This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The GAPS Diet, Our Biggest Miracle

I have been wanting to write this post for a very, very long time.  We began the GAPS Diet (GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome) almost 2.5 years ago and the difference that it has made has been unbelievable.  So unbelievable in fact, that writing this post has felt daunting, so I will keep this one simple and add more bits and pieces later.  The diet was developed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, who has done advanced work in both neurology and nutrition, and those are two great things that really go great together.  The diet itself is based on the principles of the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I'll do a post about that one too), but it brings in a lot of other pieces and is actually more of a protocol than just a "diet".

The basic premise of the SCD is that diseases of the GI tract, such as Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, are due to an overgrowth of pathogens in the gut, and the solution is to starve them out by avoiding polysaccharides (starches and sugars aside from some honey, which is a monosaccharide).  The SCD has been widely used to address autism because of the importance of gut health for neurological health.  The GAPS diet takes that principle further, most notably by focusing on the importance of probiotics and fermented foods to restore gut health.  The GAPS diet also has a much longer and more elaborate "intro" period that, while optional, significantly boosts the diet's effectiveness.

While both the SCD and GAPS can seem overwhelming to start, many families have been able to make them work and have seen tremendous progress not only in their children with ASD but in other family members as well.  It is common to hear that a brother's ADHD was healed, or a sister's asthma, or a mother's depression while they followed the GAPS diet along with their autistic family member.

Roo had been GF/CF for 3 years before we begun GAPS, and during that time we had incorporated many other principles into his diet as well, including avoidance of IgG allergens, low sugar, organic when possible, avoidance of the very highest oxalate foods, and low histamine.  Even though he had done well on those diets he still made immediate and dramatic progress on GAPS.  Within several months he had gone from showing very little interest in other children to being socially outgoing.  His language jumped forward.  He was much more "present".  It was as if a curtain had been lifted and he was more able to interact directly with the world around him.  Most importantly he was so much happier- he literally developed a spring in his step.  He would literally skip down the sidewalk, waving to and greeting people as he went.  It was as if he "woke up".

After about 9 months on the diet, Roo surprised us all by losing his extreme dairy sensitivity.  I lost my IgE allergy to dairy- that I've had since childhood.  We are no longer acutely sensitive to high histamine foods and ate them freely this spring despite it being a record year for pollen (we did have some minor histamine effects, but not worth altering diet for).  Perhaps the most surprising of all is that Roo began to tolerate accidental trace exposures to gluten.  In the past, even a trace would send him into a tailspin for 6 weeks.  We were shocked when several weeks ago he actually ate a sizable amount of gluten and had absolutely no reaction to it.  I have been blown away by the healing power of this diet.  Personally, it has helped me reduce my ME/CFS symptoms, and made my OCD and major anxiety mostly disappear.  My head is a completely different- and much more pleasant- place to live!

Here are some basic GAPS resources for you:

Dr Campbell-McBride's GAPS site

The GAPS Diet:  Natural Digestive Healing

GAPS Help Yahoo group

GAPS Guide:  Discussing a Program to Heal Bowels, Body and Brain

Grain-Free Foodies (GAPS recipes by a friend and I)

The Internal Bliss Cookbook (featuring recipes by me!)