns, rigidity, repetitive movements, vocalizations, anxiety, etc.
At that point we were willing to try just about anything to help him so we gave it a shot. Five years ago, living in a small town, it was not easy to find many GFCF options to eat. All we had was Kroger and Wal-Mart. The gluten-free health craze hadn’t taken off, like it has today, so we were stuck trying to make things he was already eating (which was limited at the time anyway) into GFCF copies with limited resources to pull from. We were overwhelmed with the diagnosis, overwhelmed with a newborn (Miles), overwhelmed at all the new therapies and overwhelmed trying to find things he would eat, which wasn’t much. So after only a few short weeks, maybe 2 months at most, we gave up and decided the diet wasn’t going to work for him.
Fast forward to May 2014 when God intervened. We were on a family vacation in Watercolor, FL and a mom around my age approached me on the beach and asked if I had a son with Autism. She said her husband had overheard someone on the beach, with two young boys, talking about how their older son had Autism, etc. I didn’t think I had been talking about Chase and his Autism with anyone, but I told her yes, in fact, I do have a son with Autism; and she proceeded to confide in me how their son had just been evaluated for Autism as well. Turns out there was actually another family with 2 boys, who’s older son had Autism as well, but she found me first, and I’m so glad she did!
We sat down to talk for a while and she showed me a book she was reading called “The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook: A Guide to the Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet.” She said they had recently started implementing the diet and were already seeing some great things. It immediately sparked my interest, but I was still skeptical. When we got home from the beach I started to read the book though, and half way through the introduction the lightbulbs started going off. It all started to make sense…
This diet WOULD help Chase, we just needed to stick with it longer, be more diligent, and go for it one hundred percent! That’s the thing when you cut gluten and casein – it has to be one hundred percent out of the diet to see results! It can take casein proteins several weeks to get out of your system, and gluten proteins even longer, sometimes a couple of months. There’s no half way when it comes to a GFCF diet. The slightest bit of either can set you back to square one. This was the most important thing we learned early on.
So we dove in again to a GFCF diet and this time, after a few short months, we started to notice the changes. Chase started to calm down. The repetitive movements decreased. The tantrums, rigidity and aggressiveness almost faded completely. No more explosive yelling and fits from the backseat when I drove a different route to school. No more pacing back and forth in our living room, jumping up and down, climbing on all the furniture in the house. The sensory seeking behaviors decreased significantly. Eye contact returned. Chase started responding to his name. The presence in is his eyes returned. It was like the fog was lifting and he was coming back to us, back to our world.
The next piece to the puzzle that I came across was Dr. Katie Reid’s TEDx talk on the role of glutamate in healing. That girl I met at the beach, Andi, turned out to be one of my very best friends. She introduced me to Dr. Reid, the role of glutamate in healing and has recently started her own blog as well. She has also partnered with Dr. Reid on writing a cookbook full of wonderful and delicious “clean” recipes that will be coming out soon.
The idea of “clean” eating, reducing glutamate exposure, balancing GABA/glutamate, the gut micro-biome, eating organic/non-GMO as much as possible, the role of glyphosate (RoundUp) on our health became an obsession. The more I learned about our food, the more I learned how BAD our food actually is, especially the processed foods. My eyes were opened to the truth of our food and drug industry and the saying “once you learn, you can’t unlearn” is so true. Now that my eyes have been opened I can’t ever go back. Now that I have SEEN how food can make us sick; and the benefits of fresh, organic, healthy food in healing; it will always be our first line of defense and first course of action when it comes to our health!
Not only are gluten and casein important to remove from your diet, but there are other highly inflammatory foods that are just as important to remove as well, corn and soy being the other major sources of inflammation for many. Most people take these out of their diets shortly after gluten and casein, which can be hard if eating processed foods because corn (and rice and other grains) are common gluten-free ingredients in breads, crackers, cereals, etc. But corn and soy can, and usually are, just as inflammatory (also highly processed with chemicals and GMOs) causing them to wreak just as much havoc on a sensitive body as gluten and casein.
In May 2016, just 2 years after starting Chase on his journey to health and healing, and after dealing with a myriad of my own issues and symptoms, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (autoimmune thyroiditis). I was blessed to find an amazing natural-minded practitioner Dani Williamson here in Nashville and she immediately put me on a GFCF diet as well. Again, my eyes were opened to how important diet and quality of food are in the role of promoting healing in all of our bodies, and reducing overall inflammation for a myriad of health problems…not just Autism.
For more on GFCFSF diet click here. While many people argue that there is not enough research and evidence to back diet and Autism, we have seen and experienced enough change to validate it’s effectiveness, but for additional research links, information and resources visit TACA.
To dive even deeper into diet and for more info on Glutamate click here.