Autistic Adventures in Gut Repair, Diet Change, and Embracing Change

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Autistic Adventures in Gut Repair, Diet Change, and Embracing Change

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scdgaps-invite-2WARNING:  very long post

Have I ever told you about some of my food exploits, the ones that brought me to what I’m now doing?  Maybe not…

When I left my parent’s home for a pre-meds program, I knew that the foods I ate at that wilderness canoe camp left me feeling a lot better than what I ate at home (even though my parents really did their best to feed us all well).

And when you have autism, things that make other people feel only a little off can flatten you to incapacity, while things that make other people feel only a little better can make you feel… well, fantastic.  (Hey, there are definitely some advantages to being a proverbial canary in the coal-mine)!

Almost all of us with autism have leaky gut, also called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), as well as having unhappy colons, so it’s really hard for us to absorb what we need from food.  The cleaner and more nutrient-dense our food is, and the more it’s prepared in ways that optimize our ability to absorb it, the better we autistics feel.

So when I started cooking for myself, that camp’s little mud-stained, bug-splotched, spiral-bound, cookbook, replete with nutritional requirements and bulk-purchase ingredients, became my first kitchen bible.

But There Were Problems…

Sad to say, recipes that tasted really good while camping were only average without the spice of fresh air and deep hunger.  And they were really different from SAD  — the Standard (North) American Diet, so people could get quite alienated out of unfamiliarity.

There I was, learning to cook healthy foods over something other than a campfire, and my room-mates thought I was a nutcase.  One of them made a point of using up a bunch of my ingredients to make dog biscuits…

Now, I was willing to experiment a LOT for the sake of better health.  But I very quickly realized that I’d have to make my creations look and taste and smell incredible, if I wanted my roomies to sit at a table with me and be civil…

A Hunt to Make Eating With Friends Possible

So I started spending spare moments in the cookbook section of the library, on top of the spare moments I was combing through the medical journals, symptom-hunting, and clue-following.

I evaluated so many different ingredients, and diets, and recommendations for health benefits.  I tested out so many recipes for sharability.  And it took years to figure out how to start using herbs and spices as though adding colour to the black-and-white of basic foods

But bit by bit, I had friends and guests (and roomies) asking for recipes, asking for summaries of how different foods and preparation methods bolstered health, and asking for training.  So by the 90’s, I was often doing ad-hoc food coaching in my kitchen, or over the phone.

It Evolved Into Teaching Workshops on Fantastic Flavour in Optimal Nourishment…

Have you ever gotten weekly boxes full of vegetables you’re not sure exist, never mind know what to do with?  It’s a common problem, when you join a community share agriculture (CSA)…  It was around 2003 that I got asked to do my first food workshops for a new local, organic, CSA.

We covered pesto, food drying, smoothies, lacto-fermentation, wild foods, dips and dressings, and a whole host of other stuff, doing taste-and-try and some hands-on food prep, every class.  I guess I did ok, because people have kept asking me to do more.

Now, about seven years prior to that, I’d started to do autism advocacy and consulting, networking with other spectrum adults.  In the ’90s, it was pretty rare to find parents and professionals who would even consider that food could make a difference for autism.

  • But my body constantly made it very clear that food was a major key in helping me feel better — or worse.
  • Medical journals were making it increasingly clear that food was how the body got the supplies it needed to keep up on maintenance and repair.
  • And the very first Environmental Physicians were emerging, having realized that instead of being a machine, the body was more like an ecosystem.

What exactly does that mean, “the body is an ecosystem”?

In a machine, you can stop all movement and fix one part at a time, without affecting any of the other parts.  But in an ecosystem, if you tinker with one part, every other part is changed because the balance has shifted, and each one needs to adapt to that shift.

More and more evidence has emerged to show that not only are our bodies ecosystems, but they’re virtual PLANETS to millions of microbes that help us to stay alive and in good health, roughly 10x as many microbes as we have cells in our bodies.

And unfortunately, increasing numbers of us humans aren’t in good health. We’ve got to where North America’s Great Lakes’ bird populations were in the 1960s, such that increasingly,

  • children aren’t surviving, or thriving (autism is only a small fraction of the problem)
  • adults are chronically ill and infertile
  • seniors length and quality of life is suffering

We Saved the Great Lakes’ Birds; Can’t We Do It for Us Humans, Too?

Just like the Great Lakes’ birds, we’ve got to look at why we aren’t surviving and thriving if we want to turn things around.  In my Autism Essentials webinar, I go into the three top interventions to turn autism challenges around in more depth.  But essentially, three things are off in all of our lives (just worse for those of us with autism).

