Interesting clip about gut health in relation to mental health.
Interesting clip about gut health in relation to mental health.
After my guest blog post for Paleo Parents, I received numerous responses from families similar to mine voicing their struggles with the process of transitioning their children, including ones with a special needs, to a real food/ clean food/ Paleo lifestyle. The two biggest demographics of these responses were from parents of children diagnosed with either ADHD or on the Autism Spectrum. Both groups of parents are hitting a wall with trying to adjust their kids diet. I can relate, I just happen to have two children each of one of these diagnoses.
I wanted to take this time to share my youngest sons story and of how transitioning to a Paleo lifestyle has help him. My oldest son Seth (you can catch a bit of his history here) is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder with sensory issues and my youngest son Mark is highly ADHD with some developmental delays due to his tough start in life. After spending years in behavioral therapy addressing various things, we finally were able to see a psychiatrist to get a complete evaluation to see what exactly where Mark was in terms of an ADHD diagnosis. When the physician gave me Marks results, he mentioned that some of his results were off the charts in the areas of attention and impulsiveness. I then noticed on the report that he had to hand draw in an extend section of the bar graph to the top of the report page because Mark was so far “off the chart” in these two areas.
Mark is from Haiti. When he arrived to the orphanage, he had to be hospitalized immediately due to severe malnourishment, along with a host of other health problems such as parasites and TB. After his initial treatments and hospitalizations, he gained some weight but at the same time, he still remained chronically sick, with a perpetually runny nose, covered in eczema and staph boils.
His days consisted of moving between hyperactivity and then complete lethargy with his attention span being only about 1-2 min on any given activity, including the ones he enjoyed (yes even TV shows).
As we went through our transition period that comes with adoption, that time of learning to grow together as a family plus working through the language barriers, we started to seek out help. During this time we enrolled him in several programs and therapies to help with his physical and developmental delays. Three years later, while still treating his numerous health and sleep issues, we requested allergy testing to see allergies were aggravating the ADHD symptoms we were seeing with him before we moved forward with any medication treatments. I had been asking for awhile because the poor child could not breath at night and would sleep half on the floor/ half on the bed in a “praying” position, snoring, drooled constantly, had chronic skin problem, with bed wetting past normal age, poor coordination and lived in what could be described as a fog. Come to find out from the testing he is allergic to wheat, soy, peanuts, tree-nuts, shellfish and a host of other environmental factors. Unfortunately during his time in Haiti and for awhile at home during transition all he lived off of peanut butter sandwiches and beans/rice (cheap source of protein) which only aggravated his already malnourished brain and body which I feel contributed to his initially developmental delay diagnosis.
After the diet change 90% of the symptoms cleared up, no more sickness (not even the funking stuff kids bring home from school), eczema is completely cleared and no boils in a year. The ADHD symptoms are still present in less severity but are manageable now with behavioral therapy, consistency at home and he is currently medication free. Diet change has helped us over the hump and has given us the healthiest and the best of Mark possible. We can now use techniques taught in therapy to help with the rest because he is able to focus so much better. We also use energy busters like running laps, burpees, tree climbing, jumping on a small trampoline in the house, karate, sitting on a fitness ball and other busy/fidget activities to help him get out a burst of energy and then at this point he is able to refocus on the initial task or activity.
Yoga and stretching helps center him a bit, karate is bringing focus and we are just loving him where he is at as a child. We are trying to teach him to recognize when he starts to feel his body is “out of control” and what steps to take to help regain that focus (starting with the energy buster routine), so he has a positive experience when trying to change his behavior as compared to forcing the change through discipline (time outs, lost privileges). I have talked to many adults who live with ADD/ ADHD and one key thing I hear them say that just hurts my heart is that they were always getting in trouble for things when they did not even realize what they were doing wrong. Two of them told me that felt like they were just horrible kids. This can make a child feel as though they are just inherently “bad” and can set them up depression and feeling like a complete failure in life. Several studies show ADHD adults have a much higher rate of addiction then the general population many times due to self medicating with drug and alcohol.
Changing Marks diet was not as difficult as it had been with Seths because we can use the “this is dinner, you can eat it or you can excuse yourself” with him. Our biggest hurdle is keeping him feeling “full” due to his history. If Mark has any sort of hunger or even thoughts of wanting to eat, he gets VERY nervous that he will in his words “die”. Making sure he gets lots of protein helps keep him feeling full throughout the day without the spikes and drops in blood sugar that do effect emotions and mental status which can cause him to become nervous. Mark is growing so quickly no due to the diet change, 6 inches just this year now that his body is able to efficiently process the food, it has been amazing to watch.
