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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 12 2012

Autism: A Brain or Whole-Body Disorder?

By Mark Sisson
204 Comments

You could say this post is a long time coming. In the last few years, I’ve lost count of the huge number of emails I get from parents with kids who have special needs either asking for advice or explaining how The Primal Blueprint has made a significant difference for their children. These are parents who love their kids for all their abilities and differences and who want to explore every reasonable lifestyle intervention they can to make their kids’ lives everything they can and should be.

I’ll state the obvious here. I’m not a disability expert, but I’ve been moved and motivated by these parents’ emails. From a general health perspective, I’ve wondered how our modern lives could be contributing to the epidemic. Likewise, I’m curious how research can illuminate potential benefits of lifestyle interventions. What is the biological picture behind the dysfunction in these conditions, and how can biology be harnessed to restore functioning? A recent approach focused on the whole brain and whole body is asking those exact questions – and finding answers.

Like most people, I have friends and acquaintances who are raising children with developmental or behavioral disabilities. Some of us here are raising children with these conditions. Some of us have nieces or nephews, family friends, or neighbors with these disabilities. Others in the PB community have these disabilities themselves. Regardless of our personal connection, we’ve all heard about the skyrocketing rates of developmental and behavioral disabilities like autism and ADHD. Recent studies show one in six kids in the U.S. has been diagnosed with a developmental disability – mostly resulting from the spike in autism and ADHD. There’s general agreement now it’s not solely a matter of improved diagnosis, and few anymore argue that it’s purely a genetic phenomenon. Simple math negates the possibility that a “genetic” condition would spike in the span of less than half a generation. Since 1995, autism alone has gone from a rate of 1/3300 children to 1/88 children. Prevailing opinion now connects the rising prevalence of these conditions with a confluence of some kind of genetic vulnerability with pivotal environmental factors that somehow set off this genetic potential.

Enter the growing focus on not just “whole brain” but even “whole body” research and intervention for these kinds of disabilities. Our bodies are incredibly complex systems operating with an intricacy conventional medicine is just beginning to grasp. Experts are increasingly applying these principle to the study of autism, ADHD, and other developmental and behavioral disabilities. They’re looking at elements as diverse as gut profiles, neurological connectivity, and gene expression. A picture is emerging as researchers study the surge of these conditions. The “genetic” root is relatively seldom the traditional, identifiable pattern in family lines. Rather, it appears many of these children have inherited a genetic risk factor characterized by a heightened sensitivity to “assaults” on the system from toxins, infections, and other environmental influences. As Nancy Minshew, a University of Pittsburgh professor of psychiatry and neurology explains, “Genes do not code for diagnoses. They code for proteins, which then go about creating an effect.” In other words, a cycle is set in motion. Is it possible to stop the cascade that unfolds and even reverse it – at least in part?

A New Focus for Autism Research

Dr. Martha Herbert, a Harvard pediatric neurologist who has studied autism for seventeen years, believes it can be done. She began research into autism with the same genetics-focused approach common to the field. In her words, she quickly found the picture to be much more complex. In her recently published book The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be, Dr. Herbert explains how addressing basic coexisting medical issues and optimizing overall health can positively and sometimes dramatically impact the symptoms associated with autism. I’d definitely recommend Dr. Herbert’s book to anyone interested in learning more about a biological treatment approach to autism.

Initially interested in comparing MRIs of her patients, Dr. Herbert began to see an interaction of neurological functioning with other physical issues like poor digestion, low muscle tone, fatigue, frequent infections, nutritional deficiencies, and food allergies. She found that “treating health” ended up treating autism. Herbert describes the series of “vicious cycles” that often plague those with autism as one of “genetic glitches, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and weakened repair systems.” Biologically based treatment, she asserts, can support basic cellular health, aid neurological balance and connectivity, and promote healthier gene expression. It’s a systems biology approach that appreciates the interactions – both big and subtle.

In the meantime, experts were finding – and confirming – that seemingly unrelated factors like fevers or the use of certain steroids or blood pressure medications could almost instantaneously dial back autistic symptoms. These instances – as well as the basic progress of many individuals on the spectrum – suggested autism was perhaps more of a flexible “state” than a fixed “trait.” If this was possible, what could be done safely and systemically to take advantage of this potential fluidity?

Dr. Herbert outlines a whole host of lifestyle based suggestions surrounding diet, toxin free living, supplementation, sleep, sensory exposure, stress, and other daily factors. There’s too much to explain here, but let me summarize a few of her central points and put it in context for those who live Primally.

Nutrition Is Key

However it shakes out in the chicken versus the egg picture, individuals on the autism spectrum are prime targets for nutritional deficiencies, yet they’re more in need of nutrients than their typically functioning counterparts. As Dr. Herbert and others have found, individuals on the spectrum show signs of oxidative stress and impaired cellular dysfunction. Dr. Herbert explains, for example, that mitochondria dysfunction is much more common in those with autism than it is in the population as a whole. Research suggests a third of those with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction. As I’ve noted before and as Herbert explains, mitochondria are the energy centers or “furnaces” for cells. If your mitochondria are choking through their day, so are you. Fueling these furnaces means feeding them well. B-vitamins are critical as are minerals like magnesium and zinc. Not surprisingly, these are common deficiencies in many people on the autism spectrum.

Likewise, research shows basic toxin and cellular waste removal may not be as efficient in individuals with autism. Antioxidants are essential here, particularly the heavy hitters like vitamins C and E as well that powerhouse glutathione. Nutritional deficiencies mean the building blocks for glutathione (which the body produces itself) are in short supply. When glutathione levels are inadequate, a whole host of vital processes feel the impact. For one, the body can’t effectively dispose of cellular waste, a condition that then further feeds oxidative stress. Among other impaired activities is methylation, which is involved in producing neurotransmitters, managing gene expression, and creating functional cell membranes.

Dr. Herbert advises getting a full nutritional panel, eating a nutrient rich and clean (e.g. organic, grass-fed, “caveman” – yes, she really says this) diet, supplementing with oversight from a qualified physician with experience in autism disorders, and using Epsom salt baths to help the body detoxify in a safe and convenient way. Her dietary and supplementation recommendations are too complex to fully describe here, but some key nutrients she notes include B-vitamins, zinc, vitamin D, selenium, EPA, and DHA. The irony is, of course, that these children’s diets are often more likely to be deficient because of sometimes extreme sensory aversions to the taste, smell, texture, or even appearance of certain foods. In yet another example of vicious cycle, nutritional deficiencies (e.g. zinc) can contribute to these sensory aversions. She suggests correcting deficiencies and taking advantage of feeding clinics and sensory therapies to expand food tolerance.

Neurologically speaking, the connections between parts of the brain in people with autism, she found, are weaker than they are in typically functioning individuals. Other research suggests people with autism show hyperlocal connections, a concentration of connections within the brain – generally in the frontal cortex, and weaker “distant” connections throughout the whole brain. It began to make sense, Dr. Herbert suggests, that people with autism often exhibit lower functioning in complex, neurologically integrated tasks like language and socialization as well as a heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli.

Options like music and certain play therapies cultivate connectivity because they use multiple sites in the brain simultaneously, but Dr. Herbert also stresses the importance of nutrition for neural health. She homes in on the role of astrocytes (glial cells), which act as the “interface between body, brain, and environment.” If they’re unable to perform their duties, here comes the cascade of neurochemical imbalance (including a dearth of relaxation-promoting GABA), oxidative stress, drained mitochondrial health, and cellular dysfunction. Again, it’s another downward spiral. Feeding the glial cells means incorporating copious essential fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, as well as B vitamins, and magnesium. In the cases of those with autism, upper limits on nutrients like B6 may not apply the same way. Nonetheless, Dr. Herbert suggests working with a doctor who can find a therapeutic dose that doesn’t impose unwanted and risky side effects.

Immune Function (Especially Gut Health) Is Key

Remember those glial cells? Most of your glial cells are found in the digestive system rather than the brain. As Dr. Herbert explains, research is just beginning to understand the implications of this for autism disorders. Overall, she explains that gut bacteria has a huge impact on the brain. Abnormal gut bacteria can deplete nutrients and produce unhealthy chemicals Herbert calls “toxic trash.” Research has found, for example that the more p-cresol (a chemical produced by abnormal gut bugs) that was present in subjects’ urine, the more severe their autistic symptoms were.

Dr. Herbert stresses that we don’t know when the abnormal gut profile takes root, but everyone’s gut immune system is established early on. She suggests incorporating fermented and cultured foods, using a probiotic supplement, avoiding over-sanitation, eliminating artificial additives, and limiting carb intake. While some experts poo-poo diet elimination techniques, Dr. Herbert says she’s seen more than enough evidence in research and in her patients to suggest that these elimination diets (e.g. gluten, casein) can make a critical difference. The key is to give it time – some three to six months – to judge real change and to work with a physician who can differentiate between “die off” (e.g. yeast) transitions and other health responses when looking at any coinciding setbacks.

Some Final Primal Words

Our lives – and our children’s lives – are so vastly different today than they were just a couple of generations ago. These differences are embedding themselves faster than we sometimes appreciate. I wonder if it’s just simple coincidence that many new treatments for autism spectrum, ADHD, and other developmental and behavioral disabilities are homing in on maximizing what I’d call the basics of healthy development itself – enhanced nutrient density, increased time outdoors, more exercise and movement, rich play opportunities. To be sure, many of these are often adapted for particular therapeutic purposes like specialized social play therapies, music therapy, or Anat Baniel’s movement methods. Nonetheless, these approaches prioritize the building blocks of physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development.

It’s true there are plenty of children with autism or ADHD who grew up eating real, organic, even Primal food, who played outside nonstop, and lived with fewer household toxins. Likewise, there are millions of kids walking around without a disability who have been fed a steady diet of fast food, candy, and junk food. As Herbert and others suggest, it’s a complicated, confounding picture we’re dealing with. It can seem random and unjust.

I can’t say I know this from personal experience with special needs in particular, but I’ve seen friends wade their way through the tangle of emotion and services as well as the confusion of expert opinions. (It’s a pattern that also obviously holds in other “expert” based arenas as well like health care.) Just because the bulk of research goes down a certain path doesn’t mean you have to. Often the best, most sensical and personally effective means for bettering one’s health and life are to be found in the margins, the up and coming or as-yet little understood approaches.

Make no mistake. I’m all for the importance of good research. I look for confirmation. I know, however, that effective options don’t always get studied or published with the same frequency as conventional choices. As the folks at Brain Parenting put it, “the ‘good science’ metric is often wielded like a stick against parents or teachers who try new and novel techniques to help kids with unusual brains. Parenting doesn’t just rely on ‘good science.’ It also relies on observation, and derives great power from the narrative.”

The research on whole brain, whole body intervention doesn’t negate the importance of traditional interventions like speech and occupational therapy, social therapies, etc. It doesn’t nullify the call for medications that can actually make a positive difference in the lives of those with autism, ADHD, or other similar conditions. It doesn’t undercut the significance of parental love and acceptance. And, inevitably, it doesn’t offer a simple or universal resolution to the difficulties imposed by autism or other developmental and behavioral disabilities. As Dr. Herbert explains, it’s not about promising a cure but revolutionizing the way we think about and address these developmental and behavioral conditions. The whole brain, whole body approach seeks to harness the basics of biology – cultivating the power of cells, the fitness of whole systems, and the potential of brain plasticity – to foster the healthiest and richest life possible for every individual whether he/she is disabled or not.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. I hope you’ll offer your own thoughts and perspectives. I’ll look forward to reading your feedback.

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204 thoughts on “Autism: A Brain or Whole-Body Disorder?”

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  1. It’s so crazy to me that the medical community just won’t even entertain the idea that nutrition is the basis for health (and disease).

    Also, this idea of specializing into “endocrinology” or “nephrology” or “neurology” as if you can separate one from all the other parts of the body is ludicrous.

    1. Especially when doctors take the Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates had the correct idea:

      Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness.

        1. I suggested the Hypocritic Oath once in my speech class in college, because they all seem like hypocrites to me!

          On another note: I’ve been seeing the same things being tried for Alzheimer’s–modern medicine seems to have slammed up against a brick wall with this one, yet nutritional approaches seem to have the best effect of slowing or reversing it yet.

      1. I completely agree that “our medicine should be our food.” However, I do agree with Mark’s parting words stating that we should not discount some current treatments which are successful in certain cases of autism. Also, “the significance of parental love and acceptance” when discussing Autism is arguably the most important thing to look at. Without familial support for the disabled individual, ANY sort of treatment will undoubtably be proven futile.

        1. Parental EDUCATION, love, and support! Yes, we need to support our children through confusion and dysregulation, at the same time we consider biochemical supports! But … I DO think there is a place for biochemical support. I do not care for the approaches of several orgs that push supplement use(any morethan big pharma), their suggested therapies verge on superstition at times, but when there is a plausible explanation for a problem, it is worth trying (See my comment below).

        2. For certain cases of autism, like ADHD, I recommend the South Park “Sit Down and Study!” method. Lets not forget our pets, they may have ADHD and may not listen. I recommend “Dissing You Dog”.

        3. As the parent of a daughter on the Autism Spectrum, I am in whole-hearted agreement with the opinion of Mark & you. We tried gluten/casein-free when she was first diagnosed 4 years ago. We did not notice a difference in her at the time and finally decided to d/c the diet, feeling her greatest improvements were due to increased attention and acceptance from me and the rest of the family (hard to admit–). From the time forward, we slowly changed our diets to a more clean, organic one and have noticed vast improvement in her behavior. I think this is due to the more organic diet and that her hormones began to regulate as she went through puberty. Our whole family is slowly becoming Primal and I imagine we will continue to see more improvement with the health of all of us. Fortunately, her refusal to eat certain foods is improving as she gets older. Yet, kefir is something she still refuses to drink (there are several parents who swear by young coconut kefir helping their children) so I use Animal Parade’s Tummy Zyme (she will eat those) in the meantime and I continue to prod her and try to find ways to hide the coconut kefir. Whew! This post went on much longer than I expected. This is obviously something that I’ve done a lot of looking into… 🙂

    2. Totally agree. When will they start to acknowledge this? and how can we attempt to push them in the right direction? Can it be done?

      1. This is really the main reason I decided NOT to become an MD. They get almost no nutrition training, and what they do get is generally a 2-3 addon to a medical biochem course.

        If I break my leg or need surgery, I’ll go see a doctor. For just about ANYTHING else, I’m going to someone else.

        1. Agreed.

          I have found much greater resonance with Chinese medicine which looks at the whole organism and that includes energy, emotion and nutrition.

          It shouldn’t be rocket science should it!

    3. I don’t think it’s a true statement that the medical community “won’t even entertain the idea that nutrition is the basis for health (and disease).”

      1. There are individual doctors that will, the amorphous “medical community” will not. They can’t, their owners won’t let them 🙂

    4. Let me just say you probably don’t realize how complex the diseases/diagnoses are for the different type of specialists you described. I mean, I agree in general that a total-body approach should be taken. But unless people are going to live for 500 years and have the mental capacity of like 400% of the normal human, they’re not going to be able to have as detailed knowledge of the different organs/systems as they have now. It would be nice, but it’s unrealistic.

      For GPs, your approach is perfect, but for specialists…yeah, it’s not really possible.

    5. I have the oportunity to work off and on with a renouned neurologist (I am a medical interpreter/Spanish) and was so happy to hear how this community of MD’s is promoting the carb free/ low carb diet in a controled hospital setting. Especially with children that have epilepsy or convulsions.
      It must be very difficult to trust the parents once they get home and the child starts asking for cereals, cookies etc.! But needless to say, this is a non medication breakthrough! It seems to have an incredible reversal of symptoms and they last a lifetime from what I understand!
      Lets speak up!

