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Autism, Cooking, and Most of All, Love

Here’s the voice of a mother trying to help her autistic son. It’s not a simple matter of picky eating. Every bite has implications. But what are they? How to you figure it out? Where do you get the information? And where do you find the time?

Child-Cooking-by-Jessica-LuciaPhoto by Jessica Lucia

by April Boden

After reading a friend’s post about food post on Facebook, I was inspired to write this.  Initially it was to be a brief comment but I quickly realized that I had a deep desire to let something out.  So here it goes …

I’ve been reading the Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates.  Donna lived in Japan for many years, where she studied and practiced a macrobiotic diet.  While she’s a big proponent of this, she felt it did not resolve all of her own health problems. Later while working under Dr. William Crooks, author of The Yeast Connection, she discovered a gut healing protocol that views Candida as not only an unhealthy overgrowth but potentially a blood pathogen.

This unhealthy fungus can be transferred from mother to child, making the child more immune compromised—such as regressive autism after vaccination? Sounded familiar.

I had to think back to my own health habits before I got pregnant … There were none.  No healthy habits that I can recall.. I was often anemic or borderline, and while I was a vegetarian in my 20s, I was a very gluteny one, eating lots of bread, pasta and other crap.  As a child I was vaccinated, given many rounds of antibiotics due to a combination of chronic ear infections and a greedy doctor who took advantage of our Medicare coverage.  I was not breastfed and … Well, I’ll talk more about my childhood later.

All of this swimming around in my head got me thinking about how I can’t even begin to truly express the depth of my food journey. It’s been an exhausting, enlightening experience, to say the least.

I’m proud of myself for having been raised by a working mother who hated to cook and had us eat frozen, boxed, fast … whatevers … almost daily.  Lots of mac n’ cheese and instant mashed potatoes in my childhood.  When we all got fat, we were put on “sugar free”, “fat free”, “diet” processed garbage.  By the way, this is in not an attempt to demonize my mother. This is just how it was back then.  But by the time I was an adult, I had no concept of food’s life or energy or importance.

I did not learn most of this until my 30s, when I was forced to address it to help my son with his GI issues.  I now know how to cook, what tools to use, how to bake gluten free and vegan, to ferment vegetables, and to use herbs and spices. I’m learning how to make coconut kefir, about gathering and understanding of food as a whole … body, mind and spirit.

But perhaps more importantly I’ve learned to cook with love. Vitamin L is my most powerful ingredient.

But honestly, I still feel so far away from finding the right balance.

I’m working so hard it has me in tears many a night—even right now, as I think about it. I spend so much time meal planning, reading cookbooks, trying to figure out how to get my son to eat more vegetables, how to prepare them to be attractive to him.  I’m trying to build up to having him eat about 80 percent veggies and 20 percent meat, grain or protein.

It’s real easy for outsiders to say “just make him eat ‘em”, but anyone who is raising an autistic child knows that this is a laughable statement.  And while most kids in America resist their leafy greens, for our kids, a vitamin and mineral deficiency is a serious problem not easily fixed with a colorful Flintstone multi.

And nevermind the organic, non-gmo—that’s an absolute necessity. But what of the allergies, and the sensitivities. And the phenols and the salicylates and the glutamates and the oxidates. And now I think he has a problem with nuts and seeds. I already know he can’t eat eggs, dairy, wheat, soy and most grain. It’s not because they’re bad foods, but because he has no enzyme production and a leaky gut, so food gets into the blood stream causing his body to reject undigested particles.

And he doesn’t talk, so he can’t tell me what hurts. I try to look for behaviors but it’s often hard to tell. We’ll be food sensitivity testing in the next couple months, which is expensive and often unreliable, but I just don’t know what else to do.

I started incorporating a lot of fat into the diet because high fat diets have been shown to prevent seizures. Many tell me that Aydan might be having them, but what do I do?  Do I take him to a hospital for a 24 hour EEG that is unreliable? Even if he does test positive, what will the neurologist’s solution be? Drugs of course. Drugs that are notoriously ineffective and have numerous side effects.

So what do I do?  I research, “how to prevent seizures naturally”. Ketogenic diet? Coconut oil? Grain free?  It’s estimated that 80 percent of autistics have some level of seizure disorder, so odds are not in our favor.  Many have theorized this as an underlying cause of why Aydan learns skills followed by regression. But what do I do?  I try chamomile teas, Qigong Sensory Training Massage, nightly epsom salts baths, et cetera.

Having a severe sensory dysfunction can also bring the often overlooked problem of the inability to taste or chew food properly.  The brain signals the body to produce enzymes based on this act. What happens if salty tastes bitter? Or you can’t chew crunchy because the noise in your head is too loud; but you can’t taste soft and mushy because the tongue is under-responsive?  When I offered Aydan a tiny lentil (from what the rest of the family thought was a delicious lentil soup) he gingerly placed it on his tongue in an effort to be compliant but the mere taste of it made him gag, as if it were poison.  He tried again in an effort to please Mommy but simply could not eat it.

On my nightstand I have 6 books. One is about homeopathy, the other five are about food. Will I find the answers in these books?  Perhaps my “gut instinct” —if I can find it lodged behind years of mac n’ cheese buildup—already has an answer.

I feel at the point of surrender. Once again I look to the creator and ask for the wisdom to know the right path and the strength to follow it.  I pray each and every night, though over the years my prayers have changed. I used to ask for a cure or recovery or to hear my son’s voice. I now ask for the strength within myself to find it.

April Boden writes of the real-life world of most mothers of children with autism. An earlier article she did, A Mother’s Description of Watching Her Son Slide into Autism After Vaccine…and She Wants Her Son Back, describes like no other what it was like to find her son regressing, to watch him sliding into the abyss of autism. 

Be sure to read Aprils blog, Road to Recovery.

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