Ever heard of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet? It’s a diet that allows only certain carbohydrates, called monosaccharides, in addition to lots of protein and fat. Basically, it’s a lot like the trendy Paleo Diet, except you’re allowed to eat nuts in addition to seeds. Hurrah! We are slowly switching Bennett’s diet over to what many would call a radical cave-boy diet. Here’s why:
When Bennett was diagnosed with autism Blake and I started doing a lot of reading and discovered that many kids who switched over to gluten- and casein-free diets made a lot of gains. Kids with autism can have what’s called a “leaky gut” that allows larger strands of wheat protein and dairy protein into their bloodstreams where they act as a sort of opiate. Keen to try anything, we took away the Goldfish crackers and other processed snacks, bread, pasta and milk and replaced them with gluten-free bread and noodles, and almond and rice milk. I can’t say for sure whether this change had any impact on Bennett’s behaviour, but I can vouch for its efficacy in improving his No. 2s. It was as if, for the first time, our son was actually absorbing nutrients in his intestine.
Not long after this change we sought help from a Calgary doctor, Bruce Hoffman, who works with many families with autistic children. Through various blood and urine tests he found that Bennett has a yeast overgrowth problem in his gut, as well as an “oxalate problem.” Oxalates are naturally-occuring substances found in plants such as blueberries and spinach. Some people have a hard time processing and excreting them, and they can build up in the body and form crystals (e.g. kidney stones). A yeast overgrowth can impact both behaviour and health and Bennett has all the signs including eczema, increased stimming, ear batting (sensory defensiveness), lethargy and sleep disturbances. The best way to get everything under control, we’ve been told, is to starve the yeast with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and reduce his consumption of high-oxalate foods. What this means for Bennett is he’ll be subsisting on chicken, broccoli and coconut oil. You get the picture.
When we began implementing the GFCF diet in early 2012 I thought that was hard. I had no idea. Trying to take away rice, rice pasta, potatoes, gluten-free bread and most nuts (high oxalates) from a kid who loves them all could be an epic battle. Fortunately, Bennett is not a picky eater. He’ll eat most meats, eggs, all fruits and most veggies. The struggle — for me — will be maintaining some level of excitement and creativity in the kitchen. You wouldn’t think this would be difficult, given a spice cabinet, bottles of oils and Superstore’s produce section (and organics selection). I mean, it’s not like in olden times when the only thing available in the cave was a carcass, some foraged berries and a pile of dandelions. (If only Calgary had a drive-in where we could pull up in the Pathfinder and they’d plunk some barbecued brontosaurus ribs into our Thule.)
Of course there are Paleo cookbooks with recipes I can modify for a SCD/low-oxalate diet, but I fear I will never embrace riced cauliflower. And the thought of grinding my own sunflower seed flour makes me die a little inside. I am so not a hippie-dippy flour-grinding kind of mama (although Blake has been calling me “Wilma”). It all just seems like a lot of work meal planning and grocery shopping and marinating meat.
It’s the breakfasts that seem the most daunting — it’s hard to get your head around a bread- or cereal-less (and in Bennett’s case, yogurt-less) morning meal. I could always make my own coconut yogurt, but again, do I strike you as the kind of person who owns cheese cloth? Thank goodness for Pumpkin Pancakes! I also worry Bennett won’t get enough calories on this new diet plan. Yes, we are implementing this under the watch of a clinical dietician, but you still can’t spoon feed your five-year-old tablespoons of coconut oil, or make him eat his brussels sprouts (unless there’s bacon involved).
I’m sure it will take time to get the hang of, but hopefully Bennett’s crazy new diet will help him. And hopefully his grain-loving mom will get some of the benefit of the paleo plan; namely, rock-hard abs (dare to dream!).