How Important is Digestive Support?

It’s well documented that many children on the Autism spectrum can have a broad range of digestive struggles.  For some it can manifest as constipation, diarrhea, bloating or abdominal pain. Until recently, my child’s bathroom “sessions” would typically last 45 minutes or more, and he would have myriad accidents because he simply did not look forward to the painful experience.

Other children may have no outward appearance of symptoms but within their digestive tract there is disorder in the form of inflammation, leaky gut and food intolerances or sensitivities.

I recently started my son on a digestive enzyme, specifically formulated to aid in the digestion of gluten and casein.  Our bodies already contain enzymes that break down our food when we eat.  It’s imperative that by the time food reaches our intestines it is broken down properly, allowing nutrients to be absorbed into our bloodstream and taken to the cells around the body where they are needed most.  Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are broken down by enzymes, but for many children with Autism they seem to have problems breaking down and digesting their food properly.

Intolerances to certain foods, particularly wheat and dairy, are a common issue.  The proteins in these foods are not broken down properly and can cause damage to the intestinal lining and cross – undigested – into the blood, where they can cause many symptoms including behavioral problems.  Also what happens for many children is that during the process of attempting to break down these proteins, opiate-like substances are formed which can cross into the bloodstream and reach the brain. As a result, children may enter a drug-like state and can experience symptoms such as poor communication, lack of eye contact, drowsiness and exacerbated spatial issues.

Poor Digestion of Sugars and Fats

Many children with Autism have also been found unable to break down sugars, which can feed unwanted gut bacteria. When the digestive tract is overgrown with unwanted bacteria this can increase intestinal inflammation and can lead to a leaky gut, which allows undigested food to pass into the bloodstream and can aggravate many of their symptoms.

In addition to the Gluten Defense, I also began my child on Reuteri powdered probiotic to give him additional support for this bacteria overgrowth. Both of these products have no odor or taste, making it seamless and effortless to hide in his food. Other supplements I have tried have been instantly detected and rejected due to texture, odor, color, or taste, despite my best sneaky efforts. So far, so good!

Poor absorption of fats is also common, and it’s important for health that fats are broken down properly so that essential fatty acids can be used in the body. These essential fats are vital for digestive and immune health, as well as cognitive function.

To top off this super trio of support, I also added Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend, an Omega Fatty Acid DHA supplement. I add this to applesauce, smoothies, and sometimes even in his morning cereal.

It’s important to remember that digestive enzymes are not a substitute for a gluten/casein elimination diet, but should be seen as one tool in a complete strategy.  There are no reported side effects of these natural products; however, as with any treatment, you may first observe worsening behavior, as unwanted gut bacteria may be dying off. Any time toxins are released from the body a small “healing crisis” may be experienced temporarily. It’s important to stick to your supplement plan, unless your child is experiencing an extreme negative symptom. You know your child best.

We just started our supplements, so I will report back our progress each week. I’d love to hear others’ experience with digestive enzymes, probiotics, and omega fatty acid supplements as well! Please comment below, or leave me some feedback on Facebook or Twitter!

Can’t Afford Certain Therapies? Things to Do at Home

Early on in my son’s diagnosis, we were on the six-to-nine month waiting list for Occupational Therapy at one of the top sensory centers here in Atlanta. After struggling through many public school behavioral disaster situations whilst on that list, we finally had a shot at getting into therapy… only to find out that my insurance didn’t cover it.

Almost five years ago I embarked on a journey to really understand what my child was experiencing, how it compared and contrasted what other children experienced, all the components involved in the big picture, and what I could do at home to help him.

If you are also struggling with the feeling that you can’t give your child the help you think he or she needs, I can help you set up protocols easily done at home to improve your situation. Here are some tools and ideas for you:


You hear me talk about the importance of fitness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean push ups, squats, and boot camp for your kids! There are so many fun ways to get your children moving, and the ripple effect of this effort can be seen immediately.

For exercise you can do animal crawls and walks, relay races, or obstacle courses. You can also do fun games like “clay modeling” – have your child stand still and put him or her in different poses, then let them do the same with you. Mirroring is also a fun one, but start easy! Get outside if you can, the fresh air and sunlight does wonders :)


I personally struggle to keep my child wholly on a Gluten Free Casein Free diet. I’m simply not in a place where I can keep it up 100%, but I haven’t given up! Regardless, there are so many baby steps that can be taken to help improve nutrition.

Gradual replacements for gluten and casein products include Almond or Rice milk, coconut milk ice cream, and gluten-free cereals and bars. But if you look at the bigger picture, start by eliminating or decreasing fast food, heavily processed foods, soft drinks, and excessive sweets. Also look at foods with chemical dyes. This is no easy task, I assure you! But anything you can do is better than not doing anything.

I also started recently bridging the gap with whole food gummies, which give him 17 fruits, vegetables, and grains. This product made sense to me for both my children, who do not get everything they need from their limited diets, and I am SO GRATEFUL to have found it!

Sensory Activities

There are TONS of things you can do at home without expensive sensory equipment or a huge gym! Some of our favorite activities include rolling on a yoga ball ($25 at Target… and I use it for my own workouts, too!), body wrapping in a blanket, wearing double and triple shirts, and pushing heavy objects. We also like to play with bubbles, shaving cream, sand, wearing a blindfold and smelling scented oils and other distinct household foods, music time, and crawling through homemade forts and tunnels.

