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The health effects of aluminium

I do a lot of Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis with my clients. 

It’s reasonably priced, it doesn’t involve taking blood and it gives a tonne of information.

Something I see come up a lot is high levels of aluminium.

What is aluminium?

Aluminium is the 3rd most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, it has always been there.

However it wasn’t until about 150 years ago that man made it into a metal and started to use it. 

That means that humans have not evolved with aluminium and our bodies are not very good at dealing with it. 

How do we get exposed to aluminium?

Everyday life exposes us to aluminium in many ways.

Light weight, older style saucepans will often be made of aluminium. Or the espresso pot in the image above.

People routinely wrap their food in aluminium foil, or cook in aluminium trays.

It is found in our food, in our water and in many medications.

What does aluminium do in our body?

When aluminium gets into our body, it replaces nutrient minerals (like zinc or iron) in enzyme binding sites. 

When we are deficient in these minerals, our body will retain the toxic metals. 

We might be deficient in minerals because we simply aren’t eating enough nutrient dense food, or we might be deficient because the food we eat has lower levels of nutrients than it did in the past.  Or maybe our gut health is not as good as it should be and we are not absorbing out nutrient, no matter how good our diet it

Aluminium in our body will also stop us getting rid of mercury we are exposed to by reducing levels of glutathione in our body.  Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and helps detoxify our bodies and reduce oxidative stress.

How does aluminium affect our health?

There are many conditions that can be traced back to aluminium exposure.  

One of the most famous ones is dementia. 

Others include:

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Constipation
  • Learning delay
  • Hyperactivity
  • Chronic fatigue.

Many studies have shown correlations between high aluminium in hair tests and severity of ASD symptoms. 

Why does this not affect everyone?

Some people might be exposed to more, but they also may just not be as good at getting rid of it from their body.  This could be to do with their genetic polymorphisms, which I can also test for.

Another factor to consider is that fluoride can actually make the effect of the aluminium in the body worse – that’s a great reason to consider a water filter.

What can we do about it?

First thing to do is to try and identify the source of the aluminium.  This may be easy, if you know you use a lot of ant-acids or aluminium foil.  Or it may take a lot more detective work.

Once you know where it is coming from, you can get rid of the source.

We know aluminium and minerals compete in our body, so by replenishing levels of minerals, aluminium can be reduced.

All the time when we are trying to detoxify, we need to make sure our kidneys, liver and gut are all working well to make sure we don’t just recycle the very thing we trying to get rid of.

When I see high aluminium on a hair test, my clients will go through several months of a slow, safe detox to bring their levels back down to a normal level.  The hair test is then repeated and will show that the aluminium is being reduced.

What next?

If your child has one of the conditions mentioned above, it’s a really good idea to invest in a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis to see if aluminium might be contributing to their issues.

Get in touch with me if you want to discuss your specific situation.

Why does a gluten free diet help autism (Part 3)

This is final instalment of a 3 part series on gluten and autism. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

The first thing most parents of children on the spectrum say when I recommend removing gluten from the diet is that they can’t as that is all their child will eat.  That is usually confirmation enough for me that gluten needs to go!  Remember in Part 2 when I said the gluten forms opioid like compounds in the brain of children with autism.  What do we know about opioids?  They’re addictive.  So your child could literally be addicted to gluten!

The first thing you need to do is get educated.  In part one of this series, I explain all the foods where gluten can be found.  Make sure you are familiar with what is in and what is out.

Next, start to play around with some gluten-free foods.  Remember at this stage, we’re not trying to remove all grains, just gluten.  That means things like rice are still allowed, which opens a world of rice-based foods like noodles or rice cakes.  These are not fabulous foods, as they are purely refined carbohydrates, but this is a journey, and we are only on the first step – removing the gluten.

Now that you have figured out what gluten-free foods your child will eat, create a meal plan or download a ready made one from my website!.  Make sure you are never caught short having to give your child a gluten containing food.  Every time there is a slip up, you go back to the start of your trial, which can be really demoralising and difficult for you and your child.

Then hit the shops!  You may find you need to change how you shop and where you shop to get the specific foods you need.  Being gluten-free has become more manageable in the last 10 years, but it might still be worthwhile looking online or in health-food shops to find what you need.

Next comes the implementation step.  You can do it gradually, substituting one meal or snack at a time with a gluten-free alternative, or you can do it all at once.  Just remember that you might see withdrawal symptoms if you do it all at once.

