I am not one of those parents who believe autism is one thing, and that it can’t be changed. Static Autism implies that there is no room for improvement and an increased quality of life. Autism comes with a host of challenges, so it is incredibly difficult to narrow down where all of these tics, rashes, challenging behaviors, allergies, mitochondrial dysfunctions, etc. are all coming from!
We, at Health and Honesty, have always tackled diet as a primary means of intervention. We have followed the GAPS before, for several months, followed by a clean, paleo diet and found significant improvements in behavior. We thought with our strictly organic, no sugar foods, his gut issues would be history and there would be no regression. Boy were we wrong! After taking an Organic Acids Test, we discovered an extremely high count of Yeast and Clostridia; the bad kind. So here we are, doing the GAPS again, step by step in order to help him recover. In the process, we are all getting healthier, because you shouldn’t do GAPS for just one person in the household. Food cravings can cause a person to do some crazy things, especially children who have limited experience in will power. This is why it is important for all members to be involved so that you design your environment, instead of relying on fickle will power.
We wanted to share our journey with you, step by step, so you can see the progress yourselves. Being on GAPS is extremely strict and labor intensive. If you decide to give it a try, I recommend everyone having time off of work and school. It will crush you the first several days. Little by little, however, you begin to feel clearer, more energetic, and definitely lighter (unless you have malabsorption issues and then you may gain weight as your body becomes more capable of absorbing nutrients)! I think my husband and I both lost a pound a day for the first week.
“Hangry” just doesn’t express how everyone has felt these first five days. We all had zero patience, and the kids whined and complained about their soup non-stop. I don’t suggest this diet for parents with genuine emotional disorders, as the kids may send you over the deep end; way over the deep end.
Most of us have had constipation at this point, with so little fiber in the diet. The two youngest kids have thrown up a couple of times, mainly the remnants of liquid fat from a soup that their gallbladder wasn’t used to dealing with, so it eliminated the excess. The gallbladder is able to produce enough bile to take care of the amount of fat you normally eat. So by significantly increasing the fat intake, the gallbladder will need time to catch up in bile production.
It only took a few days for the nausea to subside for the little ones. However, my eldest son, who battles chronic constipation couldn’t stomach the soup for several days. It triggered a gag reflex and sent the liquid flying. This is in part due to a rebellion against soup as a main course. He is just as much a foodie as I am. This too resolved within a few days.
After this “soup rebellion” seemed like it would never end, I created a few recipes that they “gasp” actually enjoyed! You can find them here, along with my basic meat stock recipe. As for my son with autism, we have not seen progress in problem behaviors. The detoxification process tends to make things worse before they get better. So we are reinforcing rest and giving him as much soups and broths as he desires. He had one significant melt-down and lashes out at about the same rate as before when he is frustrated. However, his attention has been increasing and he is more mellow than before we began.
We ate straight meat stock for 6 days before we added egg yolk, and boy were we excited! It’s so difficult not to overdo it and add eggs to everything, like with every new ingredient we incorporated over the next week. It’s always one ingredient at a time with careful watching for reactions. Thankfully no one was sensitive! When the time for pancakes rolled around (recipe here) manners were thrown to the wind and I was pestered non-stop until the little monsters had their plates squarely in front of them. I think there were divots in the table from the unified fork drumming, like hungry dwarves from The Hobbit.
I used to balk at the fact my kids never ate their eggs, scraping the leftovers off into a bowl for the chickens. Now they have become one of their favorite staples. Breakfast plates are always licked clean. Stock has also stopped being distasteful and they eagerly finish their cups in anticipation of a meal. And where there once was constant whining over the meal in front of them, there was blissful silence as they finished everything put in front of them.
All of our bowel movements were slowly becoming more regular, with my 3 year old being the last to beat constipation. To help speed this along, my husband, oldest son and I all had a weak coffee enema on day 7 which helped my son’s colon shrink back down from years of chronic constipation. It’s not a one time fix, but I definitely saw progress. As a parent going through this diet with your family, it is important to check every bowel movement your kids make because it reveals where they are in the healing process. Where diarrhea indicates inflammation along the tract, constipation can be just as bad. However, I began to notice fuzzy white debris around three of my children’s bowel movements for several days. This could be the yeast Candida sloughing off in the digestive tract! Incorporating homemade fermented vegetables really helped balance everyone’s gut flora.
