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    Southern roots have given my family a love of sitting down to eat good home cooked meals together. Flavor was never in short supply, although as a young child processed food was. I went to school with a hand packed lunch in my personalized lunchbox every day. As I moved into junior high, I began making poor food choices as the "SAD" diet (Standard American Diet) became convenient and ever present.

    At 20, I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease, an autoimmune thyroid disorder. I struggled through poor health, daily medications, and eventually through a high-risk pregnancy. My son was diagnosed with Autism and Tourette's Syndrome at 6-years-old. The new challenges we faced led us to the GAPS diet, and down a nutritional journey as a family.

    Realizing that what we eat is foundational to optimal health I began researching, studying and cooking real food. I was led to the Nutritional Therapy Association to become a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I followed that by becoming a certified Epidemic Answers Health Coach to learn more about the new childhood epidemics: Autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma and allergies.

    I am passionate about incorporating real food (that tastes good!) to achieve optimal wellbeing. Kids and families are my specialty. Focusing on growing families with preconception support, fertility enhancement, pregnancy, post-partum support and first foods for babies. Working with kids on the spectrum to improve digestion and blood sugar regulation so that they can feel their best. Nothing about my approach is a one-size-fits-all, each plan is tailor made for the individual and family. Long distance clients welcomed!

Public School System. A Synonym for Hell

Today, I happened across this Facebook post, “In all fairness, teachers, therapists, SLPs, and almost everybody else who works with children are ‘trained’ to look for problems. It takes a special kind of person to consciously look for strengths and use them.” This pretty much sums up my frustration with school personnel in general. We are constantly dealing with behavioral problems, with little to no room for flexibility. He gets in trouble for not keeping his bottom in his chair while working. Easy fix? Let him stand and lean on his desk to work. Would that be distracting to the other kids? Maybe, move him somewhere in the seating chart where he would cause the least amount of distraction. He’s wobbling all over, breaking pencils, tearing the wrappers off crayons and cutting up scratch paper in his desk. Easy fix? He’s a helper, give him a sensory chore to calm those needs and he’ll be able to pay attention to the next lesson.

Schools are a one-size-fits-all scenario. We can’t change too much of how it’s done for the sake of one child. I get that. I’m not asking for a teacher to overhaul the way she does things. It would be nice to hear some positive things about him occasionally. Traits they can use to help him perform better in the classroom, while at the same time letting the other children learn, and not creating a lot more work for the teacher.

Over the last 8 years, Cullen has been to 3 different daycares, 2 pre-schools and 2 elementary schools. All of the school changes have been because we moved. The last school transfer happened mid-year. We wanted to keep him where he was until the end of the year, but the principal did not want to keep him despite his high test scores. The move was unexpected, and frankly there was nothing we could do about it, but resign ourselves to making the best of a crummy situation. We were right in the middle of his first IEP evaluations, so we got to start the new school with more support and a bit more understanding of his challenges. He’s been there 2 years, and made incredible progress with his team.

Last week, we had to move again. To a new district, not just a new school. The principal at his current school was more than willing to let him finish the last two months, but the round trip drive is about an hour. Not really conducive for a slow-starting Aspie, who hates being in the car for long periods of time. I start looking in to transferring him to the new school. The registration clerk tells me its a year-round school. UM… HOLD THE PHONE! Year round? As in, a completely different schedule than he’s used to? As in, a completely different schedule than his brothers? This is it. I’m in hell.

The biggest concern is that the new school is almost done with their year, where Cullen was on track to finish in June. There’s a chance he may have to repeat 3rd grade.. since there isn’t a summer school option. He’s already older than his classmates because of a late birthday. We really don’t want to stretch the age difference any more. The option that looks best is to have him complete the year at home, with me spending 3-4 hours as his “learning coach”.

On the surface this sounds great. He gets to stay home most of the day where he’s comfortable. He gets to learn at his own pace, and interact with other kids when we choose to. I get to finish the last 2 months of pregnancy with fewer trips outside the house (my fat feet would LOVE that). Here’s the catch…. What happens when he goes back for the next grade? Will his behaviors improve or come back with a vengeance? He loves to learn, but hates to go to school. He will excel at a home school program, but it may make reentering school difficult.

Anyone have any thoughts/advice on their decisions for schooling choices?


photo credit: D’Avello Photography

April 9, 2014 - 3:24 pm

Jacqueline - home-schooling… indefinitely?
obviously, something I’ve never looked into but have heard of small groups of mothers getting together and taking turns.
I suggest the obvious only b/c you mentioned how much he thrives in this type of “home-setting” environment AND loves to learn.
would be a FULL-time job plus some. my hat’s off to you parent-people.

June 16, 2014 - 5:12 am

Sue - Brynn, I think if you have time to complete his education at home, do it. I know kid in Cali and here in Indiana that have been home schooled, and they are by far better educated and better mannered than public school children. You will be able to help in learn in the manner he needs. If you get in a group, he will still have contact with other home schoolers as you do group activity once a week or more if you choose. I think it will be so much better for him.