  2. The genetic component seems to be from several factors. One that seems required is an MTHFR mutation. 98% of autistic children have this mutation while ~30% of the general population has it. So it is not enough to cause autism. But there is some good reason to believe it is one prerequisite.

    http://www.jpands.org/vol9no4/boris.pdf

    The vaccine link was nonsense to me until I learned about MTHFR and its effect on methylation and toxin management. Now I am not so sure it is total bunk.

  3. I am extremely dubious that there has been an actual explosion of these conditions, as opposed to an explosion of diagnoses.

    Particularly in the case of autism spectrum disorders, we’ve broadened categorisation [and created categories for less severe manifestations] so more people qualify, and our general awareness has vastly increased, meaning many more people are getting their kids tested.

    As my grandmother, who taught grade school decades ago, has said, it’s not that kids back then didn’t have ADHD, it’s that no one thought kids being hyper was a medical condition.

    1. Agreed. However, the acceleration of poor nutrition combined with the unnatural environment in which we live could be leading to an acceleration of epigenetic changes which can be passed from mother to child which is increasing with each generation. The poor food/environment may also be leading to changes in the womb that we don’t yet understand. I believe it is a combination of both, medicalizing “normal” and true changes for the worse.

      1. Yes, I agree with you Colleen. I do believe that there has been a larger diagnostic “net” but I also think there are dietary and environmental issues at hand that are affecting our human genome in ways we won’t fathom for decades.

    2. I would vastly disagree with this.

      I’m 43 years old, so I was in early elementary school in the 1970’s. I went to a fairly large public school, with multiple classes for each grade level. When I think back to my classes, there were always some kids who didn’t fit in, or were even a bit quirky / eccentric. Maybe, just MAYBE, one or two of them might have been high-functioning on the ASD scale.

      Today, take a look at my son’s classroom. You’ll find a whole group of kids who, while great kids & working with great staff to make educational and life improvements, were nowhere to be seen when I was a kid.

      There’s no way this is just a change in the diagnosis criteria..

      1. Since I’m not a parent, I haven’t been near lots of children lately. But I do know that the children “on the street” are incredibly overweight – and that’s something we definitely did not see when I was going to school. I think there has got to be a connection. Not that overweight=autistic or vice-versa. Just that we are doing harm to ourselves our children and that it starts in the womb, and that the results of the harm are different.

        God, did I make any sense at all?

        1. +1

          It definitely starts in the womb–both diet, Vitamin D status and toxin exposure.

          Not to mention birth trauma from our highly medicalized maternity services.

      2. i’m with simon on this one too – sure the “net” is egregiously being expanded to get more pharmaceuticals into more circulation – but i too went to school in the 60’s and have little recall of such widespread behavioural extremes.
        and certainly one cannot even begin to argue that autism has not exponentially increased – whether you believe 1/88 or 1/500 – it is still astronomically higher than a generation ago.

      3. Chris is right. It is not a matter of better diagnosis or parenting that is not up to par, the kids today are damaged in ways that we were not. I see it in my children and in my friends’ children. I see it when I go to a birthday party and two children are slapping at their heads from over-stimulation.
        For more information, check out the book and website, “A Compromised Generation” and you will see that what we are dealing with is not normal, and if people don’t stop sweeping it under the rug with stupid excuses, it is only going to get worse.

      4. I’m 49 and you’re right, that “whole group of kids . . . were nowhere to be seen. . .” back in the day. However, there was quite a bit of legislation in the later 70’s that served to increase public school access to disabled students. At the school where I teach, we have numerous children who would have been institutionalized back then.

    3. Keep in mind, too, that children with severe disabilities were not mainstreamed until pretty recently. Your mom likely didn’t see them because they were in institutions or specialized schools.

    4. I would be very careful with this statement. I have a child with autism and I also know many other families who have children with autism, more than I care to count. We are not talking about hyperactive children who are just having a hard time sitting in class, we are talking about children who are non-verbal, who do not look you in the eye, who flap their hands and spin in circles. I am 47 years old and we never heard about autism when I was younger, because there were not the numbers of children with these characteristics, plain and simple. Parents know their children, and are often the first to justify their child’s ‘quirky’ behavior, but they understand when something is seriously wrong. What we are talking about is something far more severe. It’s very easy to write all of this autism thing off as ‘increased awareness and diagnoses’ rather than look at this phenomenon with the seriousness it deserves. Think of the thousands of severely life-impaired individuals who will have to find their way, together with their families, in this world and the challenge that this entails for all of them.
      More than a year ago, we started the Gaps diet, which is basically primal for learning disabilities, and it incorporates everything that Dr. Herbert talks about. We have seen so many changes in our son’s behavior and health, just like so many people have found answers with primal. Believe me, this is no small miracle for families who once were told that the only option was medication.

      1. I agree with you. I have a sister who is severely autistic I would not describe her as quirky or eccentric. She ran in circles, can’t communicate, is fixated with movies and constantly verbalizes movie scenes over and over. She used to be violent and she still hits herself and is extremely emotionally unstable. People don’t really understand what autism actually is and just start to lump together any mental disability as one. I think the kids he is referencing do not have these characteristics.

        For the record, if you look up the history of autism, it states that in the 60’s and 70’s most children who were considered autistic underwent electric shock therapy and took “medications” such as LSD. This is obviously very cruel and the medical community had no approach to help these kids.

        Stating that there were no autistic children a few decades ago is an ignorant statement.

        1. Just a point I’ve read not too long ago – The Amish have no vaccines and no cases of autism…

        2. @Mikey,

          Yet the Japanese had their rate of Autism go down while they were using vaccines with thimerosal. I.e. it’s not so simple as vaccination. (meanwhile non vaccination has real consequences) Correlation is not causation, the Amish also don’t have cellphones, maybe that’s why they don’t have autism.

          Everyone wants a smoking gun for Autism they want that one clear reason for why. Maybe there isn’t one. I’d imagine it’s much more likely a combination of things, things that we’ve introduced over the last 30 years or so, mixed with genes we’ve had for much longer than that.

        3. The Amish DO vaccinate. Just lower numbers than the general population and they do have cases of autism too. Something they have that the general population don’t though, is a culture of acceptance of people as they are, like people with autism. They don’t seem to be hell bent on “fixing” those with autism as we are.
          We have to stop linking vaccination with autism, it has been proven time and time again to be a false connection – why can’t we let this go?

        4. Mikey, the Amish and other Plain People do vaccinate, some at rates of 90%, and they do have autism – some nonvaccinated kids are autistic, some vaccinated kids are not. There is a commentary by a Mennonite woman named Martha Binckley, who has one autistic child. He was vaccinated at 4 and 7 months old, the parents saw that he was apparently having a bad reaction, and stopped having him vaccinated. The boy is autistic. Hard evidence? No. The boy has a twin sister, vaccinated on the same schedule as her brother, who is not autistic.

          Lower rates of autism do not equate to zero autism. The Amish have many differences in lifestyle – no television, no electricity unless they generate it themselves, different eating habits, make their own clothes so they’re not exposed to the high levels of formaldehyde in factory-packed garments, different school environments…why pick out vaccination?

          My sister (not Amish!) has a severely autistic son, so this is more than an academic question for me. The child was vaccinated, yes, as were his two normal older sibs. Genetic testing revealed that my brother-in-law carries the defective MTHFR gene.

          Ultrasound is now revealing that autism may well develop during the early stages of gestation.

          http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/03/26/294446735/brain-changes-suggest-au..
          http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/03/boys-with-autism-likely-expose..
          http://www.webmd.com/…/ultrasounds-autism

      2. I too have a son with autism. I have been using the gluten free casein free diet for 2 years and while my son still has a long way to go he is not in a “fog” anymore. Once in a while he will get into my daughter Cheerios or gold fish and go to town. The next day is foggy and disoriented. So obviously he can’t handle gluten so the diet must be helping. I also want to thank Mark for discussing this topic because eventually the truth will come out that autism is linked ( not caused by) to the growing number of vaccines and other toxins we are exposing our children to and the government doesn’t care

        1. Hazel-
          You have no clue what you are talking about. This approach isn’t about being hell-bent on “fixing” autism. It is about treating the co-morbid conditions that make life miserable for children on the spectrum. For example, my son had so much pain in his digestive system, that he was unable to sleep the first three years of his life. Perhaps I should have just accepted him as he was, exhausted, miserable, bloated, and throwing himself around on furniture and leaning on hard corners all the time to get some relief? Hell no. I worked my ass off getting his diet right and getting him supplements to help rebuild his microflora, and finally he is not in pain all the time anymore. And guess what, treating the co-morbid conditions often lessens or eliminates the neurological and behavioral issues. His bloated tummy did not make him who he was, it kept him from being the best version of himself.
          Also, you cannot disprove something that has not been accurately studied. There are studies out there which point to a link:

          http://www.regardingcaroline.com/pubmed

          Don’t even bring up the Dr. Wakefield strawman, or I will have to go postal on you.

        2. Vaccines have been known to trigger autoimmune diseases – my neighbor was in a wheelchair from Guillain-Barre for THREE years following the Swine Flu vaccine back in ’76. (She’s lucky – 30 people died from the vaccine)
          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/09/health/09vaccine.html

          Just recently in Finland (and Sweden, and now Ireland) a version of the swine flu vaccine manufactured by Pandemrix caused an especially virulent form of narcolepsy, an autoiommune disorder, in children. Now, many Finns received the shot and were just fine. But the victims all shared a genetic type and were aged aged 6 – 14. What’s interesting is that 1/3 of all Finns have this genetic type, but 1/3 of Finns aren’t falling asleep on the road and at the Nokia factory. But something about the combination of the shot given at a certain stage of development of their immune system in a genetically predisposed population triggered an autoimmune disease.

          http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-05/finnish-government-to-compensate-pandemrix-narcolepsy-victims.html

          Vaccines are not the sole cause of autism, because there are unvaccinated children with autism. I have seen them myself. But if this new epidemic of autism is a neuro/autoimmune condition then it would certainly not be outside the realm of possibility that a vaccine could trigger it in a genetically susceptible child whose immune system is already been revved up and assaulted by all the other immune insults in this crazily immune reactive world we’ve created. (Toxins, GMOs, pollution, wheat, etc.)

          My advice to parents is if they have a family history of autoimmune disorders, if their baby begins to show signs of a troubled immune system like constant ear infections, eczema (eczema – also autoimmune!) then they should seek medical exemptions for vaccinations until their child’s immmune system develops.

          These children are a wake-up call. By creating this immune reactive world we have ALL done this to these children. I don’t know what the numbers will have to be (1 in 2 children?) before people acknowledge this catastrophe.

        3. in japan, they reduced SIDS dramatically b/c they delayed vaccination until babies were older and stronger. Still, why inject toxic metals? No thanks.

      3. Tracy, we have done GAPS too for our children (one is NT but with a terribly damaged immune system and early signs of asthma, and one who was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, though he has since lost his diagnosis and qualification for special services). This epidemic does deserve serious consideration. With the exception of DAN! doctors, the medical community is only writing scripts and telling us, “Your child needs behavioral therapy and Ritalin.” We, the parents of these kids, are finding our own path to recovering our kids’ fragile heath through forums, communities, and lots and lots of research. Keep up the hard work that you are putting in for your family.

    5. Disagree. Walk through any elementary school and see if you can’t tell which kids have IEPs! I CAN.

    6. Love this! It is so true. We just got sent to the time-out desk in the cloak room.

    7. The above comment is what I would’ve added as well… There is also an “explosion” of diagnoses being made (especially here in California where the early intervention services are provided readily) because the doctors want the child to receive the benefits of early intervention, even if they later test off the “autism spectrum”.

      I appreciate Mark’s article, though, and agree with the nutritional component playing a role in overall behavior.

  4. Hi. I have Asperger’s syndrome. For me, eliminating certain foods makes a HUGE difference in how I function overall. Nutrition is the best medicine, and it’s good to hear that more people on the autistic spectrum are discovering The Primal Blueprint.

    1. I have Asperger’s too and would amend the above to say Nutrition plus Exercise. Of course that’s the Primal Blueprint too.

      1. YES a good exercise regimen, including aerobic and Lifting Heavy Things ;-), definitely has been shown to help in any mito dysfunction.

    2. Asperger’s Syndrome: a label given to a group of people who are lacking in social skills/ability/capability, are on the high-functioning and mild end of the Autism spectrum, and who have far more than their share of geniuses and far less than their share of IQs below 100.
      I find it much easier to explain that I am a non-social nerd. (non-, not anti-)

        1. Increased sociability, and emotional regulation. Improved muscle tone. Improved willingness to eat something other than carbs. Better grades learning ability … more self-care skills … more initiative and independence.

        2. Better executive function, clearer head, easier to find words, less anxiety, more initiative and independence.

          Also more muscles, strength and happiness (so awesome – often I’ll feel completely happy for no reason at all).

    3. Do any of you with Aspergers find that you need to do less stimming when you follow a Primal lifestyle – or GAPS?

      1. Yes. It’s more noticeable the other way around – if I eat certain foods, I start stimming a lot afterwards.

  5. This has become a huge issue. My friend, works as a special needs teacher, and she is concerned with all the medications that her students are put on, and whatever else the parents think will “help” outside of diet.
    Don’t read this wrong, I’m sure 99% of parents are trying to do the right thing by their children, but sometimes you get scared and they begin to look at the problem from the wrong angle.

    1. Agreed. We as a population need to start to think from the basics, rather than trying to go overboard with medications, fancy techniques, so on. Look at what we are doing to our bodies first. Once we see that we are giving ourselves these disease’s because of our lifestyles, then we can start to improve.

    2. Yeah, I don’t think any of the parents are actively trying to harm their children, but they sure as hell are taking their cues from the wrong people!

    3. A few more chemicals here and there. To fix your wound, your wang, your hair and mend your child’s vacant stare. Who can it hurt? Why should we care?

      You’ll smile and laugh and eat and play, just the same as any day. Forget those side effects they make us say. They never really happen anyway.

      With no guilt, remorse, or shame, we know we can achieve our aim. When consumers look and act and think the same. It makes marketing to them easy game.

      -Tim (aka @dystopicthinker)

    4. A lot of this has to do with educating yourself. Our ADHD / Asperger son has definitely improved on medication. However, we didn’t just jump to medication. We had a great deal of dialogue with the pediatrician, established beahavior plans and educated ourselves before trialing meds. To this day we attend conferences and seminars – it is a full time job advocating for these kids. But giving them the foundation now, even if that means using effective meds – and I stress effective, because not all medical professionals are knowledgeable in establishing an effective med regimen – will set the path for future success. It takes a “whole-person” approach to helping these individuals learn to navigate life. So, I do also believe that nutrition is a key player. But as Mark points out, these individuals can be rigid thinkers with sensory issues that create poor food choices. It’s a challenge, but one, throughout which a parent and the affected individual must persevere.

  6. As a music therapist who worked in a special education facility with these wonderful kids, I can really attest to the power of music.

    I must also add that sadly, most of the school meals follow the usual government advice of low-fat, low-cholesterol, no red meat, plenty of juice. I believe the kids would really benefit from a primal meal makeover!

      1. … and “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” – anyone with non-disabled kids will understand the link to kids and savage beasts – i grew up in the 60s when there was still music education, band, and more –

        just try to find a school with a music program now – our owners found that it was totally unnecessary to create good mindless soldiers or consumers – in fact, being trained in “good” music was a drawback to getting kids to buy every crappy, inane excuse for music the industry pours out (and yes, i like classical AND good rap…)

  7. My oldest son turns 13 next month, and our life has been turned completely inside-out, over and over again, since he was diagnosed at 18 months.