  1. Collectively, we have too much stress, and too little love (this is 4x as powerful as all other health interventions, lumped together.  Really.  Read Dr. Dean Ornish’ book, “Love and Survival“).
  2. Our toxic lifestyles have crumpled the internal (gut microbiology) and external (soil microbiology) ecosystems needed to keep us, and our foods, healthy.  For a recent and great explanation, check out Dr. Josh Axe’s book, “Eat Dirt“.
  3. We aren’t consuming foods, beverages, and medicines that supply the materials and energy the body needs in order to do its natural and normal job, which is to keep itself in good repair.  Dr. Jon Matsen’s book about optimal nourishment, called “The Secrets to Great Health“, has awesome comics…

When I began mentoring parents of children with autism, their teachers, and the professionals that supported them, they had the same problems we autistics do, just on a smaller scale.  These same three problems.

What Can We Do?

Increasingly, the question that motivates me in all this work has expanded from:

How can I help autistics around the world to truly thrive?

To:

How can I help everyone have more love, less stress, healthier ecosystems, and optimal nourishment?

Because really, answering that second question is what’s going to make the most difference for that first question.  If I want autism challenges to decrease or go away entirely, and autism gifts to be fully accessible to support positive change, then I need to look at how autism challenges arose in the first place…

And start there, with the whole cultural problem.

If reducing or eliminating autism challenges depends on the body getting what it needs to repair itself, then that’s where we need to start.  For the body to get what it needs, foods have to be optimal (because when digestion is as bad as ours is, we have to get a LOT to absorb even a LITTLE), and absorption has to  get drastically improved.

The Leaky Gut Lining Needs to Get Patched and Repaired

How DO you repair the gut lining, so you stop leaking problems into the bloodstream, and feeling chronically ill?  To heal that gut lining best, it’s necessary to

  • increase companionship (remember, 4x the power of everything else combined)
  • decrease stress (stress kills probiotics)
  • optimize the nutrient-density of foods
  • prepare foods in ways that maximize nutrient capture, and
  • starve out the bad microbes that puncture and toxify the gut lining

Unless you’re a recent immigrant, your gut ecosystem likely contains a ragged remnant of generalists like pigeons, squirrels, rats, and ants (the city survivors).  Some of these leftover gut microbes have nasty waste products that are psychoactive, neuroactive, and hormonally active, in a bad way.

What this means is that your physical health, thinking, memory, nervousness, and emotional balance get driven by your gut microbes…  To restore health, we need to rebuild that rainforest ecosystem of probiotics that should be in the gut.

But an unhealthy gut is like a run-down and dangerous neighbourhood, not somewhere those good guys are going to stick around and make a nice, permanent home.  With nowhere to land, probiotics just move right on through, being only temporarily helpful.

Fortunately, it’s possible to replace — and sustain — the vulnerable probiotics which have been wiped out by air pollution, unhealthy foods and beverages, and chemicals in self-care products and medicines.  But only if you heal the gut lining.

What are the benefits?

So my “Foodie” world and my “Autism” world are starting to overlap.  In January of 2016, I led a small group through a 3-month process to start healing the gut.  We saw:

  • dramatically increased learning capacities
  • anxious and depressive moodiness shifted permanently to positivity
  • toenail fungus cured
  • long-standing sinus and ear mucous, as well as ENT infections eliminated
  • pain and inflammation levels significantly decreased
  • Candida knocked-back to little or no problem
  • desired weight loss
  • life-long skin issues cleared
  • and lots of other things…

I’m going to keep doing it again, but to absolutely minimize die-off detox symptoms, I’ve added another piece.  From mid October to mid December, I’ll lead a group into the very last stage of the SCD or GAPS diet — the diet that heals the gut lining so that it can once-again host the probiotic microbes that keep us healthy.

You can go it alone, but you might not want to…

Lots of people have done what I did, made a major diet change for themselves, for their child, or for their family.  But I have to tell you, this is definitely the long, hard haul.

  1. Going it alone causes more stress, not less (and stress is REALLY hard on the gut lining and probiotic survival).
  2. Making a diet change in isolation causes even more isolation, not more fun and connection, because you suddenly stop being able to share food with most of the other people you know, love, and want to spend that time with.
  3. When you DIY (do it yourself) you often miss key pieces regarding toxic lifestyle choices, things that prevent the diet from succeeding, and that would be so easy if you only knew what to do.

Let’s Have Fun, Instead!

There is a MUCH easier way, that is fun, social, and inspiring.  And that requires making a change in the company of a larger, guided team.  If you want:

  • decreased (and eventually, eliminated) anxiety and depression
  • enjoyed and well-accepted substitutions for your family’s most-loved recipes
  • active support in sourcing the safest ingredients and preparing them for optimal nutrient capture
  • participatory yummy recipe collections for meals that heal the gut
  • questions researched and answered as you go

Then let me know!

Your enjoyment of the foods that will turn your life around is my top priority.  If it smells, looks, and tastes great, you might have more company than you think — that’s often how it works, especially once you start seeing health gains.

Getting Rid of the Bad Guys:

I’ll get you more information for setting up when we begin, but essentially, you’re going to stop eating any complex carbohydrates.  Complex carbs are the favourite food of the bad guys in the gut, the food they use to have population explosions and send neuro-active, hormonally active, and toxic waste products out into your bloodstream.