Keep a diary. Remember to write down in detail what your child eats and what their symptoms are.  Start this a week in advance so you can make a comparison of before and afterwards.  The symptoms you keep track of will be specific to your child.  They could be related to behaviour, stimming, digestive issues or rashes.  Or it could be a combination of all of these!

Why does a gluten-free diet help autism (Part 2)?

Welcome to part 2 of this 3 part series on the connection between autism and gluten. You can catch up on Part 1 here.

Gluten is inflammatory.

This is a bit of a general statement, which really applies to everyone, but especially for people with autism. It is inflammatory to the whole body, including the gut and the brain. Eating it causes a range of digestive issues, which are very common in people with autism. 

Gluten causes leaky gut.

A study involving 162 children with autism and 44 neuro-typical children showed that a quarter of the children with autism had increased intestinal permeability (also called leaky gut) and only 2% of the neuro-typical children had this condition.  The conclusion of the study is that the immune system of the children with autism has been triggered by gluten (and casein) and has contributed to the intestinal permeability.  Removing the gluten reduces inflammation and allows the gut to start to heal.

Many children with autism have allergies to gluten.

In the study mentioned above, allergy to gluten was also measured, and IgG to gluten was found to be high in children with autism. A smaller study with 36 children with autism and 20 without autism found that the children with autism were more likely to have allergies to common foods.  Doing an elimination diet for 8 weeks led to an improvement in behavioural symptoms.

Many children with autism cannot digest gluten.

This is partly because they have lower levels of the enzyme DPPIV which is needed to breakdown gluten.  This leads to a build-up of peptides (the molecules that make up protein).  Children with autism have a leaky blood-brain barrier, due to an altered expression of genes associated with blood-brain barrier integrity as well as inflammation of the brain. These peptides are small enough to cross the leaky blood-brain barrier and have opioid effects on the brain. That means they fit into the opiate receptor in the brain, and act like morphine!  That means issues such as foggy thinking, inattentiveness and constipation!

Children with autism have a tendency to autoimmunity

Gluten is implicated in autoimmune disease because of molecular mimicry, where the bodies gets confused between the gluten and its own cells, and starts to attack itself when gluten is eaten.

Hopefully I have convinced you that it is at least worth a try to cut out gluten (and maybe even dairy) for a time to see if it improves your child’s quality of life.

Stay tuned for part 3 when I lay out some strategies to help you get started.

Why does a gluten-free diet help autism (Part 1)?

One of the best-known diets for autism is gluten-free, but what does this mean, why does this work and how do I try it for my child?

In this post (Part 1), I will explain what a gluten-free diet entails.  Part 2 will explain why this is approach is worth trying and Part 3 will give you a framework to get started.

Part 1

Going gluten-free is the first step in changing the diet for your child with autism. It is usually done at the same time as removing dairy and soy.  This is often called a “Gluten-free, Casein-Free” (GFCF) diet (Casein is one of the proteins in dairy foods).

Various studies have shown that a GFCF diet leads to improvement in up to 80% of patients with autism.  The type of improvements were in behaviour, seizures, gross motor skills, social contact, eye contact, ritualistic behaviour, language and sleep.

It is up to parents if they want to remove gluten and dairy at the same time, or to do one at a time.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.  Removing both at the same time is like ripping off a band-aid.  Difficult, but the transition is over quickly.  Removing one at a time is a more softly-softly approach, but it may be difficult to make any progress. On the plus-side, a gradual reduction will reduce any withdrawal symptoms for your child.

Going gluten-free means you need to avoid any products made from gluten-containing grains.  These grains are wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and triticale. Oats are a bit of a grey area as, whilst they don’t contain gluten, they do contain a similar protein called avenin.  Some people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to avenin, but even most coeliacs are ok with avenin.  The problem is that quite often oats get contaminated with wheat, rye etc. during processing.  You can buy certified gluten-free oats which have been processed in isolation from gluten-containing grains and tested to make sure they don’t contain gluten.  Bear in mind that these gluten-free oats may not be made in Australia.  My recommendation is generally to remove oats for a period of time, and then reintroduce standard Australian organic oats and watch for a reaction in your child.  The reaction could be digestive, but it could also be mood or behaviour related.

Foods that you may not realise are made from gluten-containing grains include couscous, semolina and bulgur (the main ingredient in tabouleh),

Gluten also hides in many processed foods likes some processed meats, or anywhere a filler is required. If you buy packaged food, you need to read the ingredient list (and the allergen declaration) very carefully.  Remember that wheat-free does not mean gluten-free.

