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Nutritional Support for Autism Spectrum Disorder

smiley riley

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms typically appear in the first two years of life. The number of children being diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum is a quickly snowballing challenge of our day. ASD is estimated to affect over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. This includes the diagnoses of autism, Aspergers, ADD & ADHD.

While lowering stress, incorporating connection, curiosity and play are crucial in therapy, nutritional support helps create a more receptive environment to the other therapeutic modalities at play. For children with ASD, a nutritious, balanced diet can make a world of difference in their ability to learn, how they manage their emotions and how they process information. Every single person and situation is unique and there are no guarantees, but if you believe your child has the potential for MORE in life, I encourage you to consider optimizing their nutrition.

The first thing to do is eliminate processed foods and excess sugar.

Sugar and processed foods are hard on the system and also feed the candida population in our digestive tract. Candida create holes in our gut (leading to allergies) and produce over 70 different toxins, both factors contributing to an exhausted, hyper-vigilant immune system & a heavy toxic load. They also create inflammation in the body and brain which is not at all supportive of living your best life. If you have enough in your budget I’d also consider adding in digestive enzymes & probiotics to improve the gut environment, support digesting and speed up results.

A special note about food dyes, MSG & aspartame: Most food dyes contain heavy metals (which are highly toxic and very difficult to get rid of once they’re in the body). MSG and aspartame are excito-toxins that literally excite our cells to death. It’s best to keep a close eye out for these as people with ASD are already dealing with a compromised immune system.

After processed foods and excess sugar are successfully removed, you may want to consider removing gluten and dairy to see how that might help.

When gluten and casein (dairy protein) break down in our gut they create properties called exomorphins, which mimic your body’s morphine-like endorphins. They have the same effect on the body as opiates, creating symptoms of euphoria and intoxication. It’s no surprise that the ones most allergic are addicted.  Statistically, about 60% of cases notice an improvement once gluten and dairy are removed.

Dietary changes can be a real challenge for anybody; people with ASD tend to be especially particular about the foods they eat. Start with one thing at a time, keep things low stress, and try and find substitutes for the foods you want to remove.

Remember… Attitude is everything. People with ASD have amazing BS detectors and can see right through your behavior. The best results come when you can remain calm, curious and playful throughout the process. As they say, first let THEM show you the way in, and then YOU can begin to show them the way out.

If you’d like support during this process, send me a message! I can help you learn to identify tricky food labelling, create grocery lists, introduce recipes that compare to what your child already enjoys and much more, helping make these dietary changes a lasting success!

Why am I passionate about helping people with ASD?

Because I can relate. I too am highly sensitive & particular. I’ve suffered digestive, emotional & social challenges from a young age. I have a Holistic nutrition education with 2 years into practice. I appreciate and respect our individuality & have always loved solving puzzles (which we all are) – through curiosity and a deep passion to understand. People generally feel safe and comfortable opening up to me, and I am passionate about connecting with others and helping them overcome obstacles.

Healthy Fat Bombs

Fat Bombs: Healthy Convenience Food

Coconut cacao Fat Bombs I remember about this time last year talking to a friend who was getting into keto and asking him “What do you eat then?” and one of the things that got me excited were fat bombs. Basically a combo of HEALTHY butters, oils and sometimes nuts of dried fruit. They’re super easy to make. You just warm everything to liquid in a saucepan and then put the mixture into a tray and freeze them. I use both an ice cube tray and a mini muffin tray.

They’re really the perfect convenience food. Fat is extremely satiating, it doesn’t support an appetite to overeat, and it’s frikkin delicious. I know many people are still nervous about eating high fat, thinking fat = body fat, but it doesn’t. Body fat storage is typically triggered by the kind of insulin response that excess carbohydrates generate, as well as stress (increased cortisol = increased insulin).

Honestly, try them!! Here are a couple recipe’s you can start with, but I encourage you to play around with it!

Coconut Cup Fat Bombs

Reese's peanut butter chocolate bombs

  • Warm equal parts cocoa butter and coconut oil on the stove top (both contain zero carbs)
  • Fill your tray with unsweetened coconut flakes (about 2 net grams of carbs per tbsp.)
  • Pour in the melted cocoa butter & coconut oil, place tray in freezer
  • After about 10 minutes, place a couple of chocolate chips on top, or not! (They would add about 0.3 g carbs)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Square Fat Bombs

  • Warm 3 parts peanut butter and 1 part 90% dark chocolate
  • Blend your favorite nuts (I like macadamia & brazil nuts as they’re the lowest in carbs), and mix in with melted nut butter and dark chocolate, creating a ratio of 1:1 blended nuts vs. melted mix.
  • Fill tray and place in freezer, going back in about 10 minutes to place 1-2 full nuts on top to give it a crunch.

