Destinations Magazine

It's Time to Come Clean

By Thehedonista @the_hedonista
It's time to come cleanA little personal deviation...
There's something just not quite right with my youngest son. We didn't realize that everything wasn't exactly normal until he was about two and a half, but now we look back, the signs were all there, right from day one. In Australia, he has been diagnosed loosely with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Here, in Dubai, they have not been so willing to assign a label to him, but they have diagnosed language and physical delay, sensory problems, and an attention deficit.
We've been up and down with this issue as a family. Is it a serious problem, or is he just a little eccentric? What IS normal anyway, and do we really care that he (and probably we) don't fit in that box? Sometimes, he is a completely average boy, at other times difficult to control, inappropriate, and yet also gorgeous. At age four, this kind of behavior can slip through the cracks - he covers it up with a cheeky smile, a batting of the eyelids, a primping of his gorgeous Goldilocks curls, a crushing cuddle. But will that last? Can a 12 year old smack you for no reason and still look cute?
It's time to come cleanWe had decided earlier that there was no need to label him. It would make it hard to get him into school, to be accepted by peers. Whatever issues Goldilocks had, they were mild. So we just treated the symptoms, pushed ahead with speech and occupational therapy. It seems to have helped. A bit. But he's in school now, and he's just not getting by as we had hoped. Who's your best friend Goldilocks? "Mummy. "
In September of this year he needs to go into grade one, and he can barely draw a circle. I'm concerned, and positive he's not going to be ready. And in my desperation for answers, I've turned to the internet. And besides telling me a variety of things like he might have an inherited genetic issue (scary), that I myself have ADD (hilarious, but could explain a lot), that diagnosed autism is on the rise (damn fads), that ASDs have been linked to the MMR vaccination (old news, but I discovered something new), and that he probably has PDD-NOS rather than Asbergers (which was previously suggested), it has also told me that Autism can be cured by diet.
It's time to come cleanIt's time to come cleanAutism can be cured by diet....
Ok. Let's break this down. Firstly, it sounds ridiculous. Secondly, there's no difinitive proof. Thirdly, it's all very theoretical, and seems to be backed up only by long-winded recovery stories and by dieticians making money off it. But fourthly, it makes a little sense, and fifthly, it's not going to kill us to try it.
The first suggestion is that he go on a GFCF diet, which is free of Gluten and Casein. Apparently these proteins (found in wheat and milk respectively, and many other things) are not broken down properly in many people's digestive systems, despite the fact that they are not allergic to them. This causes the brain to treat these proteins as toxins, and increase the naturally occuring opiods in the brain. Yes, opiods, like you find in heroin - "leading to high pain tolerance, repetitive behaviors and lack of concentration" (source linked). This diet has actually now become widely accepted to be useful in the treatment of ASDs, but for some reason, nobody mentioned it to me here in Dubai.
Secondly, we need to avoid synthetic preservatives. You know all that anti-MMR hype? It's actually more about the preservative used in the vaccine than the vaccine itself. Check out this link for more information. There are also plenty of preservatives used in food (list to avoid here) I went to my pantry and took out four random products, and the balsamic vinegar and the soup had the baddies in there - and I'm already a careful shopper. Best way to ensure you don't end up with them? Buy unprocessed and organic foods (even wine commonly has sulfites - usually E220), and watch out for annatto (b160) - that's the sneaky natural one.
It's time to come cleanThirdly, (with less documented success, but driven by a greater gut feeling of mine) we are going to avoid sugar. Initially we had let sugary treats into his diet in our attempts to make him enjoy solid food, or any food at all. Now he eats fairly well, but Goldilocks is often destructively hyperactive, and we notice a remarkable sugar rush when he eats processed sugary treats, followed by a rapid crash. It has been found that regulating blood sugar is very effective in controlling behaviour, plus, sugar is a poison and a drug. Not good for anyone really...
So. That leaves me with some gluten free pasta in the pantry, and only some tofu and bacon in the fridge. Because if I am to be religious about this, I also have to avoid salicylates, which are naturally occuring in a stack of lovely fruits and vegetables. Also, considering most kids with ASDs also have sensitivity issues (mine does) that affect their food preverences, leaving children with a diet consisting of about 4 items anyway, this makes progress more than a little difficult.
It's time to come cleanThus, I'm going to take small steps, and put things in perspective.
  • I'm eliminating wheat. My husband already is intolerant, and I'm used to preparing gluten free dishes - no biggy.
  • I'm also cutting out most dairy, but sticking with raw butter and cream for the moment, as they have much lower levels of casein than standard milk. It might take a little while to get soy yoghurt accepted too.
  • I'm going organic where I can (so hard here), and 
  • I am cutting down on sugar - substituting with honey or date syrup where I must for a little while before cutting it out completely.
 I'm going to update our progress in the comments section below - the entire family is going with this. I'll also be adding recipes (check the tab above), along with taste (according to my other son Lion) and health ratings. So wish us luck with our new, clean living, and please get in touch if you have something to ask or share. Some good links on the subject below:

Oh.... And when I go out to review restaurants - diet's off!

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