The Little Things

Social media and electronic communication are notorious for misunderstandings. You read something online or in a text and your personal lexicon inserts the definitions for the words that are most comfortable for you. You have little context for the comment, and you have absolutely no non-verbal cues you would have if you were face-to-face with the speaker. In that way, technology should make us more in tune to how autistic people (or people with autism if you prefer) interact with the world.

I posted something on Facebook about severe autism a while back, and a good friend made an offhand comment. They know us well, they like our children, and they know a lot about Cullen’s personality. But the comment stung. It was said with humor. It wasn’t said with a mean spirit. I know enough about this person to know hurting me was never their intention. It kind of felt like they were chastising me for not being more grateful for how well Cullen behaves compared to someone with “classical” autism.  Talking about it yesterday with my mom and husband, something rose to the surface of my heart that explained why such a little comment caused me pain.

When Cullen was an infant I did not know what I was “missing out on”. He was a quiet baby, he started sleeping through the night within a few months. He laughed and interacted with me through eye contact, and I spent the first 8 months with him 24/7. He didn’t babble, or make noises that I know now most babies do. He laughed and cried… and almost never played with toys I bought for him. Instead, he wanted to play with everything he saw me using while I worked. He would sit in a baby seat at my desk or in a play pen next to it. Phones, highlighters, paper, computer keyboards… all of his favorite things. Once he started going to daycare he picked up normal toys, but he still didn’t babble. It wasn’t until after 2 that he finally started talking.

I had quickly established a bed time routine within 6 months of his birth. One that is still the same, just evolved since growing into a little boy. He takes a bath, relaxes for a little while and then goes straight to bed with a hug, kiss, and a tuck (the tuck intensity depends on which end of the sensory pendulum he is on at the moment). For years this was the only reciprocated hug and kiss I got. He would accept hugs and kisses, but he would just lean toward me. Even when I asked for a hug I would get a quick lean, or if pushed a limp noodle arm around my shoulders. Interestingly, about a year ago I was unsure if kissing him on the lips at night was still appropriate at his age. I know there are lots of families that do the lip-kiss into adulthood, but I felt a little nagging that maybe it would be confusing for him as he reached an age to think lip-kissing was ok for anyone.. even friends at school. So I switched to kissing him on the cheek. He was distressed and asked me why I changed about 4 days in. I realized there were some things that he will outgrow on his own when he’s ready. We still had a conversation about boundaries and who it’s ok to kiss and where. (So far so good.)

Our lives are full of these little things. Little things that pile up to be a completely different “normal” than the family with “neuro-typical” kids. Yes, every family has their issues, but do your kids willingly hold hands with you? Do they climb into your bed when they have a bad dream or don’t feel well? Do they hug you for no reason or spontaneously tell you ‘I love you’? Do they snuggle up next to you and fall asleep while watching tv? Ours doesn’t. He follows a pattern, which means he does a thing because it’s required or part of the routine.

Here’s where the pain comes in. Our friends and family see (for the most part) a very well-behaved child. We have worked on his social skills and behavior to the point that he can handle going out to dinner, or spending half a day with friends without meltdowns, rude comments, or rolling on the floor. And that is HUGE!! We are consistently proud of him in that regard. He even surprised us one night after dinner at a friend’s house by offering to rinse all the dishes and load them into the dishwasher! This has been years in the making and we are ecstatic with the progress he makes. However, most people do not get to see the day-to-day disappointments, coaching and behaviors we still have to work on. No one sees how drained he is from a social situation, needing to spend hours by himself, or wrap up in a blanket and roll on the floor. No one sees the angry outbursts and depression that comes from days of trying to fit in at school and keep friends that actually enjoy his quirks and personality. He gets teased, he is isolated, and he does not make the connection that it is the way he treats that usually cause those things. And we don’t really talk about those things on a regular basis with friends. For friends without kids it isn’t interesting; and for friends with kids it is painful for us. Their normal is different from our normal. When I list his behaviors out loud it doesn’t sound like much. You have to live with Cullen to really understand how frustrating it is to live in a constant mode of one-step-forward-two-steps-back. They do not see the constant coaching. We are teaching around the clock. Repeating lessons over and over and over again until they become second nature for Cullen. We feel like complainers when we say what his behaviors are… like we should only be talking about how smart he is, or any of the other great traits he possesses.

For our family, going a day without wetting his pants, getting a hug for no reason, seeing him study my face for a few minutes and ask, “Why do you have angry eyes?” or just sitting on his butt at the table for longer than 2 minutes are all huge achievements that equal a baby’s first step or first word for us. We do not need to be reminded that it could be worse. We know how lucky we are that he can speak, and that he will be an independent adult one day. We know those things. We also know how hard, how draining and how discouraging what we actually deal with is. We don’t complain about it. He is an amazing kid making great progress.