My husband’s leg rash, which had flared up the first several days, has now disappeared. As for myself, before we began, I was dealing with both physical and mental fatigue. I started questioning if I had something really wrong, as my muscles would be sore with little exercise. Yet the most frustrating thing I was battling was brain fog. Walking into the pantry only to forget what it was I was looking for, opening the wrong cabinet for a glass, and forgetting appointments or tasks I needed to get done. My motivation was low and all I wanted to do was sleep in, still feeling groggy for hours after I did so. So how surprised and pleased do you think I was when I realized out of the blue, I’ve been feeling really good! This diet is a brain fog buster, plain and simple. I need significantly less sleep at night and my mental game is nearly twice as good. I’ve even come quite close to beating my husband at Boggle.
So far, the benefits have outweighed the struggles in the kitchen, in a big way.
Breakfast: A cup of broth with a plate of turkey bacon (unsweetened) or homemade sausage patties, soft boiled or scrambled eggs with ghee, a side of sauerkraut and avocado.
Lunch: A bowl of soup or stock with meatballs (full of veggies) or chicken patties.
Dinner: A cup of broth paired with spaghetti squash with a meat and tomato sauce, or no-mato sauce. Other options would be going with a straight stew, like beef stew, or poached chicken with vegetable “casserole”.
Dear Lord…please help me stop eating nut butters and flours! We have fallen into the trap of eating too much almond flour, to the detriment of our bowel health. It’s been the consistent source of our diarrhea, causing us to backtrack on our healing endeavors. So we have cut it back out of our diet, completely resolving our irritated bowels. Remember, diarrhea is not normal! I accepted it as a part of life before educating myself on health. It seems obvious, but many Americans go about life thinking it is a harmless symptom when it is a major indicator of inflammation and disease.
Our weight has remained about the same and the kids are putting back the couple of pounds they went down at the beginning of the diet. More excitingly, Calum has completely stopped lashing out at his siblings with his arms and legs. Light pushing and tapping was always a problem behavior when he was frustrated, which is often when you have three younger siblings. I’ve realized that we haven’t had that issue in nearly a week!
Breakfast: Stock with a plate of baked apples or applesauce, eggs whichever way you like it, sauerkraut, kimchi, or fermented salsa and turkey bacon or homemade sausage patties. I did try a cauliflower hash brown recipe during this time which wasn’t half bad!
Lunch: Stock or soup, leftovers, or our favorite Cilantro Chicken Salad. Apple Slices and nut butter is a great snack as well.
Dinner: Stock with Lettuce wrapped, grass fed burgers with sauteed onion, avocado and homemade ketchup. (aka, a slice of heaven). Roast Chicken with sauteed vegetables are also delicious.
I think I will forever remember when we ate our first grass fed, lettuce wrapped burger. My husband and I turned towards each other mid-chew and silently communicated our utter delight. I didn’t miss the bun in the slightest. I have to note that it was about this time when I came across research that stated 70 percent of salt on the market, even the healthy ones, are polluted with microplastics. I did research on the cleanest brands and Redmond Real Salt comes up as one of the very best. Do your research to ensure that whatever food product you are buying is untainted and healthy. Otherwise you lose out on the work you’ve been doing to heal and detoxify your system.
Calum has really seen some wonderful days on GAPS. Problem behaviors are at a minimum and that makes a huge difference in our day to day activities. You can tell in this picture how happy he is feeling! Everyone else has been feeling just as great and I am so happy to have energy during the day. I’ve been able to get so much more accomplished, with a better attitude. As a mom of young children, that is Solid Gold!
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheddar in butter or ghee, with sauteed squash and onion. Homemade sausage patties or turkey bacon. A cup of stock. Fermented salsa on the side, or sauerkraut.
Lunch: Apples and peanut butter, sliced chicken or turkey with avocado and carrots, tuna salad, or egg salad.
Dinner: Smashed cauliflower with roast chicken, stir fry with coconut aminos and ginger, or stuffed zucchini and don’t forget the cup of stock.
Dessert: Date sweetened almond flour cookies, fat bombs, or creamed coconut fudge.
We have learned a huge lesson at this point that has led us down a better treatment path. Diet intervention can be wonderful, but without knowing exactly what is going on in the gut, healing can be a rollercoaster. Calum has regressed from the increase in natural sugars in the diet coupled with nut flours. Problem behaviors, lethargy and meltdowns have made a comeback. When we see a regression, it can point back to the root cause. If he’s reacting to an increase in sugars and/or nut flours, it is logical to assume that 40 days is not long enough to combat the Clostridium and Yeast that have set up colonies in his gut. These symptoms can be indicators of gut dysbiosis and bacterial/candida overgrowth. Is everything we’ve done for nothing? Absolutely not! We have all had improvements in health. More importantly, I have a greater understanding of how to tune in Calum’s diet to help him heal long term. 40 Days of GAPS has given me important information as to what triggers my son’s behaviors and simple ways to manage it.