Welcome! This book is for parents and caregivers of children suffering from autism, ADHD, and related health issues. Based on over a decade of practical experience of a nurse-run clinic in Massachussetts, this guide will:
This information is based on successfully treating over 400 pediatric cases as well as dozens of adults. The initial condition of patients at the practice has varied considerably, including:
None of the people in the cases described above had "simply" ASD or ADHD. All of them experienced digestion related symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea, constipation, and/or excessively picky eating, to severe reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.
After a person is diagnosed with ASD, issues such as constipation or eating only "white foods" may seem minor. Parents and doctors often think: Who cares about digestion! We're dealing with a serious diagnosis! That other stuff can wait!
However, as you will read, digestion is important and dietary intervention may be the most powerful tool currently available to make changes in the health of a child suffering from ASD or ADHD. For all the patients treated by Pam over the years, the most consistent change has been predictable behavior. Parents no longer agonize over unexpected tantrums and meltdowns. Predictable behavior is soon followed by gains in awareness, cognition, eye contact, language, and overall quality of life.
For patients treated by Pam, in the few instances where a patient's bowel movements and GI function "appear" normal, lab tests revealed abnormal bacterial flora in the gut, low levels of essential vitamins and minerals, or both.
In most cases, the digestive problems had become part of day-to-day living and almost an afterthought. However, for people diagnosed with autism, digestive issues strongly influence behavior. Although parents have observed this for many years, the 2010 guidelines put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics make the connection more obvious: If someone suffering from ASD shows problem behavior, first look for an underlying gastrointestinal problem, particularly abdominal pain.2
To make the connection clearer, a 2012 study of 2,973 children diagnosed with autism found that GI problems led to high anxiety and "sensory overload." In other words, the children with autism and digestive problems became overly sensitive to light, sound, and touch.3
Regardless of age, improvement is possible for anyone with autism or ADHD. Several younger children have reached a point where the diagnosis of ASD has been removed.* Many others participate at least partially in regular classrooms. Even people diagnosed with severe autism as toddlers and who started dietary interventions in their late teens or adulthood experienced dramatic improvements. (*Note: For children who no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for autism, symptoms may still reappear if they eat sugar, dairy, wheat, or other foods which they are unable to properly digest.)
When faced with dietary changes, many parents think: "Having one child with autism is like having six children. We have to oversee school programs and therapy while trying to manage minute-by-minute care. We are struggling-literally struggling-on every front and now you are saying, 'Change the way your kid eats!' But my kid doesn't eat!"
In this book, we hope to make the process easier and help parents reach a point where they are not continuously stressed out, where days are predictable, children are not in pain, and families can spend time enjoying each other's company.
We want to note that the goal of the information in this book is to improve digestive function. Improvements in behavior and understanding will follow from there, leading to a better quality of life. Please read through the book as well as consult with a healthcare practitioner before beginning any dietary changes.
Rarely do families introduce dietary changes immediately. Depending on the circumstances of the family and the time of year, it takes between 2 and 6 weeks of planning and preparation before beginning the SCD-DF. Parents used to be so excited about starting the diet that they'd go home, throw out everything in the refrigerator, and begin that afternoon. However, by the next day, they would run out of food, leaving both child and parents hungry, cranky, and frustrated. Planning and organizing meals ahead of time are a critical part of succeeding.
Be patient when starting out. Don't run off to the grocery store tomorrow or leap into the kitchen with a spatula in hand. It's best to take your time. Read through the book more than once and take notes.
Also, rest assured that many parents have gone through this process successfully. Before long it becomes part of the daily routine.