We believe in bringing more awareness to the entire spectrum, not just high-functioning. We want respite care for the parents that need it. Whether they have a non-verbal child or one that argues every single thing. We want tools for the non-verbal kids, and therapies for the sensory distressed. We want our kids to be held accountable for their actions, while at the same time receive understanding for why they acted that way. And we ask for consideration for where we are as a family… comments and discussion that are meant to build up and support as opposed to making light of our struggle and challenges.


Autism “Warriors” – Why are we fighting each other?


It was almost 3 years ago. I walked in to a lab for some blood work for myself. It was late afternoon, and the tiny 15×15 waiting room was packed. Twelve chairs lined the walls and all but one was taken. I checked in and took my spot against the wall, pulling out my cell phone to pass away the time until it was my turn. Over the edge of my screen there was a mom with her son sitting in the corner. He was probably 11 or 12 and he was crouching on the edge of his chair, tapping his mom on the arm, face, or leg, and grunting intermittently. She glanced around nervously when he got a little louder, and tried to calm him. She was uncomfortable, but not as much as he was. She met my eyes and looked an apology at me, “I can’t help it. I can’t control him. I’m so sorry he’s disrupting your afternoon.” I smiled at her.. not in a condescending way (I hope), but in a I-understand-he’s-not-bothering-me-at-all way. I was only a few weeks in to our autism journey. I had not read all the books yet. I was still quite lost, but I recognized it in the other child. I wasn’t at all bothered or upset when the boy laid down on the middle of the waiting room floor. I even glared at the other people who rolled their eyes or sent accusing looks at the frazzled mother. They couldn’t understand that this was better than screaming; better than a full meltdown in the middle of a small room. How could they know that to this child the room felt like a tiny box, full of scary strangers, that the flourescent lights were probably hurting him, or that the door screeching as it opened was like needles to his ears?

I went out to use the restroom, and when I came back there had been a shift in the seating. There was one seat left beside the boy. I didn’t have any problem taking it, but he did. He started patting me on the back while looking down at my feet. Clearly he was asking me to move. I stood up again and his mom immediately told me how sorry she was, to please take her seat, she would make him behave. I touched her on the arm and told her, “It’s ok. I don’t mind. I know how he feels. It’s a small thing for me to stand if it makes him comfortable.” I didn’t ask her if she had him on a special diet, or what biomedical treatments she was following, or how many hours of therapy he had a week. I didn’t ask if he was fully vaccinated, or unvaccinated, or if he had an iPad to help him communicate. I didn’t ask what caused his autism, or if she thinks there is a cure. There was no judgement. We get enough judging from the rest of the world.. do we really need it from the people who are supposed to be in the trenches with us?

Get someone on Instagram or Facebook, and suddenly that is exactly what happens. Bickering, trolling and judging. MY WAY IS BETTER! YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG! YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR CHILD ENOUGH! When we can’t see the other person face-to-face we can’t imagine the beating they take from our “well-meaning” words. They might be at the end of their rope and just trying to get through the day. How is a nasty, judgmental comment going to help?

No matter what “side” of the cure/therapy/treatment debate you are on, we all have a common goal (even the parents of non-autistic kids). We want our kids to be healthy and happy. Some of us might want a spontaneous hug that isn’t part of the bedtime routine. Some may want real eye contact. Or a full sentence. Or an I love you. Those are the things autism parents crave.. the things that other parents take for granted. I find myself complaining sometimes when Cullen won’t stop talking, but I remind myself that there are lots of moms that would give anything for one word!! Or the nights when I watch him stretch, wiggle, roll, contort and flap across the floor while we’re watching tv. Sure, it’s distracting, it can be comical, it can be irritating, but he’s calm and he isn’t hurting himself. He could be violent. He could be hitting or biting himself, or banging his head on the floor or the wall.

As parents, we are all finding our way down the road we have to follow. We are doing the best we can, and we are doing what works for our child. What works for mine, may not work for yours. It might be something worth trying… I’m always looking for new techniques and new therapies. But I hate being told that if I don’t believe in a cure, that I’m not doing all that I can for our son. His brain is wired differently, there is nothing I can do about that. I can help him be comfortable in social situations. I can teach him (a hundred times if needed) how to behave appropriately. I can feed him the best possible food to make all of that easier. I think he can get better. I know he can be independent. I know he’s going to be an awesome adult. And I know that he’s going to be happy. I love that he speaks his mind.. I just want him to do so respectfully. At the end of the day I don’t care if he makes a puppy dog face with his tongue hanging out when he’s excited, or if he goes up the stairs every night on all fours, or if he slithers on the tile like a snake. It’s not about being normal.

We are all warriors. We are all fighting for our kids. Let’s not fight each other too. Work hard and be nice to people.