    We’ve been very proactive in trying to help – diligent with research and open minds.

    And while prescription medicine and certain therapies have helped, the three pieces which have had the biggest impact for him are: GFCF diet (gluten free, casein free), Vitamin supplements (including several of those mentioned in your article), and Homeopathic remedies (which I really don’t like admitting to because I don’t understand how they work, but they definitely have a positive effect.)

    I love my son as much as any father loves his son, and I’m very proud of how smart he is and what he’s been able to accomplish.

    But there’s no denying how much of an impact autism has on a family’s life. Jobs, Housing, School districts, Money, Social activities – EVERYTHING is impacted. (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.)

    Everything I’ve read-seen-heard-learned has pointed towards this being a case of genetic pre-disposition with environmental triggers. Science has come so far in the last few decades, and created things which were unfathomable not too long ago. Unfortunately, I don’t think the human body was meant to ingest/absorb this much of it.

    I’m hopeful that with more research, more public awareness, and more articles like this, there will be a public shift towards simplicity – more simple foods, more simple living. And hopefully that can reverse the environmental triggers..

    Thanks for writing this.

    -Chris

    1. i read your story with so much empathy, Chris, and i am blessed to have had more of this lifestyle/nutrition information and a deep ambivalent about conventional medicine available to me before i had a kid (had my daughter at 53) – when i think how much she has impacted our lives (both good and with challenges) while not being affected by any of these problems, i know i am blessed.

      i find myself livid and expressive about vegan diets for kids, vaccines, poisons in the environment and am amazed at the utter complacency of 99% of the population about their being herded like cows. maybe via my small blog and my talks i can impact just a few people–

      mark is doing a fantastic job and i refer people here as much as i can.

      best of luck to you, your kids and your partner on this intense path–

    2. “Science has come so far in the last few decades, and created things which were unfathomable not too long ago.”

      actually, i believe you have grossly understated this – the number of chemicals unknown to the human body (and to the planet) that now regularly enter the environment/food chain/household/building materials etc is in the 100’s of thousands–

      creepy

    3. I feel like you are describing my exact life I completely know how you feel. My wife and I just spent over $7000 to get my son into a full day kindergarten because the my school district wanted to dump him in an autism support classroom. This disorder will drain you of everything

    4. Chris- Again, I have to agree with you whole-heartedly. My son had troubling behaviors, some that I cannot bear to even think about now that we are through those terrible days. I kept bringing him to his pediatrician and begging for help, crying for help. Her response, “You have just spoiled him. He is very smart and he is manipulating you. You need better discipline strategies.”
      Then I saw mr. Mark Hyman on TV talking about the links between food, especially gluten, and behavior in ASD and ADHD kids. I read up on it and tried it, and it worked immediately. And then I told the doctor, who told me, “That is not real science. That is a waste of time and money unless he has celiac, which his blood tests show he does not, you should not follow a gluten free diet. He needs to see a shrink, he might need medication.”
      But I knew the diet was a cornerstone of his health, and I read, read, read. It is now three years later and we are doing well with FODMAPS+ GAPS/Primal dieting for him, primal for the rest of us.
      So I called around and found a doctor who does diet and supplements for behavior, and he ran some tests, and told me, “You need to stop vaccinating your kids. Your kids are not getting rid of toxins for some reason, and until we can figure out why, you need to STOP.” So I read, read, read, and was very upset at what I found.
      Turns out, my kids have a genetic pre-disposition to have issues with methylation pathways, which means that CDC schedule of vaccine was NOT a good idea for them. Nor was the fact that his ped was inflexible with the schedule, so even when he was coming off antibiotics from his chronic ear infections, he got all his shots. And she instructed me to dose him with tylenol prior to vaccines in order to reduce pains and swelling at the site. I did, and that was a horrible idea as well, as tylenol requires tons of glutathione to process, leaving little to get rid of the toxins in the vaccines. That was two years ago, and I have two more doctors on board for my son’s care. We are looking at and testing for mitochondrial issues now, and metabolic issues as well. I have notes from both of them exempting us from vaccines, and the advice from both of them to NOT vaccinate the baby I am currently carrying.
      It is not as simple as vaccine = autism (or other disorders). Genetics + environmental toxins (this is where vaccines factor in)+ poisoned food supply/GMOs+ overuse of anti-biotics + OTC meds like tylenol + gut dysfunction (microflora imbalance) = a path to ASD and other conditions for many kids. It is high time to start looking at the whole picture, and start listening to the parents about what actually works instead of making them feel like it is all just “junk science and woo.”
      Good for you Chris, for following your heart and following what works. The more parents who share their stories, the more kids who will be helped by all this unproven dietary woo!

      1. Can you provide a source about the tylonol allegation? I actually give that to my kids and would love to know where you heard that so I can stop if I need to!!

        1. Here’s a blog with some links.

          http://babyfoodsteps.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/mitoxic-why-acetaminophen-may-not-be-good-for-any-of-us-especially-mitochondrial-disease-patients/

          Very early stages of research on this, but it has been repeated over and over again in the forum I belong to for moms who use Bio-Medical treatments…Older child with full CDC vax schedule + tylenol + overuse of antibiotics = some kind of ASD or related issue. For the younger sibs, they avoided antibiotics, avoided tylenol, and either opted out or selected and delayed the vaccines, and ended up with NT kids. Can’t forget that we don’t vaccinate in a vacuum, there are many other confounding factors that could come into play there.

          Also, there is this, which royally pisses me off:
          http://children.webmd.com/vaccines/news/20091015/tylenol-may-weaken-infant-vaccines

          So my son got all of the risk and is still probably not immune because his ped’s standard procedure was to dose Tylenol on all vaccine visits.

        2. allegation or no, STOP giving that crap to your kids – willow bark and other herbal SAFE remedies are out there (yes – in nature not in the drug store) –

  8. In short, being primal can help prevent or even cure ADHD or autism.

    Wonder how exercise effects these diseases? If it is truly “whole body” then exercise should play a key role in treatment shouldn’t it?

    1. my, now 22 y.o., daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 3rd grade, I’m very much against prescription meds in 99.9% situations. So I did some research and changed her diet to low carb. This didn’t “cure” her but it allowed her to control some of her negative behaviors while retaining her abilities. When she joined the varsity cheerleading team in HS that pretty much took care of it. I wish I’d known about the primal lifestyle then

  9. From the article:

    “A picture is emerging as researchers study the surge of these conditions. The “genetic” root is relatively seldom the traditional, identifiable pattern in family lines. Rather, it appears many of these children have inherited a genetic risk factor characterized by a heightened sensitivity to “assaults” on the system from toxins, infections, and other environmental influences.”

    Yup. “Surge” is about right. Autism used to be about 1 in 10,000. It’s now down to around 1 in 80 — worse in some countries in cities.

    It hardly needs saying, but this can’t be down to changing fashions in diagnosis: you can hardly miss a condition like autism.

    Something’s badly wrong. I think “assaults” is about right. A similar picture emerges from Dr. Campbel-McBride’s “GAPS” book. Dr. McBride thinks a lot of the problem may be down to damaged gut flora — a problem which is only getting worse over time.

  10. My 5 year old nephew was diagnosed with Autism at age 2, which was about the time I found out about the Primal Blueprint. I keep begging my family to try a nutritional intervention, but they are unwilling because he is a “picky eater.” He likes lots of fruits and veggies, eats very little protein and fat, and of course lots of treats when being good. I can see the changes that come with crappy food choices (it only takes about 10 minutes for him to spin out of control), but they are unwilling to change his diet because he won’t eat it. I explain that all kids are like that and he’ll eventually eat what is in front of him if he gets hungry enough. He is making HUGE progress in his verbal and social skills, but I wonder what it would be like if they would actually stick to a nutrition plan.

    1. That’s what we did with my kids – eventually the snacks and treats run out and what’s left is eggs, bananas, salads, apples, bacon, chicken thighs, and other real food.

      All my friends are like “OMG you’re so lucky that your kids will eat that.”

      and I’m all “they would eat like your kids if I fed them like I was trying to kill them.”

      1. One of our two sons is a very picky eater (he’s 8 now). We removed all the crud and give him the option to not eat if he doesn’t want the food but we always have lots of other options available (fruit, greens, meats). He’s found things he likes and we do still cater to him sometimes (i.e. with home made paleo ground chicken or turkey nuggets), but not nearly as much as we used to. He calls the burgers I make on Fridays “Angel Meat.” because he loves them so much which I find pretty funny. (No offense to Christians intended)

        -Tim

        1. Angel Meat! that’s so awesome!

          There are times when my 4 year old still decided not to have dinner…some people would say I’m starving my child. I say intermittent fasting has proven health benefits!

        2. – kids like choices – and it often distracts them from an analysis of what the choices are – if i offer a chocolate rice waffle against anything else – guess what she picks – but if i offer her an apple or a handful of nuts – she happily choose one or the other – (out of sight out of mind?)

          we are funny creatures, us humans.

    2. Good luck with your family. I hope they start listening. If it helps, here’s our short story:

      We went from being vegetarians to doing Primal/PHD/GAPS. The hardest transition was for my 2 year old who had eaten vegetarian his whole life. Thanks to advice from those on this forum, I learned that to acquire a taste for something, you just have to be exposed to a tiny bit of it the first time. Your brain will quickly determine that it is something good for you and make it palatable to you next time.

      My son loves soup, so we started with bone broth based soups and now he eats pretty much everything we put in front of him. It only took about 2 weeks for the total transition.

      Note, I’m an aspie and ate nothing but hot dogs, cereal, fried chicken and mac n’ cheese growing up. He also shows sensory sensitivities and lot’s of pickiness, but we’ve gotten him past that with food at least.

      Don’t have the fight – just try to sneak in one bite and serve the item often. Don’t give them unhealthy alternatives. They’ll eat it soon enough. Oh – and it helps to cook everything in butter or bacon grease. Fat makes things taste good. mmmmmmm …. bacon grease….

  11. This is a topic of extreme personal interest to me – I have three first cousins (all male) and one godbrother on the spectrum. The two cousins I see most often (the other lives in Brazil) have made enormous improvement following intensive music and play therapy from another cousin, a music therapist, but as far as I know they haven’t tried any diet-centered treatments. My godbrother’s family has adopted a super-clean grain-free WAPF-style diet (lots of raw milk and fermented veggies), and my godmother and I talked about how very clear the difference in his behavior is when he’s had grains, or really any carbs, even without any current official therapy.

  12. Thank you so much for the information and the links, Mark. I’m sending them on to the doctors in my family, in the hope that they can do some good in the future.

  13. Looks like there’s part of this sentence missing:

    Nonetheless, these approaches prioritize

  14. As a parent of two small boys, I really appreciate this article. I was already giving them cod liver oil and probiotics as a preventative measure. I’m going to add some b vitamins and magnesium baths.

  15. as a teacher of young children, i think it is so important that we get to the bottom of things like autism & adhd, etc. after being exposed to children with these, i fully believe nutrition & overall health (of both expectant mom & then child) play a huge role. i think excellent nutrition is vital before, during & after pregnancy to give baby the best possible chances of being healthy.

  16. First, I want to say that I am a degreed teacher with a concentration and experience in teaching special needs children. I was also one of the first people diagnosed with ADHD.

    For me, getting onto a more natural (and now basically primal) diet, basically eliminated my ADHD as a problem. In this lifestyle, I have found that while the ability to see and hear everything going on around me is still there, it’s a feature now, not a bug. I can focus but still take in my surroundings in a way I think most people can’t.

    I believe, based on my time in the classroom and in one-on-one tutoring, that most children diagnosed with ADHD are really suffering from constant blood-sugar swings. Some of us do have more trouble sitting still and focusing on something we don’t like, but really, why is that considered a dysfunction or disability? It seems to me that most people have a hard time focusing on stuff they hate. We ADD/ADHD people just have a shorter fuse before they say “F THIS!”

    1. I think blood sugar swings are a huge problem in schools too! When you look at what they’re serving it’s no wonder – lots of grains, fat free dairy & fruits. Where are the meats, veggies, healthy fats???

      1. Unfortunately they are following the Food Pyramid. I think they call it the Food Pyramid because that is the shape your body takes if you follow it.

  17. yes yes yes…I feel I averted a diagnosis with my oldest. He was the most colicky baby, non verbal—only grunts, hardly ever smiled and many other issues. I kept telling my doc something was WRONG—but was ignored, likely because he was my first child and I was just “new” to parenting. I took things into my own hands. Right before his second birthday I removed all dairy from his diet and he finally had the first normal bowel movement of HIS LIFE! A few months later after researching GFCF, we took away gluten…within weeks he was TALKING—sentences and for the first time ever told me that he LOVED me. He had never been able to verbally express emotion like that. We had never looked back. I have followed up with probiotics, vitmains/supplements and trying to keep a clean diet. I am now eating primal…but kids are still GFDF…just trying not to overdo any carbs.

    Thank you for writing about this! I agree that these “autism” like symptoms wax and wane but perhaps are never fully cured. diligent attention to diet is BY FAR the best medicine I have seen for our son!

  18. It sounds like, for the ADHD kids, many of them would (and do) benefit from a GAPS style diet, to identify and solve their gut problems.

    But how did it come to this? If we look at the deficiencies noted above (EPA/DHA, B vits, especially B12) it becomes obvious we are feeding the wrong foods to our kids. The gov advice of “low cholesterol” means we cut out oily fish, egg yolks, full fat dairy, and, of course, organ meats.

    Yet these are the foods that are richest in all these nutrients – and are what my grandmother insisted I eat as a kid! I acquired a taste for liver and onions – cooked up in our homemade butter from our own cows – how lucky I was!

    Take a look at the baby feeding guidelines from the Oregon Dairy Council And we see that grains and manufactured cereals are recommended from 4 months, more heavily as time goes on, but fish does not make an appearance until 12 months, by which time the kid is likely addicted to wheat already. Organ meats, of course, don;t even rate a mention.

    When you are not eating and addicted to wheat, many other foods are quite enjoyable – even liver!

    we have been damaging their gut health from day

  19. I am self-diagnosed as borderline Asperger’s. E.g. before primal, I would scream inside if I tried to look at someone’s face. After being on primal for a while, it stopped being a problem. I had various other symptoms. I am convinced that primal helped significantly.

  20. As a personal chef I have cooked for more than one family who had an autistic child. I was told by numerous extended family members that adhering to a specific diet made a huge difference for these young individuals. It is definitely a concept that should be more thoroughly explored.

  21. Mark, I’m really impressed how you discuss this important and sensitive topic so well. Thank you, and thanks to all of those sharing their stories. We’re trying to figure out some things with our youngest child, and this gives me much to think about.

  22. I have a son that is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. He is currently dairy free which has made huge improvement but he is still eating gluten. He has severe food intolerances, and has sensory issues. For example, if I serve him a food too warm or cold (must be perfectly room temp for him to eat) he will not eat for the rest of the day it offends his senses so bad. He WILL go to bed hungry if the food was unacceptable. He is already very very small and underweight for his age – he is not on the growth charts. I would love to see if he would benefit from gluten free but I am afraid he would actually starve himself to death during the transition. *sigh*
    I know food plays a role, and I do believe that gut health can make a condition worse….but I am not so sure that autism can be “cured” through any of these methods. My son was clearly different from BIRTH. There was no question in my mind that something was wrong. He would not make eye contract, he had severe feeding issues, he never coed or babbled…etc.

