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Diet has turned out to be such an important component in Tristan's progress. I first heard about dietary changes having positive results in children with autism in two books that I read just after Tristan's diagnosis. Facing Autism by Lynn Hamilton (www.facingautism.com) and Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder by Karen Serrousi (www.karenserrousi.com). A busy mom dependent on convenience food, it was hard for me to think that the foods Tristan was eating could possibly have a connection with some of his issues. Our pediatrician had not heard of anything like this before and was also skeptical. How could a diet make changes in his behaviors and, if it did, why hadn't our physicians recommended it? Willing to try any intervention that could possibly help Tristan overcome some of his difficulties as long as there was little or no risk of side effects, I read more about dietary changes and decided it was worth a try. Wow, am I thankful that!
we did try it. It made huge changes from the start and continues to do so.
We began by removing milk and all derivatives of milk from his diet. As I began to read the labels, I discovered how difficult this task was going to be. Milk was in almost every food that was a staple in Tristan's diet. Within three days of removing it, Tristan no longer wheezed with the asthma, which had plagued him for over a year. I immediately called his pulmonologist who cautioned that he was likely still wheezing, we were just not able to hear it. We quickly made an appointment and were overjoyed with the confirmation from his doctor that the symptoms in fact were not present. We were amazed to find that it was obviously milk that had been the trigger of Tristan's asthma symptoms and, unless he accidentally consumes milk, the symptoms have not returned. Within 2 months of removing milk we also noticed Tristan developing more social desire as well as an increase in his eye contact with others.
Tristan had a long history of unexplained rashes, eczema, and occasionally he reacted with swelling and hives. One thing that I commonly read was that some children with autism react to certain foods and the symptoms of these reactions consist of red cheeks and/or red ears. These symptoms were occurring very frequently to Tristan and I had not realized the food connection. We decided to put Tristan through a routine battery of skin testing to determine which specific foods were causing these reactions but the results were very puzzling. He did not test positive for a single allergy including seasonal allergies, for which he had been on prescription allergy medication for a year! How could his frequent hives, rashes, and swelling, not to mention the red cheeks and ears, be explained if they weren't allergic reactions? In response to these ambiguous results, we decided to have a blood allergy test done by Great Plains Laboratory (www.greatplains.com) and found that he did!,
in fact, have several allergies. After removing the foods that the lab results indicated he was reactive to, he no longer suffered from these type of rashes or reactions.
Over the last three years, we have found that Tristan is extremely sensitive to many foods. Sometimes his reactions are physical, but most often we see reactions in the form of behavioral regression. The diet that has best suited Tristan has been a combination of several different ones which include the Gluten Free/Casein Free (GF/CF) diet (www.gfcfdiet.com), combined with a modified Atkins and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (www.scdiet.com) (www.pecanbread.com). Another decision we have made that has proven beneficial is to use only fresh organic vegetables and meats because it limits his exposure to additives and preservatives. Making all of our meals fresh at home has made it a rather difficult and time-consuming diet to follow, but the difference it makes to Tristan is more than worth the extra effort. We make our own fresh ketchup, jam, syrup, cookies, etc. I was convinced when we started it that he would starve if I tried to feed him only vegetables, meat and healthy food. I was pleasantly surprised when the child who was once such a picky eater, only opting for chicken nuggets and fries once a day if we were lucky, became a little veggie eating machine. He often asks for zucchini, okra, and kiwi, which are now his favorites. He must make the connection that eating these foods makes him feel better. Since beginning this diet his behaviors have improved significantly and we have finally, for the first time in three years, been able to normalize his bowels. Within 3 months of starting this combination diet, he was completely potty-trained. That was a huge achievement, as it had been a goal we worked on for 2 years!
We have also discovered that Tristan has extreme sensitivities to certain cleaning products and pollen. We are still trying to determine the extent of these reactions and researching different options to alleviate them. We are going to try Singulair soon and hope that it will help alleviate these issues.
We still monitor his sensitivities daily and are hoping that he will someday be able to better tolerate more things in his environment as well as eat a much less restricted diet. We are just so thankful to have found that his diet does make a big difference for Tristan.