Forewarning, this is a bit of a rant, so I will admittedly say I wrote it in an emotional state and I may sound contradictory and/or quite enthusiastic in my execution of words … I possibly get distracted then, focused again.
I normally steer clear of arguments about food and the any sort of dogmatic perceptions that claim that changing eating habits can heal a person from skin disorders all the way to mental illness. It simply is not true for everyone, every body digests and has chemical reactions differently. We all have sensory uniqueness and preferences that differ from one another. We are all individuals, I will use myself as an example. If I drink a soda the sensory effects drive me batty and cause me physical problems. I do not like carbonated anything it upsets my stomach. The sugary substance coats my teeth and makes it almost impossible for me to concentrate on anything else until I brush them, however; there is a lingering metallic taste that stays. My stomach feels icky, I get a jolt of energy then, crash very hard leaving me with a headache and bathroom problems. It does not matter if I drink a Dr. Pepper or carbonated flavored water I cannot consume them and feel well.
Other people seem to be able to drink these without a problem.
My mother is another example that is interesting, for most of her life she would get sickly eating fruits and vegetables. She had problems with them texturally and physically. Her diet is still quite limited, but as she has gotten older she has been able to add things such as spinach, broccoli, and bananas to her regular diet. It is no secret that I have been and continue to be very health conscious when it comes to food. I think growing up with limited food sources because of funds and because of my mom’s sensory issues, food sensitivities, and negative associations with food in general made me passionate about my kids always having enough food — particularly healthy food. I also, read many books while pregnant about child development and nutrition. I took it as personal mission to feed my kids in the healthiest way I could.
I made all of my kids baby food from fresh organic veggies and fruits.
I steamed them and pureed them myself. They did not have regular sugar items unless it was made with honey for the first four years of their life … I believe I cannot recall exactly when. They still have never had a soda or some sort of fruit juice that is made with sugar. I did not give them very much processed foods and we are still not that big on eating a lot of it. Even the processed foods I did and do get normally have five or less ingredients and you can read them without needing a dictionary or google to search for them. I use coconut milk, water, oil, and any other sort of milks I find like rice, cashew, and almond because Daniel and I cannot drink milk. It makes us sick, however; Daniel can eat regular yogurt but not cheese. I cannot eat regular yogurt, but can eat certain cheese.
Our dairy is very limited.
We eat in ways that many people do not. I spend a lot of time reading labels in the grocery to ensure we are in fact getting gluten-free, msg free, no high fructose corn syrup (corn suger) types of foods. I have done this since the children were born and I say all of that to express how much articles like this one upset me Chemist says omitting MSG cured daughter’s autism. I am all about healthy eating, if it were possible I would never buy anything processed because it makes me feel better. I agree with many points about diet in the article, however; I find it grossly irresponsible to suggest that autism can be “cured” simply by a change in diet. I am not sure if it is the mother’s perspective or how the author wrote it. It really does not matter, I have had Daniel on an MSG free, gluten-free, limited caisen, no artificial coloring, limited sugars of any kind for many years.
I was strict with the kid’s diet, and I admit to an extreme from the time they were born, until a little over a year ago and guess what, he was and still is Autistic.
However, in the past there were many days when I was thankful to get Daniel to eat ANYTHING! I had to feed him Carnation drink mix for about a year because I could barely get him to eat something unless it was white AND he refused to eat anything that was a crunchy texture and he refused meat, beans, or nuts. I was able to gradually introduce several foods that helped him. Did I see some significant improvement when I put him on a complete gluten free/limited caisen diet, yes. He was able to communicate verbally and his stomach problems were much less. Even recently, I accidentally gave him something that had “traces of wheat” (the one time I did not check, URG! I was very upset with myself.) he lost his words, his whole body basically shut down. He could not walk, his eyes were glazed over and he was in pain. When he eats certain foods with dyes or sugars his anxiety heightens, his sensory challenges are heightened, and he is irritable.
This is true for Ariel, Joshua, and myself too.