    1. Hiya,

      We do not have an autistic son, however we DO have a little engineer with very picky eating habits who will also go to bed hungry if nothing interests him. We ate a completely paleo diet too and have managed it by including other foods more often than we did before: such as sweet potatoes, (can be mashed, fried, cut into chips, baked, etc). Also, we make faux-tatoes a lot which is boiled cauliflower that is then processed until it’s a nice fine mush, just like mashed potatoes. Typically one adds some sour cream, chives and bacon to that but a little salt is all that’s necessary for something tasty. Also, both of our children are big fans of fried plantains. Once we took the sugar out they both found them very sweet without any added sweetener. Let’s see, he also loves burgers without the bun (which I sneakily incorporate small amounts of liver in to occasionally for the vitamins, he’s never detected it but yours might) which he drowns in dinosaur barbecue sauce (I love dinosaur!).

      I hope this helps, I believe it’s possible for you, and I hope you give it a try. At worst you’ll know it doesn’t help but the upside could be huge.

      -Tim

      1. This post comes as a big help to me as I have a four year old son that will only eat about 5 things and none of them great. At two and a half he was still not speaking but only grunting. Now his verbal skills are almost where they should be through therapy but his mood swings and behavior can go from angle to demon in a split second. I have often wondered if these issues would improve if his diet would change but am finding it very difficult to get him to eat ANYTHING. It helps to hear that others are going through similar situations and have found successes.

        1. Good, I hope it does help. Despite the objections of much of my family regarding our ‘crazy diet’ both of our boys are thriving on it. They are smack dab in the center of the weight curve (neither over nor under) but at the very top of the height spectrum. I was worried about our older son’s weight too as he’s type 1 diabetic and was getting chubby before we went paleo but that’s gone now. He just had a full blood workup too and his endo was thrilled, they literally had nothing to say to use to improve things. They didn’t even want to hear about the diet… just keep doing it they said.

          The picky one still refuses some meals here and there but he can usually find something he’ll eat (nuts, fruits, etc.) to tide him over. Then he’ll pig out later and I let him. That boy ate four burgers recently, all with no bun. It blew my mind. OH, and don’t be afraid of some good fats. I render my own leaf lard that I get from a local organic farmer here in PA and it makes everything taste so darned good. (I realize I’m a little weird for this, but maybe not so much in the paleo community). But you don’t have to render your own to get the good stuff, organic lard, tallow, and coconut oil can be bought online and they all go a long way toward adding good wholesome calories to the diet of a child who struggles to find tastes he/she can accept.

          -Tim

      2. Thanks Tim. I know I have got to just keep trying to introduce new foods to him. Currently I would say that his diet consists of about 80% bananas, peanut butter & jelly (home made wild fruit low sugar) and rice milk. A big part of the problem is that he will not eat anything that is wet or sticky. So mashed potatoes, soups, juicy fruits etc are out. We are working with feeding and developmental therapists so hopefully that will help. We just spend so much time trying to make sure he eats something – ANYTHING!

    2. I replied above as well to another comment. My son is super underweight also. He’s 28 months and is 6 pounds under the growth chart. Not anywhere close to the growth chart. When we upped the fat and added in potatoes into this diet (like the Perfect Health Diet), he started gaining weight. He gained a pound in the last two weeks and grew an inch.

      My husband and I are small people and I still breastfeed him so I never expected him to be very high on the chart, but I’m happy to see he’s moving in the right direction.

      If you can get your son to eat sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes (you can mash them with coconut oil/coconut milk since you’re avoiding dairy) with bacon bits, that will really help his caloric intake. Just make sure you put a LOT of fat in it. We do eat dairy, so for 12 yukon potatoes, I put in about 10 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of milk, and also do a mushroom cream sauce. He’ll eat a the equivalent of a potato or two at dinner in addition to meat and veggies. Before we added in potatoes, he wouldn’t eat very much. I think some kids will avoid eating too much protein, and it may actually be bad for them to have too high of a ratio of protein in their diet. So lot’s of fat to supplement the calories helps. You may want to check out the Perfect Health Diet.

    3. Read The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and also look up GAPS on yahoo groups. There are at least two, mostly parents of autistic children. The book and the help groups state that the first few days of transitioning off the child’s preferred foods to a healing diet are very difficult, but that within a week the child changes dramatically and begins to really like the new food.

    4. I totally understand as my daughter was a preemie (born at 24 weeks, weighing 1# 1oz) and has always been small. As a toddler when she was so very picky it scared me to try to take out the foods that I knew she shouldn’t be eating for fear that she would eat even less. Now, finally, as a 10-year old, she has caught up to her peers. Every child is different and unique, but for mine it just took time and patience to wean her off those foods. Yesterday, we were driving home after a long day at Sea World. She was starving and all I had in the car was dried cherries, almonds, and jerky. She willingly ate those things when normally she won’t because she realized those were the only options. Just keep trying, listen to your instincts (don’t worry about what others will think! 😉 ), and don’t give up.

      1. Sorry, what I mean by “caught up to her peers” is that in terms of her weight and height. Socially, neurologically, and mentally she is still not typical.

  23. Nutrigenomics is a new, up-and-coming, field in genetics. Fear not people, I think we’re getting through!!

  24. I just want to say that my 2 year old can be a very picky eater & our tried & trued trick is smoothies.

    He will eat anything in a smoothie (if it’s blended with fruit) – we add coconut oil, liver, probiotics, greens, etc. Give him a straw & he’s good to go!

    He would live off dairy & fruit some days (if we let him) so I like to sneak in some extras with smoothies.

    1. You never know,though, every kid is different — my ASD girl GAGS on smoothies! she is 11 and was willing to bargain with the devil in order to avoid smoothies! (ie, eat EGGS! Her top most-hated food!).

  25. This post was perfect timing for me, I was wondering if SAD played a role in Autism. Thanks for the great post.

  26. I normally just read daily and don’t comment but just had to on this one. I have a special needs child, my daughter who is 5. She was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at 16 months old with associated severe gross and fine motor delays. We have spent a lot of time in various therapies and she had come a long way but we still had issues. I read pretty much everything I could find on how diet plays a role and slowly over time we made changes.

    We started by eliminating preservatives and food dyes etc (and discovered she reacts to Red Food Dye along the way, you want to see mood swings and major meltdowns, give her some Red Food Dye!). We also supplemented with Omega 3’s, that helped a bit too. We then eliminated wheat, she was around 4 by that time and started sleeping through the night fairly regularly for the first time EVER. We were vegetarian for 2 years and while she was doing OK she still had some symptoms (e.g. still some sleep disturbances, difficulty with moods and regulation, over reacting to certain situations, extremely lengthy meltdown/temper tantrums, no tolerance for noise/crowds etc). We were still eating a lot of grains at that point.

    A little over a month ago we decided to try paleo, we stopped all grains and increased the fats that she was eating. I started buying “clean” meats. Within a week we saw major difference in her mood and sensory reactions. Her sleep improved even further. She has not had a meltdown in the month we have been paleo (other than when someone accidentally gave her Red Food Dye!). Coincidence? I think not. I now believe one of her issues might be reactive blood sugar, so the highs/lows of the SAD impact her more severely than someone who is neurotypical. I also think her particular brain needs as much healthy fat as it can get. She had to eat every 2 hours when we were vegetarian and eating grains (just not wheat). Now she eats breakfast, lunch and dinner, sometimes an afternoon snack but not usually. She eats pretty much everything I put in front of her (even sardines!). That never would have been the case a month ago. She had a lot of food aversions, those have resolved. Almost all of her SPD symptoms are gone, the gross and fine motor delays are still present but I suspect over time those will continue to improve as well. So while I don’t view paleo (or any diet) as a “cure” I certainly view it as being symptom relieving in a child who is not neurotypical. What’s funny is I shared these things with her pediatrician over a year ago at her 4 year old appointment and she acted like any changes were just a coincidence. We just saw the doctor yesterday and we were talking about how well my daughter is doing. She asked what our regimen was that was helping so I told her. Her response “Oh, you know what you are doing right? The paleo diet.” Apparently our pediatrician does it too! Love that 🙂 I hope over time the idea that diet can play a significant role in some of these disorders takes a firmer hold. I scoffed to at first but then decided to experiment and see what happened. I’m so glad I did, the changes in my daughter have been profound.

    1. That is heart warming to read. I’m so glad you’re finding some success with diet. Keep it up!

      I too have had major personality changes because of diet but it’s in a different direction. I’ve always wanted to write books and poems and draw and paint but never had any gumption to do so. The ideas kept piling up over time but like the children at an old orphanage no one ever took them anywhere. When we went low carb and then paleo… it was like the lights had been turned on inside my mental mansion. I began writing like a man on fire and today I’m on my third book (and many more short stories), my paintings are getting better and I find myself doodling again. I never thought this would have happened but it’s changed my life. Is it the paleo diet or just a full blown midlife crisis? (sans the car, I hate cars) I don’t know, but I’m not looking back.

      -Tim

      1. Great Tim! What a cool story. Doesn’t it make you wonder what potential is just waiting in others to be unlocked by real food. i noticed one of your other replies was in the form of a clever poem, and it made me smile.

        1. Thank you, I’m glad you liked the poem. And I agree with you… there’s so much limiting people, holding them back from being their best selves. It makes me sad that so many look to change their diet only when forced by a major health crisis. We came to it through trying to better manage our eldest son’s type 1 diabetes. We learned how Low carb can bring better control, which it did but it also banished my allergies and caused me to spontaneously lose more than 40 extra lbs… More research and time and we’re here, paleo and proud of it.

          -Tim

      2. J. Stanton talks about a similar effect at his website (gnolls.org) – that, once you start to eat like a predator (paleo), you soon begin thinking like one – your senses are sharpened, you start to feel more bold and adventurous, likely to do spontaneous things, etc.
        I know I have been more focussed with my work since going paleo.

        Being rid of excess weight helps too.

        Best of luck with your writing.

    2. Amazing. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope the symptoms keep improving!

    3. YES! I love this share. My son also has SPD and had PDD-NOS, and most of his behavioral concerns went away with the changes we made to his diet. Funny, he never slept through the night either, until I went gluten free. I was told this was due to my poor and permissive parenting, but gluten free for 2 days got me a 3 year old who slept for the first time in his life, a 5 month old who started napping for the first time in his life, and a husband who never could sleep who started sleeping well. Fascinating.
      As for the global muscle delays, the one thing that made tremendous improvement for my son was a therapy called “Sensory Learning Program.” There is a great article on it in WIRED magazine. I don’t know how it worked, but I do know that in the spring, his teachers recommended another year of preschool because his muscles were too weak to get through the day. We did SLP over the summer. By fall, he was like a new kid, with normal energy levels and no more lethargy.
      The last time my son had dyes was at the dentist, and it was three days of devil-child. NOT a coincidence.

      1. It is amazing something like gluten can cause sleep issues, my husband and I were shocked when we discovered that seemingly benign food ingredient was behind our daughter’s poor sleep!

        I can always tell when my daughter has been accidentally “glutened” because the sleep issues and mood problems come back full force for a few days. Summer has been nice because she is always in my care so I know 100% she is gluten free and her sleep reflects that, last night she slept over 11 hours straight, that never used to happen!

        Thanks for the SLP tip, I will look into it! My daughter has come a long ways, just looking at her you would never guess she is delayed motor wise, she walks/runs normally, can write her name etc. But it becomes painfully apparent when she is around kids who are far younger than her and doing things she can’t yet. She’s 5 and several weeks ago we were at the park (had just started paleo), there was a 2 year old there climbing all over the place doing things my daughter still can’t do motor wise. Interestingly though since being paleo I have noticed an increase in her overall strength. Last night she and my son were playing wheelbarrow and she was able to walk around on her hands with him holding her legs, she could not do that a month ago!

  27. This is a great article! I’m sharing it with all my friends as I work with a lot of teachers of special children and I have many friends who also have children who are not neurotypical.

    Diet makes a HUGE difference. My daughter is 20 but was diagnosed with bipolar and a bunch of other issues when she was 9. We tried a few diet changes as she was growing up but nothing really seemed to work. Just over a year ago she “accidentally” went gluten free for a week. She had pasta at a friend’s house and by the next morning was miserable. Since then she has been completely gluten free and has seen dramatic improvement in her symptoms. Just over a month ago she was able to discontinue her mood stabilizer! Considering the severity of her symptoms, I had never even hoped that this would happen. I would love for her to adopt a Paleo or Primal lifestyle so that she could do even better but that is up to her.

    The more I learn about nutrition and how our bodies react to food, the more I see how this effects our kids. In order to save the upcoming generations, we need to fix our broken nutrition.

    Keep the great articles coming, Mark!

  28. I just want to point out that a primal type diet has shown to help out adhd and autism in some patients, but it is certainly not a cure and it doesn’t help everyone. I just want to point that out before people start claiming primal cures autism.

    1. Thank you for saying this. You have to try everything, and since Autism is a SYNDROME, not a disease, every child will respond to different things.

      1. Autism is a spectrum of disorders and for most kids autism is a disease, not a syndrome (environmentally triggered versus purely genetic). it is largely an autoimmune disease which affects the GI system which in turn affects the neurological system. Again, only some doctors like Dr. Herbert get this but many more are jumping on board to the fact that autism is largely environmentally triggered and its conditions can be mitigated and sometimes completely alleviated with dietary, homeopathic and medical interventions.

        1. Thanks, Autism Dad. I think the issue is that there are different versions of what is labelled autism, and calling them all the same thing upsets people, because some kids have underlying medical issues that can be addressed to their benefit, and in other cases (genetic autism) maybe not so much.

    2. I don’t think anyone is saying that. People are giving real life examples of how it has helped their families. It may not work for everyone, but it works for many. Therefore, it is worth discussing and sharing.

  29. Mark, you didn’t address cause – and specifically the role the mother-to-be’s health plays in producing a healthy child. What a pregnant woman eats, doesn’t eat, how much sun she gets, etc. This is slowly coming into the awareness of the medical establishment, so you do a search and see lots of correlative studies coming out.

    I guess cause may be beyond anyone’s bailiwick right now. Seems the only thing for certain is that we do not know what we are dealing with here.

  30. Hi,
    Fabulous article, I have a son with Aspergers Syndrome. This is a subject close to my heart.

  31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22099159

    J Inorg Biochem. 2011 Nov;105(11):1489-99. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

    Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism?

    Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA.

    Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, 828 W. 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1L8. lucijat77@gmail.com

    Abstract

    Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are serious multisystem developmental disorders and an urgent global public health concern. Dysfunctional immunity and impaired brain function are core deficits in ASD. Aluminum (Al), the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant, is a demonstrated neurotoxin and a strong immune stimulator. Hence, adjuvant Al has the potential to induce neuroimmune disorders. When assessing adjuvant toxicity in children, two key points ought to be considered: (i) children should not be viewed as “small adults” as their unique physiology makes them much more vulnerable to toxic insults; and (ii) if exposure to Al from only few vaccines can lead to cognitive impairment and autoimmunity in adults, is it unreasonable to question whether the current pediatric schedules, often containing 18 Al adjuvanted vaccines, are safe for children? By applying Hill’s criteria for establishing causality between exposure and outcome we investigated whether exposure to Al from vaccines could be contributing to the rise in ASD prevalence in the Western world. Our results show that: (i) children from countries with the highest ASD prevalence appear to have the highest exposure to Al from vaccines; (ii) the increase in exposure to Al adjuvants significantly correlates with the increase in ASD prevalence in the United States observed over the last two decades (Pearson r=0.92, p<0.0001); and (iii) a significant correlation exists between the amounts of Al administered to preschool children and the current prevalence of ASD in seven Western countries, particularly at 3-4 months of age (Pearson r=0.89-0.94, p=0.0018-0.0248). The application of the Hill's criteria to these data indicates that the correlation between Al in vaccines and ASD may be causal. Because children represent a fraction of the population most at risk for complications following exposure to Al, a more rigorous evaluation of Al adjuvant safety seems warranted.
    ———————

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235057

    Lupus. 2012 Feb;21(2):223-30.