If you think going gluten-free is worth a go, you should commit to doing it 100% for 6-12 weeks.  There is no point in doing it 95%, as even a small exposure to gluten will undo all your hard work.  You might start to see benefits within a few days, which will be very motivating to keep going, or it might take the full 12 weeks to see progress.

If you have a suspicion that your child might be coeliac, because of a family history or other symptom, it is a good idea to do some testing for this to start off, e.g. taking with a cheek swab to see if they carry the gene.

The benefits of removing gluten for children with autism are strong, but this doesn’t mean your child is coeliac, or allergic to gluten.  Don’t be put off giving this a go because you have tested your child and they have been classified as not allergic to gluten.  There is no nutrient in gluten that you can’t get from other foods, so there is literally nothing to lose.

One final word of warning – you can have a gluten-free diet made entirely of junk food.  This will not help your child’s gut or improve their symptoms.  It’s ok to use some gluten-free processed food in the transition, but try to move to a whole-foods, naturally gluten-free diet as soon as you can.

Dietary approaches for treating autism

Before you read this article, there is something to consider:

* 9% of children diagnosed with autism at age 2 will lose their diagnosis by age 4

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860351/)

There are lots of interventions to improve symptoms of autism and help children to flourish, however, the diet should be the first. It is possible to improve your child’s functioning through diet, and it is well worth giving it a shot!

Autism doesn’t just have one cause, it has multiple root causes, therefore there isn’t necessarily only one dietary approach which can work.  Your child could have gut issues, detox pathway problems or mitochondrial dysfunction.

This isn’t about trying to change your child; it’s about stopping the pain, the digestive issues, stopping the seizures and healing your child’s body in a respectful way and increasing their life expectancy.  Things won’t get better without doing something about it, but they can get worse.

The following are the dietary approaches I choose from when working with a child with autism.

  • Gluten free, casein free, soy free (GFCFSF)
  • Specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) / Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet
  • Low oxalate diet
  • Anti-candida diet
  • Food sensitivity / elimination diet
  • Paleo diet
  • Low FODMAP diet
  • Feingold / failsafe
  • Low Oxalate diet

Now I’ll explain a little about how each one works, its positives and its negatives.

Gluten free casein free and soy free

This is useful because it removes substances that can cause digestive, neurological and systemic issues in some people.  By removing these from the diet the gut can heal, nutrients can be absorbed and you can get some quick improvements.

This is my entry point for children with autism, it’s a great place to start.  It is a reasonably straightforward diet to start with.

The reason why some people don’t get any results with it is because it can lead people down a road of eating highly processed gluten free diets.  Highly processed gluten free foods can be higher in sugar and additives than products containing gluten.  This is because the manufacturers are trying to replace the functionality of gluten in the recipe.  That’s why it’s critical to work with a specialist nutritionist, rather than going alone on this diet.  This must be approached from a perspective of whole foods, not processed foods.

SCD / GAPS diet

These diets remove disaccharides and polysaccharides.  People who don’t have enough of certain enzymes in their body will react with constipation, diarrhoea, inflammation and bloating when they eat disaccharides and polysaccharides.  Disaccharides are sugars such as sucrose (table sugar) and lactose (milk sugar). Polysaccharides are found in starches, like grains or potato. By temporarily removing them, the gut can heal and the bacteria in the gut are able to rebalance.  This diet is useful for autism, and lots of severe gut issues.  SCD is a bit easier to do, but it doesn’t include as many gut healing foods as GAPS does, which is why I prefer to use GAPS.  There are numerous ways that GAPS or SCD can be done poorly, which is why I highly recommend you work with someone with specialist training in this area.  For instance, some people do GAPS too low in carbohydrate.  This can cause issues, particularly for people with thyroid or mitochondrial issues.  Some people react strongly to some of the healing foods such as fermented foods, and never manage to progress and reap the benefits.

Paleo

Paleo is one of my favourite eating styles.  It is very focussed on whole foods and it removes grains, dairy and soy.  It is an approach which you can stick to long term, if it suits you.  A common misinterpretation of the Paleo diet is that it is meat heavy.  This isn’t actually true.  The basis of all Paleo meals should be vegetables, with a bit of meat, rather than a slab of steak with a side of veggies.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is quite trendy at the moment, particularly for weight loss.  It is actually a therapeutic diet which has been used for a hundred years for epilepsy.  It fell out of favour when anti-epileptic drugs were developed, and is only now recommended for people when epilepsy doesn’t respond to drugs.  But shouldn’t dietary intervention come first, then drugs? It is a low carb, high fat diet which forces the body to use ketones for energy, not glucose.  It is restrictive, but it works.  It protects the brain and reduces oxidative stress, which is why it is helpful for autism.  Again, you can do keto in a really unhealthy way.  Think of a keto meal as a massive bowl of leafy greens, with olive oil and some meat.  Not a slab of cheese.

