Autism supported by GAPS diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
When mum Jenny brought her 5-year-old son Thomas to see me, he’d recently been diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum, but Jenny didn’t want to just have a label, she wanted to know how to help her son. Because she couldn’t get any answers through the ‘normal medical system,’ Jenny made an appointment with me.
Thomas’ symptoms included daily tummy pains, loose smelly stools several times a day, smelly breath, delayed walking ability (walked on toes), delayed speech (had trouble with many words), disruptive behaviour at little school, regular tantrums and frequently sick with sore throat, bronchitis, ear infections or gastric diarrhoea.
He seemed to have some type of infection every couple of weeks and been on so many courses of antibiotics during his life that Jenny didn’t know how many he’d had. Not to mention that these antibiotics were the children’s liquid variety made with artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners to get kids to take them.
To summarise: Thomas was a sickly child with bad behaviour.
After many tests, we found that Thomas had quite bad dysbiosis (bacteria imbalances in his gut) and ‘leaky gut syndrome’ (gut pathogens leaking into his blood stream, causing immune and food intolerance reactions).
Jenny already knew that he had food intolerances. Even as a baby he screamed within two hours of eating certain foods, but the number of foods affecting him appeared to be increasing. Jenny also said that her son reacted badly to his vaccinations, as his poor little immune system couldn’t handle them well.
Thomas was born by C-section and could not be breast-fed because Jenny had a severe dose of mastitis (infection in her mammary glands) and she was put onto high doses of antibiotics. Jenny tried to feed for a couple of days but it was too painful.
Subsequently, Thomas would have missed out on any good bacteria from his mum initially from birth, but also had doses of antibiotics to top it off. Not a good start for Thomas, and Jenny was not advised how to manage it. Unfortunately, this happens too often, but it’s never too late to do something about it.
With this understanding, we knew we needed to treat Thomas’s inflamed gut. We discussed the GAPS diet protocol (plus some probiotic supplements and a few other things needed). At first Jenny hesitated because Thomas was a fussy eater, but we agreed that the family could go on the diet together without making a big deal out of it. In other words, because these were the only foods available to eat for the time being, Thomas was more likely to accept the situation.
Even though Thomas appeared to not be listening to our conversation, he indeed was. When we finished speaking, he asked about his food and said, “Does this mean that I will feel better in my tummy”. So assuredly, I answered him with a smile and said, “Yes, you will feel much better and also not get sick as often and you’ll be able to do your school work better”.
With that we had his guarantee that he would try to eat what he needed so he could be well. (Then he asked for a toy bribe, which was what the family used to get Thomas to do something he didn’t really want to. Smart kid!).
Jenny went out of her way to follow the diet plan and to make Thomas (and the family’s) meals as enjoyable and well presented as possible. He coped quite well, and with constant encouragement and acceptance, Thomas completed the first six stages of the diet in about three months.
During this time his bowels became normal, he lost his tummy pains, was behaving better and didn’t get sick. Even the school said he was going better with his class work. Brilliant!
We re-tested his stools and found his leaky gut had healed and his bacterial imbalance was much better. His gut still needed a bit more balancing but the family were happy with his progress. I encouraged them to use the full GAPS diet for another six months before introducing any new foods. They were happy to do that as they had found a routine of foods that worked well for them all. In fact, the whole family felt better for the diet.
They came back to me after nine months on the diet and Thomas was different. He was more mature (and of course was nearly a year older) but he walked normally, spoke really well and was calm and happy. We organised some tests and he was a picture of health, just the way a healthy six-year-old should be.
I felt that if Thomas returned to the doctor who diagnosed autism, he may well have changed his mind about Thomas’s original diagnosis.