    Mechanisms of aluminum adjuvant toxicity and autoimmunity in pediatric populations.

    Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA.

    Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. lucijat77@gmail.com

    Abstract

    Immune challenges during early development, including those vaccine-induced, can lead to permanent detrimental alterations of the brain and immune function. Experimental evidence also shows that simultaneous administration of as little as two to three immune adjuvants can overcome genetic resistance to autoimmunity. In some developed countries, by the time children are 4 to 6 years old, they will have received a total of 126 antigenic compounds along with high amounts of aluminum (Al) adjuvants through routine vaccinations. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, safety assessments for vaccines have often not included appropriate toxicity studies because vaccines have not been viewed as inherently toxic. Taken together, these observations raise plausible concerns about the overall safety of current childhood vaccination programs. When assessing adjuvant toxicity in children, several key points ought to be considered: (i) infants and children should not be viewed as "small adults" with regard to toxicological risk as their unique physiology makes them much more vulnerable to toxic insults; (ii) in adult humans Al vaccine adjuvants have been linked to a variety of serious autoimmune and inflammatory conditions (i.e., "ASIA"), yet children are regularly exposed to much higher amounts of Al from vaccines than adults; (iii) it is often assumed that peripheral immune responses do not affect brain function. However, it is now clearly established that there is a bidirectional neuro-immune cross-talk that plays crucial roles in immunoregulation as well as brain function. In turn, perturbations of the neuro-immune axis have been demonstrated in many autoimmune diseases encompassed in "ASIA" and are thought to be driven by a hyperactive immune response; and (iv) the same components of the neuro-immune axis that play key roles in brain development and immune function are heavily targeted by Al adjuvants. In summary, research evidence shows that increasing concerns about current vaccination practices may indeed be warranted. Because children may be most at risk of vaccine-induced complications, a rigorous evaluation of the vaccine-related adverse health impacts in the pediatric population is urgently needed.

    ————————–

    Dr. Wakefield and MMR vaccine controversy. Yes he got his license back.

    http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/09/re-how-case-against-mmr-vaccine-was-fixed

    http://www.weeklyblitz.net/2402/brains-used-to-study-autism-are-severely-damaged

    University of Calgary video of brain neuron degeneration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHqVDMr9ivo

    1. This is not a discussion about vaccines as they relate to Autism. This is about diet and how it may or may not affect the disorder.

      1. It’s all part of the puzzle. Everything needs to be considered, not just one approach. It is a discussion of vaccines as well, because the approach Mark discusses includes, diet, supplements, and avoidance of environmental toxins.

        1. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle but I don’t think they all need to be aired out here- I think this is one that is a bit controversial and riddled with emotion. I am not going to say where I come out on this personally because I have upmost respect for both sides and I think this is an inappropriate venue to bring up something so emotionally laden.

      2. no – and it is a very hot topic agreed – however, the poor diet can be likened to an open would that the vaccine is poured – salt-like – into –

        vaccines cannot be separated from a bad diet completely in these discussions as they add a whole convoluted layer of other complications that impact the body differently depending on your diet – the condition of your gut flora and on and on.

        i will never let my child get vaccinated – but i will also never her let her eat gluten grains, fast food, or almost anything processed. she is blessedly “normal” and i read about the trails and tribulations here with a sadness coupled with “there for the grace of the angels go i – and my child” – the grace being enough knowledge to have questioned all these issues INCLUDING vaccines in raising her so far.

  32. I have been doing some research on the MTHFR gene lately since I am homozygous for one version of it (A1289C). In my research, I noticed that there were several studies linking mutations in MTHFR to autism and to MS symptoms as well as anxiety, depression, and other neurotransmitter problems. There were also studies that said gluten and casein interfered with the methylation process even more. The more I look at this stuff, the more everything is intertwined – gut, brain, autoimmune diseases, the list goes on. The one thing in common to all – a primal diet is essential. Good enough for me.

  33. My son has is an Aspie with severe sensory issues (touch, light, sound, smell, food textures, etc). He is just starting to go through puberty and his difficult behaviour is becoming worse and worse. My husband and I eat a paleo diet but he lives on milk and bread – he’s extremely fussy and trying to feed him food he doesn’t like always ends in a HUGE screaming meltdown. He will not eat any fruit AT ALL – in fact, if we are in the kitchen preparing or eating fruit he will leave the room because he can’t bare the smell. He will eat cauliflower and carrots but that’s about it. We recognise that his diet is woeful but he’s too big to fight with and we can’t force him. *very big sigh* This article is excellent – I wish there was a way we could implement just a few of the suggestions.

  34. Having lived (stressfully) with a partner with massive mood swings and mental idiosyncrasies for ten years, we finally found a nutritionist who immediately recognised his symptoms (where no other doctors could and who quickly prescribed anti-depressants).Tests were ordered and it was confirmed that he was suffering from pyroluria and was prescribed high doses of Vitamin B6, zinc and a magnesium supplement. In combination with a gradual decrease in carbs (especially sugar and grains…he was very resistant at first), the difference in his behaviour and temperament in a couple of weeks is nothing short of a miracle.
    I think society severely underestimates the power of natural treatments and diet as major contributors to health issues.
    Our life has rapidly changed for the better and we can’t stop smiling.

    1. I think you are bringing up an important point (about Pyroluria). I’ve read that it may be tied in with a huge percentage (more than 50%) of autism (and depression, schizophrenia, etc.) cases. My son (age 5) and I are going to get the test done (he is very high functioning on the spectrum – healing him through nutrition -GAPS/Primal – and homeopathy). I think this may be our missing link….

  35. I am a Behavioral Health Specialist, I work in the school system with all kinds of behavioral/emotional issues. I am so convinced that the poor diet of our children is a huge part of the problems the children are having. My problem is, I am not a dietician or a nutrition expert. I don’t want to take classes or get certified as one if they are going to try to feed me SAD guidelines. Does anyone know of a good program in Hawaii or online that would give me some credibility without having to lie about how nutritious I feel oatmeal is?

  36. My family and I have worked with adults and children with disabilities for years now. I consider it my life and my community. One of the most difficult hurtles I feel I assist people with is the fixation on food, and very often the wrong kinds, and diet choices built on bad information.
    That “it’s okay every once in a while” cookie comes a lot more often than nutritionalists would like to admit and the microwave dinners and lack of freshly made food is ubiquitous. Though recommendations are made to improve people’s nutrition I rarely see it followed through on.
    It really makes me happy to hear about parents willing to try something different for their children. I think beginning advocacy for health early is absolutely essential. There can be a lot of challenges growing up and aging with a disability – it’s even more challenging when you are also facing obesity, heart disease and diabetes. I hope coming generations will be better served by their treatment teams to avoid this.

  37. Fantastic post, Mark. I’ve always secretly suspected that autism is linked with our wonky lifestyle ways, but have never had any sort of studies to refer to. This is wonderful, and I really appreciate your layperson version – it makes it much easier to digest.

  38. {sigh} This just makes me think more and more that I have some version of Aspie’s. All the sensory… well, my family (and I) have always viewed it as my “hysteria” and “hypersensitivity” … let’s call it sensitivities; my complete and total unwillingness to eat vegetables (yes, my gorge rises, and I have to spit it out) — and dammnit! I’m 56!

    Some reading raised the wistful hope that maybe supplementing with zinc would let me eat veg (nope). Magnesium? Not so far (but I still have hope).

    I cannot express how frustrating it is to wish to eat paleo/primal — and just be unable to overcome my reaction to vegetables (a reaction along the lines of running screaming out of the room). {sigh} I’ve quit grains as much as I can (still have some rice… because an all-meat diet also makes me quail, too).

    I guess I need to go investigate the feeding of autistic kids to see if some techniques might apply to my own ‘disability’ when it comes to eating good foods.

    1. GAPS diet gives step-by-step implementations and phases. Perhaps even sipping bone broth could get you part of the way there? It’s a process, but well worth it. Good luck to you.

  39. I’ve been working with my ADHD/oppositional son for over a year on diet. Problem is, he wants to “fit in” at school and resists even though he feels better on a good diet. For those who don’t have kids with special needs – this is way harder than it looks. You can be the best parent in the world and try to feed your kids the best food. But everyone else in their lives will feed them candy and freezy pops and get mad at YOU for suggesting that your kid shouldn’t eat that. I’ve gone 30 rounds with the school this past year about donut parties, freezy pops, and hot chocolate. Why do other parents and teachers not get this? Don’t feed my kid junk! And while you are at it, don’t feed your kid junk either!

    1. AMEN. It defies comprehension that my 4 year old is bombarded with the garbage at school even after a celiac diagnosis. Keep fighting the good fight, there is nothing more powerful than the fierceness of a mother’s love. And yeah- it is so easy to make flippant comments about feeding your kids healthier food but until you’ve been treated like a moron by family members who are mad that your kid isn’t allowed to eat candy or found candy wrappers in your childs’ backpack you have no idea how hard it is to take those things all the out of their diet. Sadly if people sneak that stuff to your child, even as little as once a week, the child never quite lose their taste for it. Thus the vicious cycle continues. Anyone whose has a child with these pecial needs that has a supportive family and school: you are blessed indeed!

    2. TRULY. One teacher bought my ASD kid a HFCS soda, from the machine in the teachers’ lounge, never asked parents if this was okay!!! UGH! And there IS a district policy in place, against that. She had the gall to ask us for money for it afterward.

      1. I dread this actually next year, his first year away from me all day. I already had to request NOT to get a certain teacher, who talked during the open house tour about how she loves to bake and make special treat with her K class…”brownies, stuffing, cookies, jello, lemonade….” My little guy tugged on my arm and said, “Mama, I can’t do any of that, I hope I don’t get this classroom.” I headed into the office with a Dr’s note for the diet, and said I do not want that classroom for my child.
        At this point, my 6 year old (who has been on the diet for 3 years) knows what he can and cannot eat, and knows even to decline things like playing with regular play-doh and getting floride treatments and chewing colored tablets on the day the dentist visited his Safety camp. (I reward him with some berries when he gets home to reinforce his doing the right thing when it comes to avoiding unhealthy foods or dyes.)
        Ironic, isn’t it, that the people who are stuffing their kids with cheetos and M&M’s are treating you like it is child abuse to deny them this garbage? I get that too. You know what, my kids are delighted at a birthday party with a small fruit salad that I bring from home, so if the people around them would stop making such a BFD about “Your poor kids can’t have any ice cream or cake!” they would never think twice about it. It is HARD when everyone around you seems to want to sabotage your progress, or they don’t believe that a treat here and there could do much damage. Maybe not for their kids, but our kids are another story.
        Good luck to the parents trying to do the right thing.

        1. How in the world are they allowed to do this? It is so frustrating! My child’s preschool class has FIVE children out of 15 with allergies and yet each parent would get assigned a snack week- pretty hard to provide snacks for an entire class with various peanut allergies, gluten allergies, and dairy allergies. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s always means a backpack FILLED with actual candy. I don’t understand why kids need to be fed garbage in the same facility that is supposed to be building their minds- and with the ever increasing incidence of allergies, and even childhood obesity I find it to be totally irresponsible and negligent to be feeding children this stuff. Ugh.

        2. one comment:

          homeschool (yes it is a tough decision but what you are all dealing with at school and amongst “normal”peers sounds like more work to me…)

        3. Ravi, I was homeschooled as a child and only wish I could afford to do the same:) It was a wonderful experience and if you are doing that for your kids, they are truly blessed!

      2. My mother attempted to send a note to my down syndrome sister’s school some time back saying that she didn’t want her drinking cow’s milk because she had heard cutting out grains, dairy, and sugar had helped downs syndrome kids function better- and was told that it was against the law- that by law, she needed to drink the cows milk unless she had an allergy (that would have to be proved with blood tests and a dr. note). Totally despicable.

        1. I’d say she should try and find a doctor who will write a note. (DAN! doctors might be a good place to start?) From what I have read, Down’s does have a lot of cross-over with ASD in the fact that there are methylation issues, depleted glutathione, and a very high rate of gluten intolerance.
          My son’s note says, “X is on a grain-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, low carbohydrate diet free from all artificial colors and preservatives. This is a medically necessary diet.”
          Yes, to anyone who just thinks the problems that plague this generation is just a result of better diagnosis, how do you explain the kids who have immune systems that are so out of whack, that exposure to peanuts can KILL them? Did you have peanut free schools or classrooms or lunch tables when you were growing up? There weren’t special peanut-free schools so we just didn’t see these kids because they weren’t mainstreamed. Start digging and see for yourself how the 4A’s (ASD, Asthma, Allergies, and ADHD) are interconnected and share the same root causes.

    3. It is hard, my son is the only kid at school with the healthy lunch! He gets lots of praise from the teachers but the kids look at his food like he is nuts for being willing to eat it.

      What helped me was to tell the school they are allergic to certain foods. This worked very well particularly with my special needs daughter! We also tell the children they are allergic/sensitive to certain foods and should not eat them, that has worked well too because now they will ask if a particular food has such and such ingredient in it. This does not solve all the junk issues but it has cut way down on them for sure.

  40. Would suggest everyone watches this lecture by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride on Gut health and how it effects our health. She has had lots of success treating Autism ADHD etc with her GAPS diet which is basically paleo.

    http://vimeo.com/10507542

  41. I am a moderator on the GAPSHelp Yahoo group and I read stories of autism being healed with a caveman diet all the time. The first stage of GAPS is meat, vegetables, fat, and homemade, fermented foods. It’s amazing what removing grains and other sugars will do.

  42. Thank you for another interesting article and comments! I, too, have a son with Aspergers, and he is a very picky eater and very stubborn. He’ll go hungry rather than eat something that threatens his taste buds and oral sensory issues. As a result, he is very slim, though full of energy and life. He loves sandwiches, hot dogs,crispy/crunchy veggies but hates milk and meat. Good suggestions here in the comments to get your child to eat more nutritiously. Someone suggested getting your child to drink a smoothie with extra veggies and yums in it–I’ll have to try that. And get him tested for gluten and celiac issues.

  43. I am glad you addressed this. I have a child with an ASD diagnosis (not classic autism), and I recently changed herto a higher protein diet, adding the “mitochondrial cocktail,” to her regimen, a collection of vitamins and supplements including CoQ-10, carnitine, and creatine. I have not seen an improvement, and do not really expect to, but I will happy if this helps her functioning in even the most subtle ways, and perhaps prevents degeneration. She does have a mutation in one of the respiratory chain enzyme genes, but our local children’s hospital genetic and metabolic dz department said it was not one to worry about, and denied an evaluation, despite her low muscle tone nad cognitive / communication problems. I said to heck with that, did my own research (as I have for my LADA diabetes) and assembled the supplements. Since she is a growing kid, I have seen her make developmental progress, since, and it would be easy to attribute to the supps and protein. I will continue them, make no mistake — but I also know they may not have anything to do with her advances. When you have a kid with a developmental delay, you do anything — and keep doing it.

  44. In addition to diet, test for heavy metals using Andrew Cutler’s protocol and test for ammonia. Mercury, usually from a mother with mercury dental fillings, is an extremely common problem with autistics. The urea cycle is often suboptimal too, or simply overwhelmed by pathogens that produce ammonia in their damaged guts. This leads to stressed adrenals, an effect similar to a hangover, and assorted other problems. If symptoms subside after a thorough gut-clearing event, if I may be indelicate, ammonia is very likely a problem. AKG is the primary treatment for ammonia but there are a few other supplements to look into. Healing the gut helps but may prove inadequate.