Low FODMAP

A low FODMAP diet can be used if a child has really bad gut symptoms and we want to get immediate relief of the pain.  It removes the foods that feed bacteria, so it reduces gas and bloating. However I see over and over people who have been told to do a low FODMAP diet years ago and are still on it.  This is a disaster for gut health.  The foods that feed bacteria feed the good bacteria and the bad bacteria.  By permanently removing them you can starve the good guys, and gut health will go downhill over time.  Never do a low FODMAP diet without supervision, and never stay on it long term (more than 6 weeks).

Anti-yeast diet

This removes sugar, which feeds candida and restores the body’s good gut bacteria. You can look for clues that your child has candida issues . This diet can get complicated with restrictions and food combining, so I use it in a simplified way for clients, and focus on reducing sugar.

Feingold / Failsafe diets

These remove food chemicals (naturally occurring and additives) called phenols from the diet.  Lots of children with autism have issues with their biochemical pathways so they can’t detoxify these substances normally.  Removing the phenols can give instant results, however it is a really restrictive, plain diet to stick with, and there is no end game. I frequently see people who have been on this diet for years, and still can’t tolerate any thing.  I then guide them off the diet and on to something like GAPS which helps improve the range of foods they are able to eat.  I have tried most diets myself, so I am familiar with their unique challenges, and this one is the hardest in my opinion.

Low oxalate diet

This isn’t one that you commonly hear about.  I think about a low oxalate diet in people who have pain all over their body, and oddly enough have cloudy urine.  I also think about it when someone proudly tells me how many green leafy veggies they or their kids eat.  Lots of green leafy veggies are high in oxalates.  A low oxalate diet can be a really unhealthy diet as it removes nutritious foods, so the emphasis always needs to be on temporary removal of oxalates while you heal the gut, then reintroduce them.

The take home message:

As you can see there is no one size fits all.  A personalised diet needs to be chosen based on all the symptoms someone has.

Supplements are great, but they come after diet.  You can’t out-supplement a bad diet, or even just the wrong diet.

And it is really important to remember that healing diets are therapeutic.  They aren’t intended to be used forever.  Get proper guidance from me on which diet is best for you by making an appointment here.

What does gluten have to do with mood and behaviour?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and other grains such as barley, rye and spelt.  Unless you are on a gluten free diet, there is a good chance that your child is eating gluten three or more times per day.  One of the reasons that so many people have a big issue with gluten is because we have overdosed so much on it in the last few generations.

So why does this protein have such a negative impact on mood and behaviour?

Food Allergy

Rates of food allergies have skyrocketed in recent years.  There are a few different types of food allergy.

There are food allergies that can cause a reaction quickly after eating a food.  Possible symptoms of an immediate reaction are hives or anaphylaxis.  These types of reactions are called IgE reactions, and they can be life threatening.  These are the allergies that are tested for with skin prick tests, by doctors or allergists.

Food allergies can also be delayed and symptoms may not be evident for many hours after the child has eaten the problem food.  These are called IgG reactions.

Delayed food allergies can have a range of different symptoms, which are hard to link to eating a particular food, due to the time delay.   They are also hard to identify, as the problem food is often a food that is eaten multiple times every day, so you are never really symptom free.

Symptoms of IgG reactions related to behaviour include:

  • Highly strung, excitable or agitated
  • Inattentive
  • Impulsive
  • Irritable
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Hyperactive
  • Repetitive, loud talking, perhaps with stuttering
  • Short tempered
  • Moody
  • Problems with handwriting

The best way to test for a delayed reaction allergy (IgG reaction) is to do a blood test.

Food sensitivity

Some children will have a sensitivity to gluten, and not be able to break it down properly.  This isn’t a food allergy, as the immune system isn’t involved.

When they can’t break the gluten down properly, the gluten forms a compound called gliadorphin in their brain.  As the name suggests, this compound is closely related to morphine!  And it will act like morphine in your child’s brain.

Clues that this is what is happening in your child are:

  • Problems with speech and hearing
  • Spaciness or brain fog
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty with sleep.