February 24, 2014 - 11:40 am

Lisa - I can attest to the fact that Aspie kids do grow up to be awesome adults that can fully function in the world—and that their unique perspective can coax those in their sphere to grow and open up in remarkable ways. My husband has Aspergers, ADHD and is bipolar, and his journey has been rough. He wasn’t even diagnosed until he was in his 30s, but his challenges have fostered amazing determination without destroying his creativity or beautiful spirit. There is no one right way to deal with the condition. Find the way that works for you as an individual/couple/family, and keep evolving it as you learn new things. Try on different styles to see what fits, and don’t judge those who differ. Nothing is static in this way of life.

#jerf = Just Eat Real Food … But How!? {Tips + A Giveaway}

“I don’t know how you do it.” I get this a lot. My typical response is, “It’s not that hard.” But I’m just being modest. It is hard some days. Some days I just want to be able to drive through somewhere and pick up dinner. Some days I could pull all my hair out if I have to wash one more dirty pan. But most days, when I’m in the zone, it’s easy as pie. I’m now chuckling at that metaphor since pie really isn’t that easy. Three kids (one with Aspergers), running our business, and cooking real food can be a challenge, but it was something I grew into, not something I mastered overnight.

“I make breakfast and clean up the mess and it’s time to start lunch!” This is exactly word-for-word the frantic complaint from friends that have gone “Gung Ho” for real food. They are knee deep into a lifestyle that is built on making new habits, breaking the old ones and planning ahead. Unfortunately, they are probably battling sugar cravings at the same time from their cold-turkey stop of all things processed = no fun. We started off at a moderate pace. We emptied our cabinets of anything with sugar or msg. We replaced russet potatoes with sweet potatoes. Dropped grains out completely. Then we stopped all starches. I was making the same meals wrapped in lettuce or with extra veggies instead of bread or potatoes. I started incorporating more soups. I made my own sauerkraut. Then nut butter. Then yogurt. One day I opened my fridge to find the top shelf a collection of mason jars full of my concoctions, and I asked myself; “How did I get here?” Now, any given day of the week you will see one of my kitchen gadgets humming along, or a bowl of something fermenting or soaking on the counter, and you will still find a motley crew of jars with handwritten labels in my fridge. There are nights I spend 4 hours in the kitchen prepping, baking or cooking. But that isn’t the norm. I make the most of my time in the kitchen, plan ahead and keep it simple!

I have a list of tips I learned along the way that will hopefully come in handy for you. Just remember to ease in to it.. unless you’re the cannonball type. In that case, jump right in, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.


TIPS FOR STARTING A REAL FOOD HABIT – in no particular order

* Take a class. It doesn’t have to be at a school… if grandma makes a killer pot roast, or the bomb-diggity Fried Chicken, hang out and help her do it. She’ll probably make cookies while you’re waiting for the roast. (I wouldn’t worry too much about the refined sugars/flours in this case. You need to learn how to crawl before you can walk. Capisce?

* Find a cookbook/website with basic recipes. Save the harder things for later (see above). Do not alter these recipes until you have made them perfectly a couple of times. Then you can experiment.

* Hone your knife skills and buy a pair of really good knives. Prepping is a time-sucking vortex. A pair of really good kitchen knives will help lessen the pain of chopping and dicing. (Unless you cut yourself with them)

* Invest in some handy gadgets: apple corer, garlic chopper, egg separator. There are some really awesome time-saving tools that wash easily and cut your prep time down.

* Invest in a crockpot. It will be your new BFF and you won’t have to remember it’s birthday or listen to it whine about the last jerk that stood it up.

* Learn how to make tasty meat stock. You’ll use it for everything. Including a beverage!

* Replace vegetable cooking oils (corn, canola, soybean, etc.) with Coconut Oil, Butter and Ghee. You can save your Olive Oil for drizzling on food after it’s been cooked, hummus and salads. Throw everything else away.

* Find a Farmer’s Market near you on a day that you can attend. Check it out. Buy some berries. Maybe get a little crazy and come home with a squash. (These things happen). Once you’ve found a good one use it to buy your weekly vegetables and eggs. Meal plan around your purchases and use your grocery store for supplementation. CSA boxes can be awesome too, but I like a little more control than a random assortment of produce.

* Try a vegetable you’ve never tried before. I know, I know. You’d rather lick the ground than try a new veggie. Buy a little, buy it fresh and buy it in season. Google your favorite celebrity chef + the name of the veggie. Try that recipe. If all else fails cook it with butter. Butter makes everything better.

* Eat eggs for breakfast. Poached, Scrambled, Fried, Frambled, Baked, Hardboiled, Softboiled or in a smoothie. They are good for you and as easy to make as dry cereal. Eat dinner for breakfast! Sometimes a bowl of soup or leftover veggies with a fried egg on top hits the spot!

* When I buy a new ingredient (usually a vegetable, sometimes a fruit) I like to google tips for how to prep it. I had a painful reaction to peeling a butternut squash. My hands turned bright red, started swelling, then itching and peeled for 3 days. I now cut the squash in half and roast it, then scoop it out. Or if I’m lazy I will roast it first and then cut it in half. It changes the flavor of my soup a little, but I like it. I could grab a pair of gloves if I really wanted to peel it and cube it.