    1. Ammonia and mercury were issues with my son. We are due for a second round of testing soon, and I wonder if he has had improvement. I will looking into AKG, thank you.

      1. A couple of links to help you out:
        http://savingsavannah.org/2012/06/19/the-good-and-the-bad-viral-protocol-part-two/
        http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/frequent-dose-chelation/
        Search for “ammonia” in the FDC group. There’s some relevant info in Cutler’s “Amalgam Illness” book. I’m looking into arginine AKG (A-AKG), lysine and ornithine now. If I understand correctly arginine should be paired with lysine. Ornithine I’m less certain about.

        Gut health is very important since bad gut bugs produce ammonia. Soft drinks wipe out bicarbonate that’s critical in the beginning of the urea cycle for processing ammonia.

        Ammonia is a strong adrenal stimulant too, so if you’re wondering what’s driving adrenal stress that’s a likely culprit.

  45. I am beyond thrilled to see this post. I’m yet another person with an autistic family member. My little sister was diagnosed at age 3 and my father was sent home with the advice to make her comfortable for as long as possible and then be prepared to institutionalize her for her own benefit and for that of the family. This was around 2001. Bless him for not taking “no” for an answer and embarking on his own search which connected him to other parents of autistic children and, eventually, led him to the Autism Research Institute and the DAN! Protocol.

    The first year my dad attended the DAN Conference, the bulk of it was “get rid of the gluten and casein. We don’t know why it works, but it seems to really make a difference.” The next year they had an explanation for it as well as further research on other interventions to try and every year they continue to build with more research to back the suggested therapies. I had the pleasure of attending the conference in Dallas two years ago and the people and the research involved are incredible. It KILLS me that so many people, including scientists and health professionals, won’t even read the literature or entertain the thought that a neural disorder can have anything to do with nutrition or the physical environment.

    I’ve watched my little sister grow from a non-verbal three year old to a social pre-teen sitting in the same classroom as her “normal” peers and consistently performing well at, and enjoying, school. My family watched, literally, as the fog lifted for her after the removal of gluten and casein and we’ve watched how her behavior worsens and the stimming/flapping increases after an ice cream cone. You cannot logically argue that this is coincidence. Her responses to diet changes are repeatable and isn’t having a repeatable result one of the litmus tests that we use to judge good research?

    The bottom line for me: What is there to lose? There’s not a list of side effects that comes along with removing gluten and casein. Yes it makes things harder than just grabbing take-out, but isn’t our health and that of our children worth it? And wouldn’t you rather try a less invasive dietary approach before agreeing to antipsychotics or institutionalization? I’m all for appropriately prescribed and managed psychotropic meds and they’re absolutely necessary for some folks, but as a health care provider and as a rational human being, I can’t support jumping straight to an intervention with very serious risks and side effects when there are less risky, but still effective alternatives.

    I really want to see the AMA get on board with a whole-body approach to autism treatment. Well, actually, I want them to get it together for pretty much every other condition as well.

    1. Laney, Right on! I love our DAN! doctor, and you cannot argue with our results either.
      The last three years have actually made me want to get a holistic nutrition degree, and then follow that with an OT degree. Right now, the people running most traditional therapies seems quite resistant (and even hostile) to Bio-Med and other therapies. Nothing makes me sadder than being in a room full of kids with ASD, munching on their lollipop rewards for doing a good job at therapy. For us, the foundation of a healthy diet allowed for much quicker progress in the traditional therapies. I’d love to open a Therapy practice that uses diet as an integral part of a therapy plan, instead of ignoring that whole piece and giving the kids lollipops or making s’mores as a part of the plan to get them to eat varied textures. *shudder*

      1. *Shudder* indeed. I will never understand the hostility toward the parents who are willing to put it all on the line and spend every moment fighting for their kids. I wish more people understand that it is HARDER to say no all time, harder to not let them have the lollipop or piece of cake and harder to make them play outside when they’d rather be watching TV- but instead you’re somehow being cruel to your child and they just can’t wait to step in and undermine you by trying to give your kid the very food that is poisoning them. I honestly wonder how long the willful blindness will continue before people HAVE to face the facts. What will the autism rates be then? 1 in 3?

  46. I have been a member of the Trying_Low_Oxalates Yahoo forum for two years, and have read about some amazing improvements people are seeing in their autistic children (or themselves). It is a very supportive group, and has some real science behind it. I’ve also recovered about 90% from my fibromyalgia following a low oxalate diet, and list members have also seen huge improvements in vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, and other pain syndromes.

    Most of these children are GFCF, and many are soy and sugar free, and a substantial portion also on GAPS. But in so many cases, reducing oxalate load and increasing appropriate supplements has led to very significant improvements beyond these other excellent programs.

    For a quick introduction, check out the following website: lowoxalateinfo.com

  47. After reading this post I saw a study that claimed autism has no link whatsoever to celiac disease. I don’t believe it, the 2 diseases have striking parallels. So, The researchers concluded that adjusting an autistic child’s diet is “risky and dangerous”! Huh…?

    1. But pumping an infant full of mercury lead arsenic and thimeresol is safe

    2. It is rather odd and alarming, isn’t it, that celiac (autoimmune) and autism (most likely autoimmune) seem to be on the same statistical increase trajectory? That is, these conditions were almost unheard of 25 years ago, but now the (conservative) rate is 1 in 100. The book Wheat Belly lays a lot of the blame on the toxic, immune reactive plant that wheat has been bred into. If wheat is allergenic/immune reactive, then it’s no surprise that children with autism improve on the GFCF diet because wheat is eschewed.

      1. It is definitely odd and alarming. Kills me how people don’t want to accept such parallels. Most disheartening is that these ‘experts’ can’t just say ‘well, there’s no proof so don’t get your hopes up’. Instead they have to say ‘do not take your child off gluten even if you ‘think’ it makes them sick without a diagnosis’. My son with celiac had lost all of his vocabulary at age 2 when I first had him take the blood test (for ‘wheat allergy’) and was told he was fine. Thank God I took him off gluten anyway. Thank God I didn’t just lie to myself and say his horrendous and often painful symptoms couldn’t be that because of the blood test. A year and a half later he finally got properly diagnosed as celiac. I cannot imagine what my now 4 year old’s life would be like if I had taken that advice. He has a long road to go but at least his worst issues now are language delays and not an utter inability to speak or communicate at all. These people are totally morally reprehensible. I saw something like this on the today show that said giving up grains ‘wasn’t safe’ and that GF was a fad. They are not only ignoring research that could help people, they are ACTIVELY encouraging them to IGNORE their bodies and thus stay sicker. Sick, sick, sick. (Sorry to rant, but it really does upset me like nothing else in this world).

        1. Even commenters on the thread are making the absurd claim that the explosive increase in autism is just due to ‘expansion of the diagnosis’ and ‘better awareness.’ That’s right, we just didn’t notice them before! Talk about denial – out of graduating class of 90, six of my classmates have children with autism – children who were on target developmentally and were verbal and engaged but regressed into non-verbal, still-in-diapers past five, very, very ill children.

          I grew up in the 70s and nobody, I mean nobody in my peer group had autism. Or their siblings. I work in a large urban library and I see many adult homeless and group home residents and not ONE has autism – bipolar disease, addiction, fetal alcohol syndrome, schizophrenia yes, but autism, NO. I guess people deny the epidemic because it’s too painful and horrible to accept the manmade catastrophe that has befallen these children.

          Bless you for refusing to give up until you discovered what was making your precious child so sick. What would have become of him if you had?

        2. I know how you feel. While my son who has autism has been making great progress on the gluten free casein free diet my brother who is of all things a pediatrician will not accept the fact that this diet is helping. I asked him what pediatricians are doing to treat autism and he just has no answers. My sons first pediatrician who was a family friend and my pediatrician when I was young basically told my wife that ” at least there is hope for my daughter”. He had no problem giving my son 5 vaccines at once but when asked how to treat the condition that he may have triggered they just shrug their shoulders At least DAN doctors are willing to try things. I’m sure some of it is crap but if even some of it helps isnt it worth trying. I don’t see the pediatric medical community doing anything accept pushing more vaccines and making money off of them. It’s very upsetting to watch this happen to this country Maybe when 1 in 2 children have autism someone will do something

        3. It makes me crazy when people say it is a fad, it is dangerous, or it is not healthy to give up grains. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying it for a few weeks. Most people who do see such great results, they never look back, and then it makes them mad to think about all of the doctors and experts who tried to keep them eating the grains and low-fat diet. AGHHHH!

  48. Thank you for this very important post, Mark. A very cogent theory of autism, or the epidemic that is most likely being mislabeled autism, is that it is an extremely complex, multifactorial autoimmune/neuroimmune disorder in which the immune system malfunctions and begins shutting off blood flow to key parts of the brain. Brain inflammation/microglial activation also results. Once the immune system goes haywire it opens door to all sorts of viruses and bacterial infections (HHV6, Epstein Barr, Lymes) that further wreak havoc. The result is a devastating disease process that manifests itself in autistic like behaviors.

    The explosive growth in autism is most likely due to the increasingly immune reactive world we are living in – our compromised diet (I’m sure your readers know about Wheat Belly, the highly allergenic, immune stimulating crop wheat has been bred into), our toxic burden, GMOS, AND, perhaps, a vaccine schedule that has quadrupled since 1980, when the epidemic really began to take off. (1 in 10,000 to now as much as 1 in 36 boys in CA. Yet many experts will argue that this is just an expansion of the diagnosis, and then wonder why the public won’t trust them. “Nothing to see here, folks! It’s ALWAYS been this way…Yet people know what they see with their own eyes!)

    I had a graduating class of 90 girls and six of us have children with so called autism. And we’re not talking quirky, socially awkward left brainers who are good at math, but rather very ill children who lost all speech and are still in diapers at 8 years old. Many also have horrible GI and immune issues. These were children who were on track developmentally, who were verbal, loving and engaged and then either crashed or slowly slipped away around 22 months like someone with Alzheimer’s. (Interestingly, many children with ‘autism’ have a family history rife with autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, Diabetes 1, Celiac, Crohn’s), which suggests a genetic vulnerability to an immune system malfunction.
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/2/687.full.pdf

    In any case, since autism is most likely autoimmune, any food that is allergenic and causes an immune response (wheat, dairy) should be eschewed. The Primal Diet is an excellent diet for children with autism to follow.

  49. Okay, I was going to start with the next paragraph, but I realized that I need to preface this comment with this: I don’t hate you, I don’t hate parents of children with autism, I don’t hate parents of adults with autism and I don’t hate autistics. I also don’t think you ignored useful information (that was available to you) or came to a *biased* conclusion, per se. I hope you’ll read this through.

    I’m really, really sorry to see you talking about autism. Most people have no CLUE what they’re talking about on this topic, you included. When they shut up and treat it like any other topic they have no clue about, I don’t get annoyed.

    But they don’t. Everybody’s got an opinion (and a platitude and a tragic narrative and a sarcastically-delivered piece of fallacious logic and loads and loads of pity and fear and grief) and everybody feels like THEY know what’s going on, and clearly no one else does. Part of that might have to do with the fact that autism research is in a similar state to nutrition research.

    Let me repeat that: the state of autism research and public understanding is similar to public understanding of and bias of research into nutrition, health and diseases of civilization like diabetes.

    Now, I hope, you see why I started off a little miffed at you having anything to say on this topic.

    So let me tear down a few misconceptions here:

    1. “Nobody knows anything about autism! It’s a total mystery!” …No. First of all, arguments about the cause(s) of autism are, first and foremost, political. Political? How can autism be political when you’ve never heard the Democrats or the Republicans argue about it? If anyone responds to this saying they’re really, really interested, I will explain. So anyway, second, there’s a lot of research, lots of it biased, but it’s not something where nobody has any idea at all. But third, not knowing why it happens isn’t the same thing as not knowing anything about it.

    2. “Peer-reviewed published studies are the place to find information about autism, right? That’s going straight to the experts!” No, it’s not. Look, I ADMIRE you for scouring the actual scientific literature on topics like nutrition and fitness, but in this case, that is not where to find the actual knowledge. The actual knowledge is in adult autistics and parents of autistics. Researchers don’t know what they’re talking about.

    3. “Seeing the bad things associated with autism improving means the person became less autistic.” This really SOUNDS reasonable, doesn’t it? It sounds like a tautology, right? But it isn’t. “Autistic” is a kind of brain; some of what are called symptoms of autism are ways that autistic people react to stress. Further, just like good nutrition and fitness and not being mistreated allow neurologically normal people to function and learn better and do things they didn’t necessarily think were possible, they allow autistics to do that, too. Think about a child who’s already stressed out (the hypersensitivities mean they will pretty much invariably be). Now think about that child WITH the normal health issues from eating the SAD diet. Now think about that very same child, changing NOTHING except… take away the SAD diet and accompanying issues. Whether autistic or not, the child will be easier to deal with and happier.

    4. I know you don’t know this, and I know you don’t mean it this way, and I know I’m going to get replied to by fifty million parents of kids with autism saying I’m wrong. The fifty million parents aren’t the ones whose brains are metaphorically depicted in your picture for this post. I don’t ask that you take it down (it’s a warning to others that you don’t know what you’re talking about! :D), but I do ask that you remember for next time (I hope there isn’t a next time, but just in case…) that the puzzle piece design is offensive to many people.

    You know a lot about a lot of things. Please continue to focus your blogging efforts on the topics that you’re, frankly, an expert on. I won’t leave your blog over this; you’re a wonderful resource. But I hope you’ll go back to making posts that are full of information and well-researched ideas for promoting health.

    1. Why shouldn’t Mark talk/post about autism? He prefaced his post by saying that he has no personal experience. He offered a book that delves into the kinds of diets/treatments that are allowing people on the spectrum some relief from their symptoms. He explains that he has gotten letters from many parents explaining how changing the diet has made their life better. If you believe people should listen to the parents about what works, and Mark says that sometimes the answers are not found in journals but on the margins, it seems like you agree with him.

      As far as the puzzle piece goes, that kind of gives me an idea of where you are coming from. I see puzzle piece bumper stickers at therapy on cars of moms who are only seeking conventional treatment. I have seen puzzle piece jewelry on moms of kids who were developing normally and then regressed into autism and accompanying health disasters, and these moms have sought out Bio-Medical treatment for their children to help them regain their health. The only people I am aware of who HATE the puzzle piece are people who believe that autism is just how certain brains are, and we should just accept it and move on. (Neuro-Diversity movement.)

      Personally, I don’t have an autistic child, but a child who had all kinds of underlying health concerns that made him demonstrate autistic behaviors. I don’t really like the puzzle, per se, but more because it is a symbol used by organizations like Autism Speaks which does nothing to actually help autistic people, nor people with underlying health issues that result in autistic behaviors. As far as my son goes, looking at his underlying health issues as a puzzle that needs to be pieced together is highly appropriate. I don’t find it offensive, but I am not going to slap one on my car.

      I think someone on here before mentioned that in many cases, a complex series of systemic health concerns is actually being misdiagnosed as Autism in some people, and I agree with that, because if you fix the roots and the autistic behaviors disappear, then it wasn’t just how the brain was and would always be.

      And if a child is suffering with severe GI issues, we should not be so complacent and just say, “Oh, that’s just part of autism.” Autistic kids deserve treatment for their underlying medical issues that are causing them pain, same as NT kids. And if treating the gut or treating the viruses helps them neurologically, all the better.

      My guess is that you are an adult with ASD (Aspie), and you hate the idea of all these parents out there trying to fix autism, because you don’t feel like you are broken. Great. I am happy for you. I don’t think you are broken either.