Although, there are other factors that could have contributed to Daniel gaining new abilities with his language during that time, he was around four and half or five when we saw a greater increase, connections could have rapidly been made in neural pathways that had not been able to before. That is one thought, there could be multiple factors, but I am not going into them. Though he benefits greatly, he is not cured neither is anyone else in this house. Of course, many people will benefit from eating a healthier diet, but we have to be realistic not many people can afford, are willing, or able to give up certain things in life in order to maintain this dietary lifestyle. It costs a lot to eat healthy! Fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive and have a shorter shelf life than processed foods. Our biggest living costs is our housing and our food. We have eliminated many things such as cable, we do not eat out very often, or buy clothes at regular price.
I frequent Goodwill or clearance racks to find clothes for these constantly growing children of ours.
We try to keep the most cost efficient phones, packages ,and many other things to ensure that our living environment is sensory and learning friendly for all of us. As well as trying to get the least costly of healthy foods which is a task — grocery shopping is not fun for me and it is time consuming. Many Americans and many more in other countries cannot do this, they do not have the resources to even consider “eating healthy.” They do not have the time to walk around reading labels to see what is in their products. I will say that other countries seem to have a different perspective about their food and may not need to look at labels like we do. Those who receive government assistance have to stretch out each dollar and are looking for the most for their money. That does not make it easy to buy organic or products such as I have mentioned above. I find it frustrating that people assume that it is an easy fix to buy healthy when many people are eating what they know they can afford. From my own experience, I had no connection to my food. I did not know where my food came from growing up.
It was in bags, boxes, cans, our staple meat products were SPAM, bologna, canned tuna, and other canned meats.
The freshest meat we ate was bacon and that was rarity. I have thought about the foods I grew up on and I believe it was the cause of much of my stomach problems, but I had no idea how to read a food label until several years ago. I never thought about where my hamburger came from. I had no idea how animals were farmed or fed, I did not think about it. I think that is a big issue in our country we have no connection to our food or a healthy relationship with it. We are not taught good eating habits, we are bombarded with large portions, processed everything, and then continually marketed to about dieting. No one thinks about how “diet” foods are loaded with sugar and are highly processed causing all sorts of health issues. You can be skinny and unhealthy and you can be larger and healthy. (I am not sure how to word that I do not mean to be offensive so forgive me if that is not a proper way to phrase it.)
I know I am going off on a tangent here, but I think this can apply to many things.
People do not think about Autism. They do not connect to it so they follow the fold like sheep listening and believing whatever someone else tells them, mainly the media. These types of articles send me in an uproar because it is not sharing useful ways to help Autistics. They are making idealistic claims. They are feeding parents and caregivers the perspective that we need to be changed AND it can be as easy as getting rid of MSG! No, No, NO! What does that do to the child? How do they feel if they show any sort of Autistic trait after they have been “cured”? What if they stim? What if they have anxiety? What if they cannot communicate, have a meltdown/shutdown, or they find a new special interest that they cannot tear themselves away from, then what? Will the diet need to be reevaluated? These are the things I think of when I read articles like these.
I do believe that if the diets of people in our country were healthier that we would see a decrease in physical health issues.
I do feel that we would see some mental health improvements. I believe that, I am not going to tell you that you must do it. Or that I am absolutely positive that it will cure all of your ailments because it might not. You could give up all of the processed foods, soda, sugary drinks, candy, anything else, and after several months you may not feel better — you most likely would, but will you be cured of depression, anxiety, ADHD, Autism, or other physical/mental issues? I cannot say. I am healthy, I do everything that they say is healthy for a person and I am still Autistic. I still struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. I still have depression and have to work through those days when the world is all a distortion — isolation consumes me. I still have PTSD episodes and my sensory processing issues get triggered manifesting OCD tendencies at times.
The coconut oil did not cure me.