Healthy Fat BombsThat’s it. So simple. You could also try putting solid nuts throughout instead of blending them, or swapping out the peanut butter for a different nut butter, like almond, which has about half the carbs as peanut butter. Also, sometimes adding mint extract gives them an after-eight taste which I LOVE!

What’s YOUR favorite fat bomb combo?

Eggs, prosciutto, kale, portobello

My Experience so far with Low Carb/Ketogenic Eating

I’ll be honest, I’d been pretty resistant to learning/accepting ketogenic eating as a sustainable option for myself or my clients. Everything I’d heard sounded so restrictive. This year however I decided to tune into the 2018 Ketogenic Summit; where everyday for 7 days you get 24 hour access to 4-5 different talks with various doctors, scientists and experts who offer their opinion and explain their reasoning.

I was already on board with the position that sugar & inflammation is at the root of so many illnesses we face today, so understanding that reducing your carbohydrate intake can be incredibly beneficial was an easy sell. I’ve also long believed that sufficient amounts of healthy fats are missing in many of our diets today. What was most exciting about this summit was learning the benefits of your body running off ketones instead of glucose.

Luckily I had already done the work of cutting out processed foods and increasing my movement (thanks to my Fitbit), so I looked for a bread substitute, made some cauliflower rice and I was off to the races!

Week 1: I did well 6 out of 7 days. I noticed that I woke up feeling awake, instead of my usual groggy I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed usual feeling. I felt lighter and had more energy, but seemed to be getting afternoon headaches. My mood felt more stable and my stomach didn’t hurt (aside from feeling nauseous twice after eating package-bought spinach dip). I wasn’t hungry all the time.

Week 2: This week was a struggle. It started off by going to a friend’s place for a BBQ. I put some ribs and coleslaw on my plate but then my host added a baked potato to my plate and i decided to eat it instead of refusing it. I also had some red wine over the course of the afternoon/evening. I was surprised the next morning to see trace ketones on my test strip and thought all was well, but what followed was increased carb cravings, more falling off track and feeling tired, unmotivated & emotional. I tried to push though it with increased exercise & better food choices. I had a couple mini meltdowns, but after readjusting my expectations & reminding myself that not all progress in linear, I got myself back on track.

Week 3: This week was my best week. Everyday I kept my carbs at about 10%-15% of total intake (which is higher than what most keto experts recommend) but I felt great all week and my ketone levels were strong. I also found that snacking doesn’t make me feel so good so I started having larger meals and cutting out snacking (mostly). I also lost some weight; 6lbs total since the beginning. Most of it in the 3rd week.

This journey will be an ongoing learning experience for me as I come to understand why I can be in ketosis at higher carb levels than recommended, if this will be true for others, and how this shakes out long term. My intentions are to stay low carb indefinitely, but to continue exploring ketosis for the short term and periodically for health maintenance. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much flexibility it provides. 2 nights in week 3 I enjoyed a couple glasses for red wine, and another day I had some jackfruit that I found fresh for the first time since trying it in Africa in 2008; it was so worth it and didn’t seem to throw me off too much.

If you’re curious about low crab eating or ketogenic eating, send me a message and I’d be happy to offer some basic tips for starting out that can make your first few days/weeks a lot more enjoyable 🙂

Coffee, MCT oil, cinnamon Eggs, prosciutto, kale, portobello Fish, asparagus, cauliflower rice pure kitchen, royal with cheese, burger salad

cauliflower rice

Ketosis & Intermittent Fasting

Ketosis (which can be induced by eating a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting) bring many benefits to our health:

  1. Ketones help modulate inflammation
  2. Ketones improve mitochondrial function
  3. Reducing carbohydrate gives your body a chance to modulate it’s insulin response
  4. Ketosis reduces hunger, increases energy & improves cognitive function (making intermittent fasting easier)
  5. Ketosis preserves lean body tissues
  6. Having more balanced blood sugar creates more stability (emotionally & physically)
  7. Ketosis & intermittent fasting help break sugar & alcohol addictions

    almond bread low carb keto

    Almond bread

It also helps with weight loss. A lot of people gain weight due to overeating carbs, especially processed ones, so ditching those carbs will help prevent further weight gain. In addition, being in a state of ketosis means your body will be burning through more body fat so eventually you will start to see the weight coming off.

Remember though, it takes time for your body to adapt to change, so the trick is to ease into it. For example, week one cut out all processed foods including soda, pastries etc. Week two remove added sugars (in your coffee, oatmeal, smoothies etc.). Week three make some almond bread and cauliflower rice and start reducing bread, rice and other grains etc. etc. As exciting as it is to start something new, there is nothing more discouraging than feeling shitty – and you will if you make dramatic shifts.

cauliflower rice

Cauliflower Rice Goes well with everything

While you are making these small & steady shifts, try and reduce your window of eating. If your first meal is typically 7am and your last intake of food is 10pm, try to shave an hour off each end, a week at a time. That being said, if you’re hungry, please eat, but slowly your body will adapt to this (especially as you increase daily fat intake and reduce carbohydrate intake).

