Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Love it. ... Hate it.

The diet that is.

When I first started researching autism after Oliver was diagnosed I read about the gastrointestinal problems that affect many kids on the spectrum. I recalled a concern that I had a year earlier when Oliver's digestive system never seemed to recover from his one and only bout with ill health (which occurred, incidentally, almost immediately after receiving his last round of vaccinations -- but that is neither here nor there). I mentioned it to the pediatrician once over the course of that summer and again brought it up at his 2 year well-baby appointment 6 months later. My concerns were dismissed both times and since he seemed otherwise healthy I didn't think anything more about it. A year later things had changed: Oliver had autism. The pediatrician was still dismissive of my concerns but I needed to feel like I was doing something -- anything -- that might help.

After reading and reviewing what was available on the internet, and talking with people who had advice to offer, we decided to embark on a trial of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. The SCD is pretty restrictive: no grains of any kind. No sweetners but honey. No soy. No a lot of things. It sounds daunting and it was. But we chose the SCD over the more standard GFCF diet because of it's promise to heal the intestinal tract by removing what is causing the trouble and allowing healthy bacteria to flourish so that the body can repair itself. After a year without symptoms the foods that have been restricted can be slowly re-introduced. So in the short term the diet can seem overwhelming but in the long-term it seems worth a chance if it promotes healing and will allow Oliver to have a somewhat "normal" diet therafter.

We have been on the diet now for almost 3 months and have truely seen changes. Without going into too much detail I can say that we have seen about 75% improvement. I expect that will improve even more now that we have found a way to get him to eat the yogurt that is an integral part of the diet. I've also found ways to make the cooking and food preparation easier for me, thanks to experience and a wonderful food advisor.

I am also lucky in that Oliver is a good eater. He always has been. From the time we first introduced solid foods at 7 months he has loved food. On the SCD everything is natural, whole, healthy, and mommy-made. And it isn't a problem to get him to eat it. (Unlike the resident teen-ager in our house!!)

But Oliver's love of food is also the reason I hate the diet (and maybe hate is too strong a word). Like any other kid in America Oliver loves pizza and candy and ice cream and these are among the things that he can't have. When we are at home it is no problem because he just naturally reaches for fruit when he wants a treat. But today, for example, his pre-school program has a fieldtrip to the pizza parlor where each kid will make their pizza and then gets to eat it. Everyone, that is, except for Oliver. And did I mention that he LOVES pizza? So I feel mean. Denying Oliver, who asks for so little in life, does not come easily to me. I know it is for his health. I know it is (theoretically) just for a year. And I know it is tied up with my own warped ice-cream-as-emotional-salve coping mechanisms. But still.

I sent him to school today with every yummy treat I could think of packed in his little back pack.

Three months down. Nine to go.


  1. I have tried (thought about trying) the SCD with andrew, but find it so hard. I give you credit for sticking to it. I have heard wonderful things about it. I do make some muffins from recipes from SCD websites. I am sure it would help Andrew if I went all SCD. He has been tested to have an intolerance to dairy though, so I couldn't do the yogurt with him. I know its hard. I am staying home with Andrew for another B-day party the boys were invited to on Saturday. I just can not keep subjecting him to all that yummy pizza. Andrew also LOVES pizza. Stick with it though, like you said...only nine more to go. I will be very interested in reading about more positives you have seen on the SCD diet.

  2. Hey there - from one diet mom to another, keep up the good work and stick with it.

    I never made the switch to SCD (as we can't do eggs, nuts or goat milk), but have been doing almost 2 years of gluten free, casein free, soy free, yeast free, egg free, nut free, and pretty much everything else in the typical American Diet free (free of 19 or so foods, plus no artificials, pesticides, antibiotics etc).

    The first 4 to 5 months are the hardest, after that it is second nature and does become easier.

    Yes, it's hard when you get invited to activities that are centered around food. That's why we always bring our foods everywhere...

    Keep up the good work and am confident that this will continuie to help Oliver.


  3. Good work! Just think: How much is one day without pizza worth, versus many years of good health, great learning, and one great boy.