Things to know about me:
- I hate cooking.
- I am awful at cooking.
- I am so awful at cooking, it took me a year in high school to learn to make mac n’ cheese. A small magazine even published my essay about my noodle battle.
- Despite Nos. 1-3, today is the first day of an experiment to improve our family’s diet because–
- I love my son.
My son, Logan, has autism, and while he is high-functioning, I feel compelled to try everything we can for him, even if it brings about only modest improvements. Logan attends special education preschool, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, but the amount of talk out there about the mind-gut link has me convinced it’s at least worth trying. I have no idea if we’ll be able to stick to a strict diet or if we’ll see any change in Logan’s ASD traits. But as any parent knows, we do what we can for our kids–and if nothing else, a better diet will be healthy for not only Logan but our whole family (which also includes me, my husband, our 1-year-old daughter, and our 11-year-old dog). Our plan is to stick to a diet for at least a year and chronicle any improvements or regressions here.
Well, that and actually learn how to boil water, of course.
Things to know about our diets:
First, why so many?
Well, it’s not that the first diet didn’t work. In fact, we know that it did because when we came off it for a month, we saw a huge drop in Logan’s social behavior. And if the first diet helped, it seems to me, going further and further with dietary healing just might be the answer.
We began by eliminating all casein from Logan’s diet, which means all milk and milk products. This was hard; after all, Logan takes after me and drank about five glasses of whole milk a day*. But it poses even tougher challenges: Milk is an ingredient in practically all packaged foods. Going CF meant no more macaroni and cheese, no more Hamburger Helper, no more Goldfish crackers. It even meant no more taco seasoning, which contains whey (which means milk). This was hard because A) I hate to cook, B), both my husband and I work full-time and relied on convenience, and C) I hate to cook. But we somehow made it work.
The next step was adding gluten-free on top of casein-free; these two seem to usually be done together anyway. This wasn’t quite as hard, as most of the products we had switched to to be CF were already GF, too. It mainly meant no more chicken nuggets (or no more normal brand chicken nuggets or any fast-food chicken nuggets, at least) and a different brand of bread and bagels.
The Body Ecology, or BED, diet, is complicated and frustrating as f***. (Apologies; food tends to make me swear.) At its most basic level–or at least my interpretation of it–this diet A) eliminates all sugars, including those from fruit, and B) introduces probiotics. The theory behind this diet is that autism is linked to an excess of yeast in the gut. Yeast feeds on sugar, and to kill it, you need to starve it. Once the yeast has died off, the good bacteria that lives in harmony in everyone’s digestive tracts (or, I should say, everyone who is healthy and/or “typically developing”) needs to be built back up. Probiotics do just that. My husband and I look back on our first days trying CF and how hard it was, and we scoff at our former selves. Casein-free was nothing, we know now, compared to sugar-free. Sure, it seems simple enough–no candy bars and soda, which we shouldn’t be letting our kids eat anyway. But remember it’s not a junk-food-free diet; it’s a sugar free diet. Meaning no fruit. No tomatoes. No rice. No beans. No potatoes, except for red-skinned ones. No a lot of stuff.
GAPS stands for Gut And Psychology Syndrome. It’s very similar to the BED, with two main differences: absolutely no grains are allowed (BED allowed quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth), and there’s a strict pattern to follow. It begins with Stage 1, where basically only broth and soups are allowed. Stage 2 allows a tiny bit more variety; Stage 3 even more, and so on, through Stage 6, when fruit can be added. These intro steps are referred to as GAPS Intro, and they’re designed to “seal and heal” the gut. Many people claim to have alleviated or even healed food allergies, Celiac’s disease, autism and more by following this protocol. After the Intro Stage, there is Full GAPS, which is pretty much zero carbs and sugar, or as low as you can go.
It’s been quite journey–one I hope will be coming to an end soon! Not meaning we will go back to the standard American diet of pizza and soda pop, but the incredibly strict rules of GAPS do become wearing … My goal is to either return to the Body Ecology Diet or go Paleo (which is whole different set of rules!) sometime as winter ends. Follow along to see how we do — and let me know you you do it, too!
*That might be an exaggeration. My husband likes to remind me I do this from time to time.