      But my son practically had a neon sign pointing to his belly showing me where he *WAS* broken, and it was on me to fix it. I don’t really know how it worked, but I do know that after getting certain things out of his diet he: stopped toe walking, stopped rolling on the carpet all the time, stopped pressing himself belly first into furniture and flopping himself awkwardly and hard over our ottoman backwards, stopped dropping to the ground out of nowhere like his bones were made of jelly, stopped stuttering, stopped grinding his teeth and pinching me all day long, stopped head-butting me in the face every time I had him on my lap to read a story or put his shoes on.

      What his DAN! doctor suspect from his test results is that he has an underlying mitochondrial issue, which can explain almost all of his issues:

      http://www.epidemicanswers.org/epidemic/biological-dysfunction/mitochondrial-dysfunction/

      What I am trying to say is that I do not feel you are wrong for your feelings of this article. Of course you aren’t broken, of course you find the puzzle metaphor insulting, of course you bristle at the idea of fixing autism.

      But, as the saying goes, if you know one autistic person, you know ONE autistic person. Your situation is not the same as the one I was facing with my son. For me, I think MORE articles like this need to be put out there, because people need to realize that they have choices about how they want to tackle these things.

    2. I’m sorry, but who gives you the right to claim truth and say there is none in this post? I’m a mother of a child with autism. I’ve read Dr. Herbert’s book (among many others). I’ve read through research in many special needs areas, and I observe and work with my child daily. I also used to work with young adults on the spectrum in a learning services capacity. Perhaps you are on the spectrum. Even still, you should understand that you are one of millions who experience varying symptoms in varying degrees and in varying ways. Your response is offensive in its self-righteousness approach and condescending attitude.

      1. You’re right, I shouldn’t say there’s nothing correct here at all. Mark is actually right that “behavior problems” can be caused/exacerbated by poor nutrition, etc.

        In fact, now that I think about it again, my annoyance was uncalled for. I’m used to some really offensive things starting the way Mark’s post did, and I went into it with a chip on my shoulder ready to think I was going to read something that I’d be completely justified in tearing to shreds if I wanted to risk getting flamed for it. So I didn’t go into that response in a good mood. :/ Honestly, if I hadn’t come into it expecting something much worse, I might’ve let it slide as something that suggests some interesting ideas, says some things that are true but not well-known and has a few misconceptions.

        And I confess I worry because Mark has posted on here about autism before in passing, and I thought then that he ought not to get into that (I stand by that statement; truth on this topic is to be found far more often in people like– well, just as one example, you– than in whatever doctors and research Mark has found).

        Thank you for informing me that, with regard to courtesy, my reply crossed a line. I’m sorry; condescension and self-righteousness were uncalled-for.

        In fact, the more I consider your points, the more I think you may be right, and I wrong. Maybe instead of telling Mark to shut up and pointed out things he doesn’t know about the can of worms he’s opening, I should have added my knowledge to his and everyone else’s on this thread.

        I also realize that part of my very visceral reaction to this post may have come from knowing it would bring more “tragedy” comments. While I’m completely right to think people need to stop feeling like “yes, I think autism is horrible!” is a useful thing to add to any discussion that about autism that isn’t specifically a debate about cure (since it’s a majority position and it can be safely assumed that in most contexts besides autism-centric communities, almost everyone agrees), that’s not really Mark’s problem. I also confess that I’m a little surprised that Mark did NOT trigger at least one or two really vocal anti-cure, autism-pride activists to start a flame war here, especially because statements like “[t]here’s general agreement now it’s not solely a matter of improved diagnosis, and few anymore argue that it’s purely a genetic phenomenon” are… well, that’s false. There ISN’T general agreement, but I guess this isn’t the part of the internet where you find the vocal “you didn’t notice before and this epidemic stuff is all made up” people.

        Let me make the reply I SHOULD have made:

        Mark is correct that overall physical health affects mental well-being and behavior. It’s true that illness and poor diet should be considered as possible causes of “bad behavior”, as well as many other kinds of stressors (such as sensory overload from types of clothing, lighting, speech or background noise). Because some research does show that a much larger minority than in the general population have the kind of gut issues that absolutely require a GFCF diet, that’s definitely something to experiment with; at the same time, there are people for whom it didn’t help at all. Those for whom it does work, I believe, tend to be people for whom it turns out to have been only exacerbating underlying issues (but for them, going GFCF can mean the difference between nonverbal with frequent meltdowns and communicative and happy, though still autistic; that’s probably where the mistaken “GFCF cures autism” idea came from).

        However, what isn’t specifically a problem with this post, but rather with the discourse in general, is that some important ideas have been left out.

        1. Biomed is worth trying. However, the most important thing with an autistic child is to remember that the autistic child is– a child! He or she needs time to play and learn. He or she may need to be able to interact with parents or peers in a manner appropriate to his or her age AND neurology. (This will not necessarily be the same as how parents and neurologically normal children interact.) Finally, he or she shouldn’t be forced into anything so painful that it will result in PTSD, which is an occasional risk with some types of treatment, particularly because autistic brains may process certain types of stimuli as painful which don’t hurt normal people.

        2. If you really want to know about autism– especially if you’re a parent of an autistic child– the best place to find answers is not in the scientific literature. The absolute BEST resource would be an autistic adult whose presentation is close to what you’re interested in. Second best would be a parent of an autistic child similar to what you’re interested in, or an autistic adult who presents somewhat differently. Third best would be a parent of an autistic who presents differently. Next comes the full text of studies if you’re able to understand them, then professionals who work with autistics all the time, THEN professionals who don’t (like regular doctors). The abstracts of and any reporting on studies are likely to be so biased and inaccurate as to be worthless. (And the general population still thinks autistics ain’t got no feelin’s, they’re made o’ Indian rubber!)

        3. Finally, if you have an autistic in your life, ESPECIALLY if it’s your child, it’s important to consider said autistic’s self-worth and mental health. It can be easy to get caught up in trying to “fight” autism, out of a normal and healthy and good desire to help your child, and end up accidentally giving said child (who may not yet be able to fully understand protestations to the contrary, and may not be able to do the work of taking your perspective at all, but let alone if it isn’t spelled out clearly!) the impression that what you actually are trying to get rid of is that child. It’s not accurate– but it’s an EASY impression to give by accident, and if the child can’t talk, you may not know it’s even happened. When this happens, it’s very damaging, sometimes as much so as any of the child’s symptoms.

        So, finally, Jen, thank you for taking me to task on that. I appreciate it.

        1. I disagree that the best place to look is an autistic adult. Our kids are facing a very different set of environmental triggers and circumstances than adults with ASD. As one previous poster put it, we are dealing with an “epidemic that is most likely being mislabeled autism, is that it is an extremely complex, multifactorial autoimmune/neuroimmune disorder.” I do not think that what is labelled autism in 20+ year olds is the same as what our young kids are facing when they get a diagnosis on the spectrum. Our kids are also very physically sick, which may or may not be the case for people in the older co-hort. (I don’t know, I did read Temple Grandin’s book in my book club, and she discussed all of her GI issues, so maybe there is a component of that connection for some?)

          You could look at my son and see his bloated belly from a mile away and talking to other moms and reading lots of blogs and forums and lots of trial and error helped me figure out exactly what kind of diet he needed. (GFCF would not have worked for him to get his belly better, though it did get him sleeping). With a few easy tests, the underlying co-morbid conditions he was facing were identified and treated, eliminating physical discomfort and lessening the neurological symptoms. Don’t you think that my son was grateful to be able to sleep without pain for the first time in his life? The days of him moaning and flopping around in his crib and having night-terrors were over when I switched his diet. In fact, on the Mother’s Day card he made for me at preschool, one of the questions was what do you love most about your mommy, and he said, “She works very hard to help my tummy feel better.” Gosh, it really seems like I am somehow psychologically damaging him by trying to fix his co-morbid conditions, aren’t I?

          When we talk about his diet or supplements, we discuss it in terms of getting help for his belly. Lucky for him, we all follow the same diet as a family, and his Daddy has a lot of the same digestive issues, so he knows this is just how our family eats. I have asked him how he will talk to his friends at school if they ask him about his lunch, he said “I will say that my belly does not digest well, and I have to Eat Like a Dinosaur.”

          I think in all of you navel gazing, you are not giving parents like me enough credit that we know enough to tell the difference between an approach that will help, and an approach that could hurt. The very first thing I ask myself before beginning anything is “Could it hurt him in some way?” I also talk to him about what we are going to try, why, and make sure he is okay with trying it.

          Changing his diet was a no brainer, and we all embraced the change as a family. I would never fix a special meal for him and then hork down a bunch of pizza in front of him. Our whole family has gotten healthier and I tell him all the time that learning how he needed to eat really helped his Daddy with many long-standing health issues.

          Giving him a few supplements was also a no brainer. B-12 shots, probiotics, ADP and glutathione breathing treatments all made sense for him according to his test results. He does them all with no problem.

          The Sensory Learning Program took a bit more of a leap of faith, but we were rewarded with a child with better motor control, stabilized energy levels, and really swift progress in his PT/OT. (He was rewarded with a giant Lego set!) And yet when I was researching the program, I read on smug ND websites that it is all a bunch of woo and quackery that is trying to take advantage of stupid parents who want to cure autism. That is so inaccurate and condescending. It was nice for my son to finally be able to run without tripping, to ride a bike without tiring-out, to climb at the park without being scared that his arms can’t hold himself up, to make it through his half day at school without staring like a zombie and hunching over his seat because he was so exhausted from having such low muscle tone.

          He also does a work-out program and Tai-Kwo-Do with his daddy who is very into fitness, and we are getting some Brain Gym activities going as well. We work on getting his belly better and getting his muscles stronger. We are helping him, not hurting him.

          I think you need to take a step back and let parents make whatever decisions they find appropriate for their family without somehow making it about you. No one is implying that high-functioning independent autistic adults are some tragedy that needs to be fixed. It is a tragedy to have a happy, healthy, smiling talking baby suddenly regress physically and emotionally and have diarrhea for months and stop interacting with the world. That did NOT happen to my son, thank God, but it has happened to people in my circle, and damn right that is a tragedy. And when those kids get better (physically and emotionally) damn right it is worth the fight and worth sharing and discussing with other parents. It didn’t matter how much love I gave to my son, holding his hand all through the night and trying to comfort him when he cried. When he was in physical pain, he was not happy. In my experience, parents are not trying to “fix” autism as much as they are trying to stop their child’s physical pain.

        2. momof2groks, good for you working so hard to help your son’s digestive issues. I don’t know what the Sensory Learning Program is, but if that also worked for you, I’m glad to hear it. If it’s some kind of OT thing, I’m surprised that anyone would discount how useful those can be. (Speaking of medicalish therapies, if he has auditory issues, you might eventually look into auditory integration training. I’ve heard that some methods are quack-ish, but the one I had worked. Just make sure the tape doesn’t accidentally get stuck. Happened to me, was NOT fun. Oh, and the results are largely temporary, but the timescale for wearing off is years and personally, I’m all grown up now and there’s still a significant amount of residual benefit.)

          I would love to hear more about why you feel that autistic adults and autistic children have totally different conditions. I’d never considered that possibility; to be honest, I’m still not seeing it. As for co-morbids in adult autistics, I’ve heard of low lung volume, central pain, asthma, epilepsy, anxiety disorders (which, IMO, are probably largely physical illnesses that are being misdiagnosed), achromatopsia, hypothyroidism, catatonia and I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head. (Well, besides PTSD, but that doesn’t really count.) On the other hand, I can also think of adult autistics who don’t recount tales of childhood (PHYSICAL) woe as bad as your son’s, so it’s possible.

          Also– I’m the sort that usually gets overlooked by people like you, or passed off as “oh, CLEARLY this one doesn’t REALLY have anything wrong”, but at four, your son seems to have better communication with you than I had with my parents at more than twice that age. If you’re aware that discomfort is behind so much of what’s going on with your son, if you’re ALREADY aware of that, your son is lucky to have you. That’s not what happened to me and it’s not what I usually hear about happening to others. As a rough guideline, I’d suggest that the older the autistic, the more likely they were to have been misunderstood as having behavior problems because of their discomfort (whether illness or sensory-processing-related); as such, a lot of autistics are skeptical (and rightly so) when they hear that a parent knows what’s best for their autistic kid. Luckily, you seem to be more with it than some of us had to deal with. Like, a LOT more with it. I’m grateful for that.

          I wish you– and your son– luck in navigating this world.

        3. Thank you, Quiet Reader, for taking the time to respond to the rebuttal to your original comment. I have to admit that I was taken aback by the aggressiveness of your first comment but at the same time couldn’t quite figure out what you were really trying to get at. Now I think I understand more.
          As a parent of a severely autistic child (and with Down Syndrome too, no less!) I know what it means to walk that fine line between acceptance and ‘cure.’ As an American, I also understand that we are raised with the attitude that anything, with a little bit of hard work and technology thrown in, can be overcome, goddammit! But as a mother who has married an Italian and has lived most of my adult life in Europe, I also have seen the other side, the love and acceptance that almost all parents have for their children, disabled or not. Not to say that Americans don’t love and accept their children too, but hey, there’s a hell of a lot of pressure to just bust our way out of our present situation, no matter what! That pressure can be overwhelming…
          When I came across the paleo/gaps diet possibility, I saw it as a way to try something that could help my child in the most natural, holistic way possible. It couldn’t hurt, right? What is there to lose? In the same way, I always resisted, despite some of the excellent reviews, to therapies like ABA, which seemed to ‘train’ the child to behave properly. When I heard one parent say ‘hell, you get could get an elephant to do anything with this method,’ I really couldn’t tell you if that was a positive comment or not! Your comment about pushing autistic children too hard, to the point of PTSD, really hit home for me.
          I agree that we must be careful in getting caught up trying to fight autism rather than learning to just love and accept our child for who they are. I adore my son, but if I can help him to improve rather than continue on that slippery slope downward, which is what I was experiencing, then that is all I ask. To see your child suffer, him waking up at 3am every night, in the dark, laughing at the top of his lungs at God knows what, is not a happy picture. If I can help him, WITHOUT MEDICATION, to sleep through the night, then I will do that diet no matter what.
          I understand your concern that parents will try only to fight autism, in the desperate hope of curing their child, but I think all we ask is to go uphill, rather than downhill. The love and acceptance is already there.

      2. I have little patience with anyone in the autism acceptance community (which is full of SELF-DIAGNOSED adults, by the way, and parents who have given in to resignation) who go after parents who are desperately trying to recover their children.

        If all we are is our brains then I hope all of the ‘autism acceptance’ crowd stick to their philosophical guns when they or their loved ones start to descend into Alzheimer’s/Parkinsons dementia, or the myriad other diseases (AIDS dementia, Pick’s, tertiary syphillis, Lyme’s) that can cause radical cognitive changes.

        My once verbal, connected, joyful son’s descent into ‘autism’ was no less terrifying than watching a loved one slide into dementia. He wasn’t born this way. His autistic condition is no more ‘who he is’ than my friend’s grandmother’s late stage Alzheimer’s was her. Almost every parent I have spoken to who has a child with this new wave of autism describes the same awful process.

        In fact, I would like us to change the name of autism to “infantile on-set Alzheimer’s”. It looks like the same microglial activation occurs, so that wouldn’t be too far off. Google “microglial activiation Johns Hopkins and autism” to see the research John Hopkins is conducting.

        1. Quiet Reader-
          I think in replies, you reap what you sow, and your first reply annoyed the holy heck out of me, but your most recent one is heading in the direction of mutual understanding. Thanks for that.