* Beef up your kitchen gadgets! Ice cream maker, Vitamix, mandolin. Go crazy! Avocado slicer? Apple peeler. Spiralizer. Dutch Oven. Yogurt Maker. Dehydrator. Fermenting vessels. Dammit Jim, I’m a mom not a scientist! (Random Star Trek reference). If anything it gets fun. Storage space may be a problem, but look at all that room in the microwave you aren’t using anymore.

* Start stockpiling glass. Pyrex and Mason. Pyrex you can find at thrift stores, but not the new-fangled whippersnappers with tupperware lids. <— Read easy stacking + less smell in your fridge. I’d stay away from the mason jars at the thrift stores though. Get wide mouth freezer ready jars for all the broth you’re gonna be making. BPA-free plasticware is your next best option.

* Make double batches when you make dinner. You can reuse leftovers in a soup, throw meat on salad for lunch or mix up veggies into an omelette or frittata.

* Pick one day a week to meal plan. I like to do it after the farmers market. I cut down on food I throw away (because I forgot about it) and also it saves me unnecessary trips to the store.

* Clean out your spice cupboard. This is where sugar and msg lurk. You want to eventually switch over to pure ingredients, there are very few blends in my cupboard. I mix my own chili powder and taco seasoning. I have a few blends I bought at my farmer’s market that don’t  have salt, sugar or msg. Watch out for “natural flavors” – if the manufacturer wanted you to know what they use they will list it…. = beaver anal gland.

* Eliminate soy from your diet. This will make practically everything in a package off limits. Soy is the #1 most genetically modified crop in the U.S. with corn close behind. We are only now seeing results from what GMO’s are doing to our health. On top of the GMO factor, soy is a natural estrogen-disrupter. For women the balance between estrogen and progesterone is so crucial that throwing it off a little will wreck havoc on your moods, cycles and fertility. Traditionally fermented soy is ok, but it’s not what they are including in  your chocolate.

* Easy things to start making yourself: Nut butters, salad dressings, spice mixes, yogurt, dried nuts, granola bars, beef jerky and applesauce.

* Start eating fats. Good fats like whole eggs, wild fish, uncured bacon, avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive oil, and that crispy goodness wrapped around your roasted chicken… you know the skin! Our bodies have not evolved as fast as the processed foods have.   With the large amounts of grains we now consume, our bodies think we are out of meat and protein, so it sends the message to store that energy for later, leading to fat retention, which is great if you are in a famine… not so great in 2013. You need to send the message that you have plenty of food and nutrients and get your body to start burning protein for energy.. and to stop storing the carbs. Mark’s Daily Apple explains this principal much better than me it’s under the heading Fat Paradigm. Basically, you need healthy fats to lose fat, get pregnant and have more energy. All good reasons for me!

* Stop using your microwave. It destroys nutrients. Steam in a basket in the oven or stove, or use a pot or skillet to reheat.

* Don’t try to “replace” junk food with “healthier” junk food. Grain-free bread doesn’t taste the same, just lettuce wrap it. Same goes for cakes and cookies, switch to homemade ice cream or fresh whipped cream and fruit. Veggie chips are not as satisfying as Lay’s Potato Chips, but then again neither is a veggie snack tray. Find new snacks that you love. My new favorite snack is rosemary roasted almonds, but it requires 24 hours of soaking before I can roast them.

* Keep snack foods prepped and easily accessible for when hunger strikes. I keep hard-boiled eggs, uncured salami, cubed cheese, and sliced carrots and cucumbers in my fridge whenever possible. I also have a bag of Enjoy Life Mega Chunks in the cupboard for when I need a quick “sugar” fix. A spoonful of coconut butter and raw honey work for this as well.

* Throw out your refined sugar. Replace with GradeB Organic Maple Syrup, Raw Organic Honey, and in a pinch.. stevia extract. Bananas and fruit make great sweeteners also.

October 11, 2013 - 8:01 pm

Angie Thompson Huebner - Hmmmmm… I'm stumped! Well, we know bone broth and sauerkraut for sure. Maybe a mayo?? What the heck is the bright colored one and the really dark one? I'm racking my brain. I will keep thinking

October 11, 2013 - 8:37 pm

Bethany Barton - L-R: yogurt (or maybe coconut butter?), ghee, kefir, bone broth, apple cider vinegar or maybe homemade kombucha?, nut butter (I'm guessing almond.)

October 11, 2013 - 9:53 pm

Brynn Davello - Bethany and Angie you each got 2 right. Only 1 was a shared answer.

October 12, 2013 - 1:40 am

Lindsay Guleserian - I got this. We have mayo, whey, sour kraut chocoolate milk,bone broth, and hummus/almond butter …. Not sure why you have chocolate milk, but I'm okay with it! Bam!!

