My son Dougie craves green. He and his digestive system are huge fans of vegetable based smoothies, seaweed, algae and fermented foods. These foods helped pull him out of a toxic slump that resulted in a diagnosis of autism, so as his mom I can understand why he loves them so much. But, I figured maybe you could use a little better explanation.
You see, although Dougie developed “normally” and learned to walk, talk and play the way most kids do – he began to lose these skills when he was about 18 months old. But that’s not all. After receiving his 18 month vaccinations, he developed a horrible series of infections that lead our doctors to prescribe five rounds of antibiotics. By the time he was two and a half — my son was physically weak, chronically ill with bacterial and fungal infections, and socially and mentally no longer the little boy we knew before all of the medicine. He lost eye contact. He lost words. He lost desire to connect physically and show emotion. He cried incessantly, and he craved pizza. Pizza was the only thing he would eat for almost a month before I caught on.
They discovered that dairy and wheat posed a huge problem for many children with autism because the proteins gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats) and casein (found in dairy) cannot be digested properly. These proteins produce an opiate affect in their bodies. We removed these from his diet right away.
He was still taking an antibiotic when I was introduced to Body Ecology. Body Ecology explained the gut/brain connection and how candida yeast is often responsible for many of the symptoms my son was experiencing. I learned that by fermenting young coconut water I could create a probiotic beverage that was far more powerful than all of the store-bought probiotics I’d tried. Probiotics are full of good bacteria that can fight infection, release toxins and help relieve problems with yeast. I made him the drink, called coconut kefir, and he began making eye contact and responding to his name within a month. Now, his body craves this food because instinctively his body wants to continue to heal.
All of our bodies want to heal. Often, we just don’t understand the signals. Dougie was craving pizza because the yeast in his gut wanted to be fed. After having success with the coconut kefir, I dove further into studying Body Ecology and learned what foods can really do to heal us. We spent about nine months doing strict Body Ecology, which included giving up sweet fruits, not combining grains with protein, eating lots of cooked foods, and even eating chicken and fish quite often.
We saw great progress. But we were still fatigued, and Dougie was very frustrated and tantrummy all the time. Going raw was the next natural step for our family. Fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, berries, fats and grains are far more nutritious in their raw state (not heated above 115 degrees). Blending, sprouting or fermenting these foods makes digestion a breeze and helps add enzymes and pro-bugs to digest other foods and eliminate waste.
He was in the fast lane to recovery after a few days on an all raw diet.
So, when you see him drinking a jar of “green sludge,” as many of you call it – it may be a cucumber, cilantro, lime, kefir concoction with vitamin C and algae, to help rid him body of the heavy metal toxins that he tested positive for. When he has his morning smoothie or juice he is calm, focused, and happy.
When you smell a jar of sour veggies and wonder how a tiny man like Dougie begs for the stuff, take comfort in knowing that these are cultured vegetables. An ancient traditional food amongst many cultures. They are also probiotic and have helped reduce Dougie’s yeast problem and assist with his digestion of proteins. When he eats his cultured veggies, we do not have to worry about him getting a swollen belly after meals.
His autism came along with nutrient deficiencies and the inability to absorb those nutrients. A double-edged sword. Our doctor prescribed supplements that would’ve cost us hundreds each week. But, by feeding him those vitamins and minerals through his food and keeping them highly digestible, he is able to absorb them. How do I know? Because he gets better each day. He hasn’t even had the sniffles since we embraced this lifestyle.
He gets algae for focus; phytoplankton for EFAs and minerals; tons of greens for calcium and magnesium; and quinoa, hemp, almonds, spirulina, chia seeds avocados and coconuts for healthy fats and proteins. He eats sea veggies for their high mineral content, coconut oil for brain loving fat and so many fermented dips and drinks to help keep him clean and build an inner eco system that continues to heal.
We are raw for recovery. Dougie no longer has autism. Dougie is in recovery.
So, no – he doesn’t eat meat. And, he doesn’t eat food from boxes, bags, cans, vacuum packs or out of the microwave. In fact, we prefer that you don’t cook his food at all. We have plenty of absolutely delicious recipes that include marinating, blending, dehydrating, sprouting, fermenting, freezing, and warming these foods to keep him satisfied and healthy. In fact, since Dougie eats most things that grow on the land and in the sea, we don’t think of his diet as limiting at all.
We make breads from gluten-free grains and great tasting milks and ice creams from nuts, seeds, coconut and grains. Dougie can have milk shakes, casseroles, cakes, sandwiches, nut-cheese and crackers, noodles, soups, cereals, and anything else he wants. It is a lot of kitchen work though, I will admit.
We understand that it’s strange for many people to contemplate not being able to eat a Snicker’s bar or a cookie now and then. I make Dougie yummy raw treats from soaked nuts, grains, low glycemic sweeteners and spices that taste even better to us. It’s a transition for sure. But, since we’ve chosen this lifestyle we have found friends, restaurants and stores that have helped us tremendously. Yeah, they do have restaurants that serve this stuff!
Dougie eats differently than most of his friends and family. But, Dougie is healthy enough now to enjoy their company. He knows which foods make him feel good and which ones make him sick. It’s important that you show respect for his food and join him in eating, even if you have something different on your plate. We eat like him because we are his parents. As he grows, we’d like him to feel at home in your care, so please pose your questions about his diet in a positive tone. He loves to talk about what he’s eating.
We’ve gotten many harsh comments from family and friends in the past because of our decision to feed our family in this manner. I hope you understand now, that as parents we have to do what’s right by our son. And we are so overjoyed that we discovered this way of eating. Dougie has inspired better health in our household and many others.
His progress really speaks for itself.
Gina Laverde is a green juice making mama, writer and health coach from Chicago. She has spent the last two and a half years unraveling her son's autism diagnosis with food, sensory and spiritual therapies. She runs a website to provide services to families who wish to recover from autism, and to unite green conscious women.