After putting Nate on a gluten-free, casein-free diet, we also took out soy pretty quickly, since the soy protein acts similarly in the body to gluten. However,
Going GFCF did not mean Nate’s diet was healthy.
When I decided to go GFCF, the only way I thought I could make that happen would be to replace all of the gluten- and casein-containing foods in Nate’s diet with non-gluten, non-casein duplicates, regardless of nutrition.
Even so, we saw major improvements. He started saying words and communicating. He had fewer meltdowns. His digestion improved a tiny bit. He slept better at night and didn’t wake so early.
Understandably, I was focused on autism and all the talk that removing gluten, casein, and soy made such a difference. So instead of quesadillas with flour tortillas and cheese, I made taquitos with fried corn tortillas, chicken, and lots of ketchup. Instead of Life cereal, I gave him Rice Chex or Kix (dry) as a snack. Instead of crackers, I gave him Fritos (with ketchup, of course).
I wasn’t looking at the big picture of what nutrition and health could mean.
Do you see a trend in the list of foods above? They were still all nutritionally empty refined carbohydrates. This was still all his little body craved. Although we weren’t actively harming his gut with gluten and casein, we were depriving his body of nutrients it needed and were even stripping it of nutrients it had (metabolizing refined/processed carbohydrates actually strips our body of nutrients).
I continued on this path for years. Sometimes it was easy, but mostly it was hard. (Think birthday parties, church nursery snacks, pretty much any social get-together: gluten and casein abound!) But this was extremely important to me–seeing Nate heal and progress–and so I made sure not a molecule of gluten, casein, or soy crossed his lips. If an accident did happen and he got some of those foods, we could tell! A few goldfish crackers would manifest themselves in days–days–of meltdowns, whining, and tantrums–outward physical symptoms of the turmoil caused inside his body.
Then I was introduced to a local naturopath in early 2011. We all eventually would have appointments with him, but I took Nate first. After a few appointments with Nate (during which we worked on issues with parasites and probiotics/gut), he mentioned the GAPS diet.
The GAPS diet works in stages, with the introduction/first stage being quite restrictive; you add in more and more foods with each stage until you reach the “full GAPS” diet, which you maintain for a while (think 2 years). Eventually, you introduce dairy (also in stages), but the GAPS diet does remain gluten- and soy free. The staples of the diet are organic/unprocessed meats and broth, lots of fats, soup, cooked vegetables, eggs, naturally probiotic foods (like sauerkraut), and NO grains, starches, or sugar. After the couple of years on full GAPS, the gut should be healed and you can start coming off of the diet and eating other foods (while still eating healthy and making good choices). Basically, it is not a life sentence and has as its primary goal healing of the gut/digestive system and repopulating with beneficial bacteria so that all foods can again be tolerated.
I read Dr. McBride’s book (here it is) and was excited to get started in January 2012! Come back tomorrow to see how it went!
This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.