October 12, 2013 - 4:26 am

Brynn Davello - Lindsay Guleserian you're in the lead with 3 😉

November 14, 2013 - 5:43 am

Brinly Standridge - My guess is L to R…kefir, ghee, whey, beef broth, ACV or komb, and mayo. I have only tried my own sauerkraut. Found your site looking up asperger and GAPS. Read the book now going thru assessment/diagnoses. Will be interested to explore your adventures!

November 20, 2013 - 8:56 pm

Aspieventures - Brinly (I love your name!) I’m so glad you found us. I told a friend today that I am very close to saying my son is recovered, but I didn’t want to jinx it. And then he had a terrible day at school.

There is broth in there, but it’s jar number 3 (chicken). These were pretty hard. Not even the nutritionist guessed them all right.

Some other correct guesses were sauerkraut juice (jar number 5) and cashew butter (jar number 6)

February 11, 2014 - 11:12 pm

Helen M - Can I still have a turn? I say: cooking fat (from an animal); pickle juice (or pickled egg juice – is it weird that I even think that?); chicken stock; fresh-pressed juice; sauerkraut juice; cashew butter.
I think you shared most of my favorite real food tips, but one I have, is to be nice. Make friends with your local food people, talk to the people at the farmer’s market, ask the random people in the aisle at the grocery store about products you’re interested in and/or how they use them, and chat up the cashier. Call your favorite companies and tell them what you love about their products. It’s another “investment”, but it almost always results in at least a little new knowledge, probably a bit of money saved, and definitely some good food conversation and new friends 🙂

February 12, 2014 - 6:08 am

Aspieventures - I love your suggestion Helen!

The Cause of Autism

Much like getting a shot, the great vaccination debate is a sore subject. I had not given it much thought until recently. Maybe it’s the Jenny McCarthy media storm vilifying them, or maybe it is because I have delved deeper into the Autism community lately; stretching for more people to connect with. We get asked a lot what we think the cause of autism is. Before I begin with our humble opinion, there are some points to go over.

1) Cullen followed the CDC recommended vaccination schedule, with the exception of flu shots. I even dosed him with Tylenol afterwards per the Pediatrician’s recommendations. However, I never noticed a turn toward autism with him. There was never a moment where I knew there was something going on, like some other parent’s have seen after vaccinating. For us it was a long, slow awakening that there may be something different about him. (More on how we found out in a later blog post). Our experiences with autism are unique to us, and every family has a different story, and I know a lot of parents see an immediate change after a round of vaccinations.

2) Peer-reviewed scientific research is not always “big pharma.” Also, “independent research studies” are not always reliable. But there’s merit in both. I don’t think I can paraphrase or explain it better than this article did below:

“Scientific research works like this:
You start with the specific questions “Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?”, “Does the MMR vaccine increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease?” and so forth. You then design a study to test that question. It’s not starting from one “side” or the other, trying to seek proof for it. That’s the way politics works, not science. When you get an answer, it’s either “yes” or “no” (actually it tends to be “there is a statistically significant association between this drug and this disease” or “there is NOT a statistically significant association between this drug and this disease.”) Your results are submitted to experts for peer review. These experts then go over your results and methods with a fine-toothed comb, trying to find weaknesses in your approach, or over-interpretation of the results. They evaluate your statistics to make sure that they’re correct. If they decide that it’s acceptable (and this is usually a very hard test to pass), your paper gets published and is considered “peer-reviewed.” But that’s not the end.

Studies are then done by other research groups to both test and build upon your results. While the initial screen by peer reviewers is very stringent, it doesn’t always catch mistakes, and can miss identifying faked data. However, all scientific research is iterative–that is, it builds upon a foundation created by other research. So if your results are wrong, or faked, it will quickly become obvious to other researchers who try to replicate or use them. Scientific consensus is VERY hard to achieve. So when it happens, pay attention.” –From The Truth About Vaccinations: Your Physician Knows More Than The University of Google

3) We have a very close friend who is a scientific researcher in biology and genetics. His skills allow him to pull up the actual papers written on most of the blogs and read the actual research and the findings. This gives us an insight into the more relevant forms of research rather than what the bloggers are reading between the lines. He’s able to tell me when something is stretching the limits of scientific probability and when there might actually be some truth behind it. Which allows us to make a more informed decision. Which is what I think everyone should be doing. Taking time to learn both sides of the issue from an unbiased source.

4) No parent on either side of the issue is trying to harm their child or yours. They are doing what they think is right and we are all entitled to our opinion. Respect others and they will respect you… or you can block them, that usually works.

5) I’m not a doctor. I’m not a health professional. I’m not even an expert on autism. I’m an expert on my son with autism. Just a mom. Giving my two cents.