These waste products cause inflammation, pain, weight gain, immune issues, hormonal issues, memory issues, skin issues… They cause well over 85% of health challenges directly, and all of them, indirectly, from when the body isn’t getting nutrients it needs because the nasty critters are hoarding.

The fall’s 8-week support group is a gentle introduction (rather than January’s dive into the deep end of the full progression of 6 stages to heal the gut).

My goal is to get you enough awesome recipes that, if you wanted to — and ONLY if you wanted to — you could put on a full holiday feast that’s gut-friendly without anyone ever suspecting.  The last phase of SCD/ GAPS is quite wide-open, in terms of food selection.

I added the fall session for two reasons:

  1. I want people to get a taste of SCD/ GAPS at its easiest (and see the health benefits that begin)
  2. If people do an SCD/ GAPS fall introduction and continue, then the after-the-holidays dive into the full progression will be a lot easier.  They’ll know the rules and recipes, they’ll have already begun discouraging the bad guys, , and they’ll have developed some skills for replacing the bad guys with fresh new probiotic microbes.  In this way, any die-off discomfort is absolutely minimized.

What does this support group look like?

I’m keeping this support group ridiculously inexpensive, because I want it to be as accessible as possible.  Basically, $20/week for 8 weeks covers your whole household’s worth of questions, requests for recipe substitution, sourcing of ingredients, and other related needs.  But if that still feels like too much, I’m also setting it up for Pay-What-You-Can, so don’t let finances stop you.  In terms of resources, there’s a growing collaborative list of local clean food sources, and a growing collection of recipes, also collaboratively built.

I’ll be doing a live weekly Q&A conference call.  You get the recording if you miss it, and you have several ways to get questions in ahead — the kids’ questions have been awesome!  There’s also an online group for dialogue, questions between times, exchanging or adapting recipes, and feeling a lot less alone.
If there are other things that would help you to feel more supported in trying this diet change out, I definitely want to hear them, and will do my best to build them in.

I can’t tell you how hard it will be for you if you decide to try it out, because that depends.  You definitely won’t go hungry, and you will likely enjoy your  meals just as much as you already do.  If you already do a certain amount of cooking from scratch, great.  There’s more of that, but there are also a lot of systems and tricks to get more done at once, with least effort and cost, so a single cooking session can net you several future meals.  There are also tricks for how to plan your meals so that the absolute minimum is different between those who are on the SCD/ GAPS adventure, and those who aren’t.

What I can tell you is that it’s your questions that will drive how this group goes.  I’ll be feeding you resources and how-to, and whoever participates will be taking it in the directions of most benefit to their particular concerns.  Last time, we had someone who ate kosher involved (that was a research fest, and well worth it), someone with fibromyalgia and diabetes both, who couldn’t do the intro phase; someone with lifelong rheumatoid arthritis who took her last morphine pill in the second week of our program… Really, it depends on the needs.

My promise is, I’m going to make this as easy and yummy as possible, because it’s one of the best ways I know to make people happier, and this world a better place.

Overview:  Fall Gut-Repair Support Group

So here is a summary of the details for the fall gut-repair support group, if you decide you want to join in:

What:  An 8-week guided support group to help heal the gut lining, and restore health

When:  Starting the week of Oct. 24th, ending the week of Dec. 13th

Who:  People and families sick and tired of chronic or worsening health issues, especially those with family members in the autism spectrum.

How: Weekly conference calls limited to 10 households each, online recipe collections, and online discussion forum

Why: The hardest changes to make are the ones that affect the automatic, daily actions you’ve been doing all your life — your habits. And the best way to make these changes easier is to take away the isolation, build buddy systems, and share tools and resources. Having spent the years since 1976 gradually finding and putting in place the pieces to let me thrive with one of the most complex health issues known (autism), I’ve struggled with these kinds of changes all on my own. Frankly, I’d love to save you the extra time, effort, and frustration of repeatedly falling down and having to get back up alone… or of never seeing the kind of health recovery that’s possible.

Cost:  $20/week for 8 weeks ($160 up front)

or $25/weekly for 8 weeks (to cover extra admin)

or Fill Out an Alternative Finance Application

Anyway, if you think this is a good fit, click on the cost option above, the one that works best for you, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

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    The autistic spectrum includes such diagnoses as: ADHD, Asperger's, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Kanner's, OCD, PDD-NOS, and Tourette's. Females in the spectrum are often misdiagnosed with Anxiety/ Panic Disorder, Bipolar, Eating Disorder, Fibromyalgia, and OCD.
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  • The autistic spectrum includes ADHD, Asperger's, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Kanner's, OCD, PDD-NOS, and Tourette's. Females in the spectrum are often misdiagnosed with Anxiety/ Panic Disorder, Bipolar, Eating Disorder, Fibromyalgia, and OCD.
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  • Please note: Your name and email will only be used to contact you directly. Your information will not be added to my newsletter mailing list unless you select that option below.
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