Anyone reading me for any amount of time on the subject of autism knows that I am the last person to capriciously recommend any sort of dietary intervention with the intention of curing autism. Special diets can be time consuming and expensive and represent one more additional hardship on a family already challenged by the behaviors posed by children with significant developmental delays. The evidence supporting dietary intervention for autism is anecdotal, at best. The entire concept of “autism recovery” is suspect. When we tried the diet several years ago, it failed in many ways with no discernible results. Rather than look at it as a failure, we simply moved on. Or at least I and the kids did, more or less.
A couple months ago, the dietary bit came up again as Jane* tested Thomas* for allergies. The result was a bit shocking. For the past 8 years we’ve been giving him soy milk for a suspected dairy allergy. The tests came back and showed him totally off the chart for SOY allergies while showing very little reaction to dairy foods. So that began changing things as soy is in everything that is processed. Anything with vegetable fat contains soy and everything looking to boost protein which is most things. So we have been reading labels quite a lot. He also has a bit of an allergy to eggs as does our youngest son. I could be, but I’m not suffering from any illness or discomfort so have never bothered to test.
Then we recently got tests back for Jane. She is also allergic to soy (and has been drinking soy milk for years) in addition to wheat (and anything wheat-like), eggs and cane sugar. Highly allergic. So now we are going to have to be dieting. Funnily enough, I have already been on a diet to lose weight last year that totally avoided all of those foods. I also don’t mind eating the same thing everyday, which the boys are fine with but it drives Jane nuts. She likes a lot of variety in her diet and has always been the most challenging person in the family to cook for because she easily tires of foods, even several served in a rotation. Notable exceptions include things with lots of wheat and sugar.
The difference between our efforts now and years ago is that we have a definite medical diagnosis that is easily arrived at with a blood test. This is different that trying to use diet to work on something like autism. Certainly, allergies (and autism) are ubiquitous enough to overlap. Relieving allergic symptoms and reactions can certainly improve the symptoms and disposition of any person, autistic or not. The proscribed treatment is eliminating the offending foods for 6 weeks or so and then reintroducing those foods to see what happens. It is a classic A-B single subject experimental design and a body could do endless reversals in order to establish a functional relationship between the symptoms and the food. This is jusy good science. Assuming we can control the diet completely, it isn’t that hard to see if anything happens physically.
Anyway, the key to working this type of diet is to focus more on the things you can have, rather than trying to always substitute for things you can’t have. I think this is where so many people and families get into trouble and it was our downfall. Gluten-free bread is massively expensive on the order of $6-9 a pound. The flours are also 4-6x more expensive than what a person typically pulls off the shelf. But not every diet in the world revolves around wheat. In fact, before Columbus, the indigenous Americans lived very well on things that did not contain wheat, soy, eggs, milk or cane sugar. The primary meso American diet was based on corn and different bean proteins. Tomatoes, potatoes and squash were all native foods. So it is there where I have done some research and drawn some inspiration
The Asian diet was based on rice, but soy was a more major source of protein.
Here is a recipe for some tasty cookies that satisfy the dietary requirements listed above. Feel free to adapt and substitute as you see fit.
– 1 c masa harina (corn flour)
– 1/2 cup potato flakes
– 1/2 cup oatmeal (There’s some controversy about the gluten free-ness of oats but Jane’s tests showed she was good for oats)
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 c dried fruit and/or nuts (I have a bag that I mix up that contain raisins, craisins, walnuts, pecans, almonds and a few other things)
– 2-3 Tbsp milled flax seed
– 2 eggs (Their equivalent in our case, Ener-G)
– 1/4-1/2 cup of oil
– 1 c light corn syrup
– 1 tsp vanilla
Mix each up separately and then all together. Add more potato flakes if it is too runny. Spoon on to a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes. It makes about 1 1/2 to 2 dozen. Here’s a video of me and the whole process:
I made this thing out of my head from scratch and it came out pretty good the first time! So the video was shot making a second batch. The oil was a bit excessive so I ended up adding potato flakes off camera to thicken the batter. It’s basically like an oatmeal raisin cookie and is supper delish. The corn flour and flax seeds added a real novel depth to the taste, but that could be just me.
I made up a dry mix for pancakes which we tried tonight and they turned out really well. In fact they went too well and the batch is almost gone already!
*Jane and Thomas are blognames that I used in my anonymous blogging days and just continue to use today.