          Before I had kids of my own, I was a teacher. My first year teaching, I had a student who had Asperger’s. I not only had him in my class, but in a small after-school club I coached. The first few weeks of school he did not look up much, but after getting his bearings and getting to know me in a small group setting, he’d look up at me in class and make a silly face when no one else was looking. This kid was delightful beyond measure, and I remember wishing I had a roomful of kids just like him.

          Then his mom sent our team a letter that he was having panic attacks every night, certain that he was failing all of his classes, and spending hours and hours on his homework making sure everything was perfect. He would not use an eraser. If he made a mistake, he crumpled up and threw it away and started over. I started to think about how when I graded his papers, his handwriting looked like it had been printed off a printer, it was so perfect. After reading her letter, instead of thinking of it as really fantastic, I pictured him bawling over these pages to get things that precise. It made me feel very helpless, because he was amazing at school, but really so stressed at home. She asked us to please print him an up-to-date grade sheet at the end of the day, or at least a few times a week, so he would know he was doing well. Some of the teachers thought this was ridiculous, but I just thought, “Here’s this fantastic kid, who works so hard to hold it together at school, and then falls apart at home.” I did what I could for him.

          I came across that letter this summer when I was sorting through my teaching things. Even more than when I first read it, it made me feel like someone was squeezing my chest. My son is 6 now and doing quite well, but for a while, he was that smart, precocious, verbal child who was great outside the home and then fell apart at home.

          People in my own family still do not believe me that there was ever anything “wrong” with him. It doesn’t matter that I have evals from OT’s and PT’s listing all of his global motor delays, nor that he qualified under the autism umbrella for free early intervention through our preschool after assessment by professionals. People who only see him for a few hours in party settings (the ideal environment for my little sensory seeker BTW!) felt that they could pass judgement both on him and on me. So yeah, I am a bit prickly about being judged on these things, because no one is an expert on my child other than me. I quit my career to take care of him. I do get being annoyed if someone who does not know you (me) makes an assumption that there is not anything really “wrong” with you nor has there ever been. That is BS and if I implied that I am sorry. (Wrong is not the best word to use, I am not really sure how else to put it.) I don’t know what you have been through, but it certainly seems like you have come out the other side well, which is what I hope for my child. (He is fine and will be fine, I already know that, but I do think I possible have a bit of PTSD myself from his first three years when no one would help me and I didn’t know how to help him. That is an awful feeling for a mom, one I would not wish on my worst enemy.)

          As far as different co-morbids between adults and children on the spectrum, I think there are different co-morbids with everyone, and you can’t generalize really because if you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism. I don’t think there is one path to autism, but many ways to get there, so what works for one may not work for another. I guess I just feel like this generation of kids has had more immune system assaults (did you see my previous comment about the exploding peanut allergies? Interconnected) so perhaps what works for kids 6 and under is going to be different.

          As for the SLP, it is a combined auditory, photo and vestibular therapy. Apparently, using the tri-modal therapy makes them work better than any one alone. And I don’t really get why people are so negative about to, but they are. Even at his therapy office, they tried to talk me out of doing it. Here’s the article, anyhow.

          http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2007/05/brain_hack

          For us, the diet and the SLP were the two best thing we have done for him, both of which are mocked and made fun of on ND websites. Now, we are looking into HBOT, which is supposed to be great for mito. Don’t know if we will do it or not, but we will make that decision as a family, and I am done looking at or reading ND website, because they are hostile. I feel like I owe it to him to give him the best treatment option we can afford so he will not have to struggle in school.

          My best to you.

        2. momof22groks, yeah, I probably should’ve been more polite to begin with. I’m sorry, but I’m also glad we ended up understanding each other. You’re not alone, by the way; you know this already if you’re as familiar with the autism community as you sound, but there are definitely others out there experiencing similar things. SLP sounds weird, but then, a lot of things that help autistics sound weird. Thank you very much for sharing that information. Knowing that it really does work, I’ll respond properly if someone ever asks me about it.

          CRMS, I’m sorry for your loss. That said, I believe you mischaracterize “autism acceptance” parents when you claim that they have given in to resignation. Perhaps the parents you’ve met have been that way; those I’ve met haven’t, and try very hard to help their children learn, grow and not hurt.

  50. My 8 year old son was diagnosed with a complex tic disorder last year and i believe well on his way to a Tourette syndrome diagnosis in a years time.The doctor said it was genetic and that changing his diet would not help but couldn’t hurt. I said “bugger you,it’s my son and I am not sitting by and letting him get worst”. First we removed junk food mainly all preservatives, additives and colours especially and the severe head nodding got less but still there and the vocal tics was a constant . He moved from one or two types of tics every week it seems. I heard parents on forums had great success when they removed gluten and casein from their kids diet. I also came across paleo around that time too and put the whole family on the paleo lifestyle. The change in my son has been miraculous, he still tics slightly if he gets very hot , when he is excited or nervous but the constant every day tics that he had no control over are gone.

  51. Fellow autism parent friends of ours, my wife, and I personally have spoken with Dr. Herbert several times over the years. Some of us know her very well (I do not). But, if you get her in a closed room, she will tell you with confidence the primary environmental assault triggering the genetically prone, is vaccines. She will only tell you in private company and if she already knows you know. She will not say it in a public forum; she will not admit it to people who don’t/ refuse to know, nor will she write about it. If she does, her work will not be published. As we say, she doesn’t want to get “Wakefielded” (the fate of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who was politically assassinated by large special interests – oh and btw, his partner, Dr. Walker-Smith was exonerated for any wrong doing in the same study that gave Wakefield such infamy). I know that a lot of you will raise holy heck over this post because you believe vaccines are the holy grail of modern western medicine (and I don’t necessarily disagree with you), but for our kids, the kids who have been vaccine injured, they are literally the most destructive substances that could be legally injected into our children. And Dr. Herbert is not alone. We travel all over the country so we can see doctors who actually “get it”. Our pediatric neurologist gets it. Our pediatric gastroenterologist gets it. Our pediatric geneticist even gets it. They just don’t talk about it publicly because they want to stay in practice and be able to accept insurance. The message is clear from the global medical industrial complex: DO NOT MESS WITH VACCINES or you will be railroaded – pure and simple. What i don’t get is this: Vaccines are pharmaceutical drugs. every pharmaceutical drug lists side effects, many of which can be very serious and some can even kill. Everyone seems comfortable with this fact, even if you may get an erection lasting more than 3 hours. 😉 Why do we somehow think that when it comes to vaccines – none of those risks apply or that these risks are so infinitesimal that they could never happen to our kids? Yes, they study for safety for individual vaccines (which could be a whole other post) but they have never once tested in totality the safety of the 49 doses of 14 vaccines by the time our kids are 6 years old. Without even getting into the unholy alliance between HHS and large pharmaceutical special interests, (not the least of which is the latters total protection from lawsuits pertaining to vaccine injury – again a topic for a whole other post), it just seems like common sense that if we alter a child’s immune system 49 times by the time their little body reaches 6 years old, there will be autoimmune consequences at some point. Asthma, ADHD, allergies, childhood rheumatoid arthritis, and yes autism – all autoimmune disorders. According to the CDC, 43% of American children suffer from these disorders/diseases today. Probably better diagnosis too? 🙂 If you add childhood obesity, that number is over 50%. The wealthiest country in the history of mankind and our kids have less than a 1 in 2 chance of being healthy?! Go ahead and start the “baby killer” rants now. I think I’ve heard them all at this point, but always look forward to some new ones.

    Mark, loved the book and the blog!

    1. Well said. Vaccines are pure evil. My own brother a pediatrician gave my dad Paul Offit’s book about how vaccines have no role in autism. Is this especially hurtful my son is a vaccine injured child. The reality is Dr Offit makes a shit load of money off of his vaccines therefore nothing will ever change unless one of his kids is vaccine injured then maybe he will change his tune. He states that a child can receive 10,000 vaccines and be fine. I’d like to see him get 10,000 vaccines and see how fine he is

    2. I wonder why it is that when this topic comes up, the accute illnesses that we vaccinate against matter so much more than the chronic and debilitating disorders that are now being linked to vaccines? Why does a baby who is killed or injured by a vaccine matter less than a baby who is killed or injured by an infectious disease?

      Oh, and I have heard the same thing about many high profile doctors- for example, I have heard that neither Dr. Oz nor Dr. Sears vaccinates their own children, though they tow the CDC/AAP party line in public. That is curious, but not really if you follow all the dirty behind the scenes politics about what happens to people who step out of line.

      I don’t know how many times someone has told me, “There has only been one doctor who has ever linked vaccines to autism, and he was a fraud. It has been disproven time and time again, and you need to stop reading mommy blogs and start basing your information on science.”

      And yet, if You read GAPS, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride discusses the link. If you reading “Healing the 4 A’s” Dr. Kenneth Bock discusses the link. If you read anything by Dr. Jerry Kartzinell, he discusses a link. And if you talk to or see a DAN! doctor or even a more holistic minded doctor, they will tell you there is a link. The first person who mentioned a link to me was a licensed and practicing MD. The DAN! doctor we see says that my son’s genetic vulnerabilities coupled with HOW he was vaccinated are the root cause of his issues. Our GP said (after looking at my notebook of test results) that he would not vaccinate anyone else in our family, and that I need to watch the hospital staff like a hawk and tell them that my son had a vaccine reaction and that we are opting out of all vaccines when I have my new baby. He says his kids got vaccines, but his grandchildren are all unvaccinated…because there are too many unknowns and too many new ones on the schedule.

      So it is funny how the media and people in the bloggosphere portray this issue as one of paranoid parents who are ignorant of science verses doctors and scientist, when we are going to Dr. appointments and specialists and are being told behind closed doors, “STOP vaccinating!” Or “Vaccines played a part in your child’s medical issues.” This is not an unusual story that I hear from my Bio-med group, from people all over the country. Doctors do get it, but they only say it behind closed doors.

      But the tide is turning, I think, and more and more people are getting that this is indeed a man-made epidemic. It is getting harder to deny something that is right in front of all of us.

      If anyone is interested in news and activism about environmental autism, check out The Canary Party, a group which advocated for environmentally and medically injured people.

    3. If what you say of Dr. Herbert is true, then the way she approaches the subject in The Autism Revolution is very troubling. While she talks about problems with environmental toxins and an inability to detoxify normally as being and underlying condition in ASD, she also says how important the national vaccine program is. In the chapter I just finished, a mom who wants to prevent ASD in her 3rd child after having 2 on the spectrum mentions that she opted out of the flu shot during her pregnancy, and on the next page Dr. Herbert advocates moms getting the flu shot before getting pregnant. The flu shot, which as Mark has written about has poor efficacy and still contains mercury, is a bad idea for anyone, much less a person who already has two children on the spectrum. I actually find her whole approach in the book of skirting the issue of vaccines very disturbing, especially if she actually believes they are a key factor. She is really toeing the CDC part line in this book.

  52. Fantastic article and thank you for all replies which many of are in keeping with my thoughts re Vaccination. As for diet there are fabulous results with Forever Living Products of Peaches Aloe Vera, Omega 3 and Forever Kids vitamins.
    http://www.honeybee.myforever.biz/
    This quality product of Aloe Vera gives results and detoxes the gut allowing it to absorb the nutrients and has been known to improve symptoms.

  53. Thank you for this post! I’m a former elementary school teacher with a dual credential in both elementary and special education. I’ve seen my fair share of kids with special needs. I witnessed 2 kids whose behaviors were completely transformed by a GFCF diet and am now 100% convinced that nutrition plays a key role in disorders such as autism and ADHD. I left the education field at the end of last school year to pursue my passion. I’m now a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and intend to blend my teaching experience with my holistic nutrition education. My plan is to start my own holistic health coaching service where I coach families of kids and teens with special needs on diet and nutrition changes. It’s disappointing that many people in education (and the medical field) don’t see a link between nutrition and developmental disorders. I want to change that and prove there is a link. Thank you for inspiring me with this post.

    1. Great plan, Stephanie. Is it an online program you are looking at? If so, i would love the name or the link. This is my field of interest as well. I also used to be a teacher.

  54. GcMAF was discovered last year to have a great level of success in treating the symptoms of autism. As this is an immune system regulator, the fact that Dr Bradstreet (USA) and Dr Antonucci (Italy) are both reporting a success rate of over 85% would indicate that there is a viral/immune system breakdown problem. Perhaps there are viruses living in the blood/brain barrier which are associated with the gut bacteria? The research is young, but the results are outstanding. Research continues; Dr Bradstreet gives much more detail on his website together with letters from parents, or find out more about the 46 peer reviewed scientific papers behind GcMAF at http://www.gcmaf.eu. The feedback from the parents indicates that there are a lot of variables to be taken into account with the diet, but there is a lot of benefit from working through the options.

  55. “The irony is, of course, that these children’s diets are often more likely to be deficient because of sometimes extreme sensory aversions to the taste, smell, texture, or even appearance of certain foods.”

    This is exactly the problem I have with my child, who has been diagnosed with both ADHD (when she was 6) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (when she was 8). She is now 9 years old and only eats a handful of foods – all of which are highly processed. Peanut butter sandwiches, boxed mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, sugary yogurt, and applesauce are what she survives on. I would love to put her into occupational therapy to try to improve her eating habits, but my insurance will not cover it because it’s “not medically necessary.” She also has a malformed palate, which is a physiological issue that can also cause picky eating. I eat very clean and know how horrible processed foods are, yet I am forced to feed my daughter this garbage or watch her starve. It is so unbelievably sad and frustrating and I have no idea how I can change it. If anyone has any suggestions, please email me at becky.slaughter@gmail.com

  56. Hey, guys! I know this is an older post, but I’d just like to point out the case made by my genetics teacher recently on this subject: He was saying how it wasn’t vaccines (i know this post doesn’t delve into that, but he was going on a rant about how much he hated Jenny McCarthy for saying it was caused by vaccines) but the recent spike in the 90’s was a result of a change in diagnosing the disease. Apparently, its a broader diagnosis and more kids are getting flagged for being autistic. He joked and said his wife would probably be on a low range because she’s so intelligent and has weird social habits lol

  57. I don’t suppose anyone’s going to respond to an article this old, but I actually have autism. And it’s like this:

    I have a suspicion that nutrition and autism do have something to do with one another. Why? Because when I eat well, it becomes considerably easier for me to think and my mood improves overall. I’m not sure if what you’d consider “autism symptoms” actually get any better— Sensory processing shifts nearly at random, and doesn’t seem to correspond to what I eat. Sleep shows promise as a manager of that aspect.

    During the years when I myself went Primal, I dropped from 140 to 110-109 pounds, at 5″3. It was a grand time, honestly. (I did have much more money back then.) I’ve been thinking of how I could afford go back for a while. With all that said….

    A lot of so-called “autism parents” subject their kids to crazy therapies no one would ever use on a kid without a disability. Oxygen chambers, swallowing bleach, cruel treatment where electric shocking the kid into submission is seen as a viable option. And that crowd often also tries out gluten-free, casein-free diets on their kids. The kids, when they become adults, have traumatic memories of these incidents. And in essence, the association leads them to loathe diet fixes.

    Yet I have myself experienced how improvements in the diet can do lasting good. I think you should approach the field with caution, and that people should ask autistic adults to experiment with their diet rather than parents and kids.

    1. Thanks for your comment and for offering your experience, Shenmue. (I do, indeed, read comments from all my posts—no matter when they were first published. You bring up an excellent point. There’s a difference between trying a particular change (making it as easy as possible for a child or on ourselves as adults) and imposing an endless string of experiments and therapies, some being (as you say) frightening and risky especially for a child. Ultimately, true wellness must be rooted in a sense of present self-acceptance, and this principle most definitely carries over to parenting a child. In the dogged pursuit of “improvement,” we may sacrifice something more important—a sense of personal stability.