It is also helpful to put on sounds of nature, classical music, or meditation and chanting CDs during sensory time.


This is SO important! Take it from someone who frequently would let herself get depleted and have nothing left to give. Parents, make sure you are getting support and feeding yourself with what you need to enjoy and replenish your spirit! You are of no good to your family or anyone when you are drained.

We can also get so caught up in the world of Autism that we forget the siblings. They need our support, too! It is essential to keep the lines of communication open with your entire family, and give them permission to feel what they are feeling. If you can, arrange for special activities and extra one-on-one time with your Neurotypical child. And get them involved! I sometimes ask my daughter’s input on how to deal with certain behaviors or feelings. Together, we come up with “emergency plans” in anticipation of meltdowns in public places, so we feel prepared for outings.


I am thrilled to see all the amazing alternative therapies popping up for our children! I see music therapy, art therapy, martial arts for special needs, theatre improv groups, animal therapy, and more! Bravo!

Without getting too woo-woo, there are also options to supplement your efforts with energy work such as Reiki, EFT, Pranic Healing, and even yoga.

There is no magic answer to help our children, but there are so many modalities and supports available to aid us. Find one (or ones!) that resonate with you. You don’t have to feel helpless and alone if traditional therapies are not an option.

I encourage you to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter, or contact me directly on this site if I can help you in any way!

Why Are Our Children So Unhealthy?

We are living in a time when billions of dollars are being spent on treatments, causes, and sometimes even cures. We are missing the biggest factor: Prevention.

Why are our children so unhealthy? For the same reasons we are!

  • Poor food choices (processed foods, and misleading “health food” packaging alike)
  • Instant gratification society (particularly as it relates to fast food)
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Lack of movement and exercise
  • Stressful lifestyles (is your child’s schedule as hectic as a 30-year-old’s calendar?!?)
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Environmental factors

Additionally, some children with autism may be at nutritional risk due to their behaviors around foods and eating. Food refusal and difficulty in introducing new foods into the diet are common. Entire food groups may be refused due to sensory integration issues as it relates to food colors, textures, smells, and more.

Researchers have also found that peptides from improperly digested casein (milk) or gluten-based (wheat) foods affect brain function in some individuals with autism. Successfully putting your child on a Gluten Free Casein Free diet can be extremely challenging and requires diligence, commitment, and dedication to following through.

Typical child's diet? I wish!

Selective eaters, whether on the Autism Spectrum or not, may be at risk for some vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially with a diet that is high in overly processed foods. My eldest child – neurotypical – eats only four foods; that is if they are the right brand, have the correct consistency, and the moon is in the seventh house. And it’s Tuesday :) It has been this way since she was a toddler, despite an armory of tactics and years of struggle over the dinner table.

Whether you have a child that is a picky eater, has extensive food allergies, has problems with food texture, is always tired and lacks energy, or has chronic diarrhea or stomach distress, the bottom line is the same: our kids need better nutrition!

I am utterly thrilled, because I recently found a way to get 17 different fruits, vegetables, and grains into my children (and in me!) without the power struggles, tears, ultimatums, and drama… I can’t wait to share more with you over the coming weeks! Look for updates and tweets about my experiences, and feel free to drop me a line if you want to learn more!

Practical Gluten & Casein Free Substitutes

I perpetually have the best intentions in trying to eliminate gluten and casein from my child’s diet (to read about why you should consider a GFCF diet for your autistic child, see my previous post). However, I’m a single mom with a grocery budget, so going the extra mile for organic and special brands aren’t always practical! Add to the mix an older child that is one of the pickiest eaters in the universe and sodium and sugar restrictions on my own diet… it is not unusual for me to buy and prepare three separate menus in this house.

I thought I would put together a small list of some common items found at your local grocery store that are gluten and casein free. Some may not be the healthiest, but it is nice to know that there are options to sometimes buy these common brands, saving a trip to the ATM a health food store.





What are some of your experiences? Feel free to head over to the Spirit Of Autism Facebook Fan Page and post some of your successes, strategies, and struggles with the GFCF diet in your home! I’d love to hear from you.

Why Gluten and Casein Free for Autism?

Persons with Autism tend to have food sensitivities more than food allergies. The biggest offenders can be gluten and casein. To most Autistic children especially, gluten and casein are the equivalent of poison.

Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains as well as foods made from those grains. They are also found in food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, soy sauce, flavorings, and artificial colors.

Casein is a protein found in milk and foods containing milk, such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, and whey.

Gluten and casein are not properly digested and form peptides, or substances that act like opiates in their bodies. The peptides then alter the child’s behavior, perceptions, and responses to his or her environment.

As they leak into the gut, undigested, they can attach to the opiate receptors of the autistic person’s brain. Essentially, many autistic children are “drugged” on wheat and milk products, as if they were on a morphine drip. This not only aggravates and distorts their already skewed spatial perception, but they also crave these foods, becoming addicted quite rapidly.

Some parents have shared with me that their child’s response to milk removal was quicker and more obvious than when gluten was removed.  Urine tests have shown that casein peptides can leave the system in about three days, but it can take up to eight months on a casein-free, gluten-free diet for all peptide levels to drop.

With the increasing awareness of gluten and casein sensitivities, there are so many viable and delicious substitutes out there for the family to enjoy. Almond milk and gluten-free cereals are two of our favorites. The hardest part is trying to monitor what your child eats while outside of the home.