The clean diet has not cured me. It has not cured my children. I can tell you with certainty that we do much better when we are eating like this. We do not have the severe stomach problems. Our minds feel clearer and we can get through anxiety much smoother. This opportunity to eat healthy should be an option to everyone, especially in a country that is so rich. However, that is not the case. We have families struggling to feed their children. We have children going to school and getting the only meal they will have for the day and some of them don’t even get that! It is outrageous. It is a privilege for me to be able to buy the foods that I do and I do not take it for granted. I was one of those kids growing up without food. My mom did everything in her power to ensure that I was fed, but she starved herself to get me that food many times. She took on jobs at the schools in order to supply me with breakfast and lunch so all she had to worry about was dinner.
I was not hungry growing up, thanks to my mom looking for anyway possible to feed me.
Though, there are many food traumas that I do have, but that is another story. I will say that I knew full well that there were many times when I had no idea if we would have food, water, or electricity. It is one of the reasons why food is a special interest to me. It is also, why I too have done whatever was possible to ensure that my kids had the food they needed. We have been in positions where our pantry and fridge were bare. We have been through circumstances where we sought assistance from the government. We did receive it while I was pregnant with Daniel and Ariel and about a year after. Then, David changed jobs and we made too much, but not enough and that pattern has continued for us. We were blessed to have people in our lives that helped us during those times. We were fortunate also because they saw and understood the importance of our family being gluten-free and trying to eat as healthy as possible. I continue to live as though I do not know if we will have enough money to get the foods that we eat.
I am frugal.
I do not waste, I think about how to stretch out what we have, but my children have never known that feeling of fear of no food or hunger. To assume, that all families can easily adjust to a nutritious life-style and way of eating is naive. When I read things that imply that it is a simple solution to eliminate foods for any family impacted by Autism especially, as a means to a cure. For people in general I get frustrated and reminded of all those people who deserve to have food who do not. They welcome any food, and if they are a special needs family the importance of quality and specific foods is even more challenging to obtain. Many do not have the privilege to consider whether it is locally owned grass fed meat, GMO free, MSG free, minimally processed, no high fructose corn syrup (corn sugar) or completely go vegan. They are overcome with a moment of peace to have a plate of food. Some families do not even have a moment to consider food options.
How can we change this?
How can help people get the foods that would benefit them in some ways? I get frustrated when I see food banks or donation boxes filled with the cheapest low quality foods possible. Why do people do that? I have seen people give these types of foods and I have been in their homes with pantries overflowing with good quality products. It bothers me. I know I have a bunch of things wrapped up in this post. It is something that I care deeply about, but have no idea how to do anything about it. Learning about food and the connections to how it affects our body and mind should be a priority in Autism interventions. I do agree with that, I think it can be beneficial. I feel that offering specific ways to help find quality food/specialized foods on limited funds should be a priority to those in the Autism Community — many of us have a lot of expenses and limited funds. I am neither confirming nor denying that changing a diet will make things better for people, but I think it should be something to consider.
NOT for a cure, but as a means to improve quality of life.
However, I believe that we first need to acknowledge the people who cannot even consider “healthy eating.” That includes children, special needs families, elderly, and those who are disabled. Interestingly, The major players that have foundations to feed the hungry are those who produce GMO products along with being the front runners in our meat/dairy economics. It’s like the cigarette companies paying for “Quit Smoking” campaigns … However, currently, GMO is the only affordable solution to feed the hungry. There looks to be positives on the horizon for more affordable options to eat organic Walmart is bringing in “more affordable” organic products. I think this is huge and with the burst in our desire to eat healthy, understand, and connect to our food I believe there will be more options in our future. Possible solutions like lab-grown meat may become more affordable and a new way to solve world hunger. (I told you that I may get distracted.) I watched this documentary and it gave me many things to ponder A Place at the Table.
- Food Gatherers
- SNAP (Food Stamps): Facts, Myths and Realities
- Food Security for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Project
- Food Insecurity and Children with Special Health Care Needs
- Who Are America’s Poor Children?
- Examining Food Insecurity Among Children in the United States