Our Opinion:

Vaccines have been on the brain lately as many of our friends have started their families and started asking questions about where we stand, and also as we consider adding to our own family. Beyond preparing my body with the GAPS food plan, Nourishing Traditions recommendations, and supplementation, I have considered what we would do differently the next time around. Hospital Birth vs. Home Birth? Vaccinations vs. Unvaxed? Formula vs Breastfeeding? What about ultrasounds? What about my high mercury load? The list goes on and on.

A little personal history is required here… bear with me. I developed an auto-immune, hyperactive thyroid disorder called Grave’s Disease at 18-years-old. My paternal grandfather had also struggled with the same disorder decades earlier when the standard treatment was radioactive iodine to essentially kill your thyroid function. I refused this treatment and was put on two different types of medication to control my thyroid and my rapid heart rate. For years I took 10 pills a day. My cardiovascular abilities were severely limited, I struggled with fatigue, shaking hands, pounding and racing heart beat, and constant trips to the endocrinologist to  monitor my thyroid levels and liver function. My doctor continued to push for the radioactive iodine, telling me that it was the best course of action, that my body would eventually reject the medication or my liver would be compromised. The thing about that treatment is once it is done you become dependent on thyroid hormones in a pill form, because you have killed the gland that produces them naturally. I was the opposite of “healthy” in those days, but this plan of action went against what I thought was right. I knew that maintaining proper thyroid levels was a delicate dance that usually results in the patient becoming overweight, obese or even developing diabetes. I researched the disorder and found that, while the roots were probably genetic, it could be triggered by a traumatic event (which had happened), and that there was a small chance that your body would figure out it shouldn’t be fighting itself and the condition would dissipate. I was willing to wait it out and see what happened. Luckily for me I did eventually normal out.

Not before I became pregnant with Cullen. Because of my thyroid problems I was classified as a high-risk pregnancy. I continued with my thyroid medications AND during this time period discovered that one of the medications was causing tooth decay. So I had multiple (well over 10) amalgam fillings performed before and during my pregnancy. I was breathing in all of those mercury vapors when they were working on my teeth. Wonderful. We know that mercury passes through the placenta barrier to the fetus, so Cullen may have started out with a higher mercury load than his body could effectively deal with. In spite of that, he was quite healthy. I went to full-term, and didn’t have a cesarean. He had a mild case of jaundice, but all-in-all no serious concerns. I was unable to breastfeed, which would have bolstered his developing immune system.

Here’s where I switch gears to the immune system. According to the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, the immune system begins in the gut. An infant gets it’s gut flora from it’s mother. It happens during the birthing. Up until this point the baby’s gut is sterile it has to be populated with beneficial bacteria that will protect the baby from pathogenic bacteria, infection and disease. Breastfeeding continues that population of the gut flora and provides antibodies that are in the mother’s body as well. Here is where it gets interesting for me. Genetics play a part, but the health of your mother, and her mother, and her mother before are directly relational to the types of immune responses you have. Of course dad’s genetics play a part as well without a doubt. I think this is a lot of why we are seeing a spike in the increase of autism and all kinds of other auto-immune disorders. The rise is also attributed to better diagnostics, and a better understanding of what the Autism Spectrum is and what it looks like. 30 years ago a kid with autism may have been called weird or quirky, or mentally challenged. But wouldn’t the diagnoses have leveled out by now? They are continuing to rise! So are life-threatening food allergies.

So what is the common thread? Not vaccines. There are many children who have never been vaccinated that still develop an Autism Spectrum disorder. I think it’s the way we eat! The infiltration of processed food into our lives has become prevalent since the 1950’s, and we are seeing direct decreases in the health of our gut. Foods loaded with sugar, preservatives, chemicals, genetically-modified ingredients, and harmful additives have become the norm not the exception. We have migrated from a traditional diet consisting of plants and animals (the WHOLE animal, not just the lean parts) to a diet full of grains, dead dairy products, unhealthy fats, estrogen-disrupting soy, and high-fructose corn syrup. We are essentially feeding the bad flora, and not replenishing the good. Eating yogurt every day is not enough. You need a nutrient dense diet that focuses on building good flora through fermented foods. Let’s follow the progression. Great-grandma starts buying cereals, Bisquick, and canned food. Grandma has minor allergies. She starts including freezer meals, more dinners out, candy at the movies and occasional trips to the ice cream shop. Mom has somewhat worse allergies, maybe some eczema and mild depression. She starts including 2 processed food meals per day, sodas, high-sugar coffee drinks and lots more fast food. You have food allergies, acne, IBS, an auto-immune disorder and migraines. You eat fast food more than you eat home cooked meals. Your home cooked meals consist of low-quality meats, a box of something that looks like a starch, but you cannot pronounce the ingredients much less identify them, and a cans of vegetables. You follow all of that up with caffeine and hfcs loaded beverages and frankenfood snacks. You can’t control your weight, so you go to fat-free foods and cut all types of fat out of your diet even the good ones, but you still can’t drop the extra weight. You might switch to soy based products and then struggle with fertility. Each generation dilutes the health of their gut flora and passes it on to the next. Conservatorship of your body and immune system are equal to teaching your children what healthy food is. You have to protect it in order to pass on something worthwhile to the next generation.