This summer is the first time that he is recognizing and verbalizing the difference he is feeling in his body and brain when he goes to a birthday party/ friends house and binges on candy and dyed junk foods as compared to his normal self. I see him making better food choices without any of my influences or prompting. When I asked him about this he told me that the “junk food makes me feel slow”.
The point of sharing this story is because I just want to encourage other parents of kids with special circumstances to just keep trying. Your days, your meals and your choices will not be perfect every time, I know ours aren’t, but just keep plugging along the best you can and set the best example possible for your kids. Thank you for the chance to share our story and would love to hear if you have any stories of the positive change that a healthy diet brought your family?
I have a good friend who is a popular local fitness instructor, who had also recently came over to the Paleo dark side. After months of asking me questions she would think about it then talk herself out of it because she felt it was just too hard to transition. FINALLY, she gave herself 2 weeks to be 100% dedicated to it and within those 2 weeks she felt so much more alive and energetic that now she can do nothing but speak praises of the lifestyle. Fast forward to tonight when she asked me to attend the first day of her summer boot camp session and talk to her class about the benefits of Paleo……but I had 10 min to do so. Needless to say I could see the look of repulsion as I talked about the benefits of fermented foods, organ meats, and other “high calorie” things like butter, lard and coconut oil. I looked around at these ladies and so many of them had this “sucked on a lemon” look that I found it comical and was actually laughing while trying to talk.
I should have realized that this quick intro to Paleo, something so huge as a complete lifestyle change, just cannot be summarized in 10 min by a chunky, no-named, non fitness guru girl. I was at the wrong venue. My true testimony of the awesomeness of Paleo is the health and cognitive improvement of my children and with myself and the reduction and disappearance of my auto-immune disorder symptoms. I felt like the whole thing went over like a fart in church LOL. Little did I know some of them were interested and 3 ladies actually came up to me later to ask more questions and find out information about local resources. The fact that I was imperfect, a busy working Mom who did not look like a Greek goddess made them feel more comfortable asking. It was a great learning experience I had tonight and I am excited that I was given the chance to share information on something that is going to help people get healthy without the premise of having to sell a product or shake, or having to “wrap” sticker things on their body to make it skinny which supposedly makes it healthier or that starvation and 4 hrs at the gym is the only way to achieve health. Thanks again local fitness guru friend, I loved the experience.
Oh Yeah !!! OK granted school has been out for over a month now here and we have already squeezed in a “summer vacation trip to Grandpas” in between that time. Sorry for the delay 🙂 I want to apologize for my absence it has been crazy with the kids out of school and my husband and I juggling our work schedules to accommodate for this, in the mean time here is a video glimpse of us doing what we do best as a family….nothing hahaha. Thanks again for visiting
My guest blog post for Paleo Parents
You are free to choose (your food), but you are not free from the consequences of your choice (your health)
Eating real food gets expensive, REALLY expensive. We are a family of six on my husbands firefighter income and with me working very part-time. There are times (right now actually) where we are scraping by waiting for payday to go grocery shopping. This means the kids are eating stuff from the bowels of the freezer and produce we can buy cheap. I have noticed when keep an open mind and really put some effort into it, we can still get by. The meats changes, LOTS more eggs are eaten at all meal times but they are a great source of protein and I also spend extra on veggies and good fats (butter, avocado, coconut butter). By doing this I can stretch our meals and fill the kids tummies. Please be sure to know there is no judgement in posting this, only encouragement from one mother who was scared that we cannot survive an increase in food cost (or a decrease in amount of food bought) when our diet changed. I have also noticed that by not feeling sorry for this and moving forward with the fact sometimes the meals simple, weird and cheap, such as shakes for lunch or over medium eggs on a huge bed of in season zucchini and squash, the kids have become more and more willing to eat it because or change in attitude. We just cannot go back to our old eating habits. Both of my sons are special needs, one with autism and one with developmental delay due to severe malnourishment and living in an orphanage. Their progress since changing our habits has been nothing short of a miracle and there is just no way we can go back to our S.A.D. diet.