Exercise also helps create ketones & improve brain function, so increasing your daily activity can help your body adapt to this shift. But don’t go crazy on the exercise, especially at first, as you don’t want to add more stress to your body as it is working to adapt to this change.

If you have a serious medical condition, talk to your doctor and have them support you in making this shift (hint: if they don’t want to, your should find a new doctor).

Lastly, be patient, enjoy the process, and remember that not all progress is linear. If you have a high-carb day, reflect on why, let go, and keep moving forward. Your good days will build momentum overtime and you will notice a huge difference.

I’ve been eating low carb and exploring keto eating since early May and I’ve experienced reduced hunger, increased energy and overall more emotional and physical stability. I’ve also lost 5 lbs, which is not what this is about for me, and I’m sure a big portion of it is water weight but it’s nice to look overall less puffy/inflamed.

If you have any questions or curiosity about the above info – send me a message! I’d love to hear your thoughts & help you solve any questions you may have!

The Importance of a Balanced Microbiome

80-85% of our immunity is located in our gut wall. Our microbiome is like the right hand of our immune system. If it’s compromised, then your immune system is left to do it’s job with one hand tied behind it’s back. On top of that, exposure to a whole host of toxic by-products from the opportunistic bacteria that is now dominating your gut keeps your immune system fighting an uphill battle. Eventually the gut becomes damaged and leaky, allowing invaders and undigested food to escape the gut and enter your blood stream – which your immune system also has to deal with, in addition to being malnourished, compromised, unbalanced and intoxicated. This is also how many allergies/intolerances develop. Good news is once you restore a healthy balance, those allergies/intolerances often disappear!

Here are some key reasons we must support our beneficial bacteria

1-Our healthy indigenous gut bacteria can neutralize many toxic substances (like nitrates, indoles, phenols etc), as well as chelating heavy metals and other poisons.

2-Antibiotics wipe out good and bad bacteria, but leave some microbes untouched (like Candida) allowing it opportunity to overgrow

3-Without protection from a health layer of beneficial bacteria, we become vulnerable to anything that comes along, as well as the opportunistic bacteria already present (which require management from beneficial bacteria otherwise they overgrow & wreak havoc)

4-When our beneficial bacteria is compromised, not only do we lose its protection, but also the nourishment it provides in assisting digestion, producing vitamins, hormones and neurotransmitters. Did you know our gut derives 60-70% of it’s energy from bacterial activity?

5-If our microbiome is damaged, the best foods and supplements you can buy may not be broken down, digested and absorbed.

6-Our beneficial bacteria produce a constant steady stream of K2, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, amino acids, hormones, neurotransmitters and much more. Without a healthy colony, there will be periods in the day where you’ll be deficient, even with supplementation.

So what damages out gut?

1-Antibiotics (whether prescribed, in our meat, or sprayed onto our produce)

2-Chlorine in our tap water

3-Other prescription drugs (steroids, birth control, sleeping pills, heartburn medication)

4-Diet (sugar and processed carbs support fungi, parasites and opportunistic bacteria)

5-Chronic stress

6-Environmental pollution/toxins

Our bodies are all capable of dealing with a certain level of exposure (some more than others), but every body has a breaking point, and in our current modern day lifestyle, many bodies are chronically being pushed past theirs.

If you’d like to learn more, and find out how to support your own microbiome, check out some of my other posts here & here, or book an appointment with me here.

Mental Health, Digestion and our Microbiome

It’s now widely common knowledge that our gut microbiome influences our digestion, allergies, metabolism and mental health. We’re also realizing how much our brain can influence gut health.

gut-brain

Imbalances in our gut microbiome can eventually lead to systemic inflammation including in your brain, leading to brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, depression and so much more. Going in the other direction, stress (whether conscious or not, acute or chronic) inhibits our digestive function, leading to nutritional deficiencies and an imbalanced microbiome.Continue reading

What kind of Nutritionist Am I?

As a Holistic Nutritionist, I am trained to evaluate your main health concerns and/or goals, assess your symptoms and investigate the root causes that could be affecting your ability to achieve these health goals.

For example: Do you have acne or other skin issues? Instead of recommending creams and cleansers to help manage them, I investigate possible root causes such as food sensitivities, stress, hormonal imbalances and gut health, and nourish your systems through different holistic recommendations.Continue reading

Sweet Potato Nachos

If you follow my blog posts, you’ll know that I recently had some allergy testing done over at Life Labs on O’Connor. One of the foods I scored high for was corn (which surprised me) and left me wondering how I would manage my love of nachos. I also scored moderately high for wheat so basically all nacho chips are off limits for me.

Luckily, I figured out a pretty delicious (and healthy) substitute – sweet potato chips!Continue reading