We’ve established that my immune system was compromised, that my heavy metal load was probably high. My diet was severely deficient in nutrients. You can get an idea of it in a previous post here. The other factors I know now is that my paternal side has a strong genetic predisposition towards the spectrum. My dad was definitely ADD, and his brother could arguably be considered to have a mild case of Asperger’s, my sister as well, and I think I am half Aspie. I would never be diagnosed with it now, but I have learned to cope and get around my social quirks and shyness. When I’m stressed I think I feel a fraction of what Cullen feels on a daily basis. I never thought twice about vaccines. I just followed the advice of our pediatrician. Do I think that vaccinating Cullen caused his autism? No.Would I do it again? Probably not. I would follow the advice in the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, which recommends a test to determine the health of the gut to begin with. At the very least it recommends waiting for the infant to be much older than your pediatrician recommends to start immunizations if you are going to give them at all.

In our opinion it comes down to compromised immune systems due to the quality and types of food we are eating, the chemicals we are exposed to in the environment, in cleaning products and in personal care items. In Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, there is a compelling passage, “A compromised immune system is not going to react to environmental insults in the normal way! Vaccination is a huge insult to the immune system. The manufacturers of vaccines produce them for children with normal immune systems, which will react to these vaccines in a predictable way. However, in our modern society with our modern way of life, we are rapidly moving to a situation where a growing proportion of children do not have a normal immune system and will not produce an expected reaction to the vaccine. In some of these children vaccination, putting an enormous strain on an already compromised immune system, becomes that “last straw which breaks the camel’s back” and brings on the beginning of autism, asthma, eczema, diabetes, etc. In other children, whose immune system is compromised to a lesser degree, vaccination will not start the disorder, but it will deepen the damage and move the child closer to it. However, if the the child’s immune system is severely compromised, then the child will get ill even if vaccinations are completely avoided. […] It is the state of the child’s immune system that appears to be the decisive factor, not the vaccines.

“Following all the scandals around vaccinations it is no surprise that a lot of people around the world believe that we should abandon childhood vaccinations altogether. What these people forget is that before the vaccination era it was quite normal for every family to lose one, two, three and sometimes even more children to childhood infections, like measles, rubella, mumps and others. This is the natural selection law, which Mother Nature has imposed on all living creatures on earth. […] In our modern world we humans are not prepared to obey this law. No mother would allow her child to perish, when there are ways to let the child live. […] Vaccinations are one of those ways we humans have invented to allow our weaklings to survive. So, we cannot abandon vaccinations altogether unless we are prepared to obey the laws of Nature. We have to come up with a more rational approach to vaccinations.” From Gut & Psychology Syndrome

You would have to read the book yourself to form your own conclusions, but it recommends an immunological survey with stool and urine analysis performed to determine the risk for a dysfunctional gut. If the mother, older siblings or the child present any forms of autoimmune or neurological disorders vaccinations should be withheld and the child retested at a later age; vaccinations should be administered separately when possible. As of right now we are leaning toward an alternative vaccination schedule, which would most likely include none of the “new” vaccines like chicken pox, and no flu shots. According to the GAPS plan a second child should not be vaccinated. If we choose the unvaccinated route then precautions have to be taken to make sure there was lower risks of infection; for instance, I don’t see how a traditional daycare setting would be safe with other children potentially shedding live viruses. And breastfeeding for a longer period of time than is considered “normal” today would be required.

Friends of mine have recommended a class at Dragonfly Natural Health for anyone in the Los Angeles area that provides an enormous amount of information about how the immune system works, childhood illnesses, different types of vaccines and the concerns that go with them, the standard vaccination schedule and how to alter it for your child, how to make them easier on your child, and how to protect an non-vaccinated child. It presents every angle of both sides of the issue. They go into which vaccines contain live viruses, why mercury and aluminum are used to carry the virus, and how to make an informed decision.



August 30, 2013 - 9:06 am

Bethany Barton - My friend is so smart.

I have questions for you! Is the GAPS vaccine protocol in the Gut & Psyche Syndrome book? I want to check that protocol out.

August 30, 2013 - 9:11 am

Aspieventures - Yes it is Bethany! It is pretty close to the one you outlined from your workshop with the exception of the immunological survey and stool and urine tests done before deciding to vaccinate. I’m sure that our GAPS certified nutritional therapist at Selah Wellness, can order these tests.

Also, the GAPS book would recommend that you and I wait until our babies were older to consider vaccinating based on our history, and in my case an older sibling with autism. Measles is pretty serious though and I for sure would give that one.

August 20, 2014 - 1:59 pm

Anonymous - Some common threads on autism I wish people would address more: The coincidence that usually the first born son is the one to have autism (hence in the old days autism being called "juniors disease) and the coincidence that there is more often than not someone in the family tree that had autism within a couple of generations.