There are a few reasons why your child could have this sensitivity.

It could be that they don’t have enough of the enzyme that breaks down gluten.

Or it could be that they don’t have enough zinc to make the enzyme work well.

If your child does have this issue with gluten, it is likely that they might also have an issue with the protein in dairy (casein).  You might want to remove that from the diet also.

The easiest way to see if gluten is a sensitivity for your child is to strictly remove it for at least a few weeks, and see if symptoms improve.

Leaky gut / leaky brain

Normally your gut wall has very small gaps between the cells, so big particles that shouldn’t get through, can’t get through.  It is quite common for these gaps to get bigger than they should be, which means particles from food can get into the blood stream more easily. The gut won’t be acting as a sufficient barrier.  This is called leaky gut.

Gluten has a role to place in the development of leaky gut.  When someone eats gluten, it causes the body to release a substance called zonulin.  Zonulin causes the cells in the gut to move apart slightly, making the gut leaky.  Zonulin can even have an effect directly on the brain and cause ‘leaky brain’.  This means that particles in our blood stream that should never be able to get near our brains can get in to it!  This causes inflammation in the brain which affect mood, behaviour and is implicated in autism.

Reducing inflammation and healing the gut are important steps to improving your child’s mood and behaviour.  As well as improved behaviour, you can also expect to see improvements in language and skin.  One of the first steps in the journey to healing your gut is removing gluten, as it inflames the gut wall.

Embarking on a major dietary change can be daunting, even when you know its the right thing to do.  To ease the transition, download my free gluten free dairy free recipe book.

Hair tissue mineral analysis for children

One of my favourite tests for children with behaviour issues, autism or ADHD is a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA).  It is non-invasive, as it just requires a sample of hair, no needles.  Of course even the thought of a hair-cut is a challenge for some children, but only one lock of hair is needed.

Substances that are in the blood stream will leave the body in the hair.

Minerals and metals can accumulate, and they are fixed in the hair.

Once the hair has grown, and left the body, the levels of metals and minerals don’t change significantly.

The analysis will show the concentrations of minerals and metals that have accumulated in the hair over the last 1-3 months.

HTMA looks at 2 key things in your child’s hair

The good stuff, such as minerals, and their relative balance (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and more)

The bad stuff such as heavy metals (arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury)

Unfortunately, there are lots of sources of heavy metals in modern life, and these can cause developmental and neurological damage.

Another great thing it tests for is lithium, which is a type of metal, but one that you do need some of in your body.  Studies have shown that most children with ADHD have levels of lithium which are too low.  This is especially likely if there is a history of depression or bipolar in the family.

Why would my child have mineral imbalances?

A child under stress will be depleted of magnesium and zinc

A child with some toxic metals or chemicals in their body (perhaps because they don’t detoxify them very well or because they have had exposure) will have imbalances.  Toxic metals can replace minerals in the body and interfere with mineral absorption.

Children with an underlying bacterial or viral infection will be under enough stress to deplete minerals

The soil in Australia is depleted of many minerals, so even if your child is eating lots of fruit and vegetables, they may not be getting enough minerals.

Common issues which come up in a HTMA for children

Copper dysregulation.

Copper and Zinc are opposite sides of a see-saw.  When zinc is high copper is low and vice versa.  Low zinc and high copper is related to depression, anxiety, ADHD and learning disorders.

High mercury.

Mercury is found in big fish, so if your child eats lots of tuna, shark and swordfish, they could have an accumulation of mercury in their body.  Mercury toxicity is linked to depression, memory loss, mood swings and insomnia.

Aluminium. 

This is found in many medications and personal care products.  It can also be found in some foods, especially soy baby formula, colours, emulsifiers, preservatives and anti-caking agents. High aluminium is linked to dementia in adults, and in children things like memory loss, confusion, autism, hyperactivity and fatigue.

Lead. 

High lead levels are all too common in Australian children.  Mining areas are particularly affected, but even in cities there is enough lead in the water that authorities recommend you run your tap for 30 seconds before drinking your tap water.  High lead is associated with hyperactivity, inattention and learning difficulties

Cadmium.

Your child could be high in cadmium if they have been around people who smoke cigarettes, or pollution.  It is also found in some food.  Neurodevelopmental issues are a sign of cadmium toxicity.

If you would like to make an appointment with me and get a HTMA for your child, please book here.

The 12 super foods of Christmas

 

People always worry about eating healthily at Christmas, and some people just write off the whole month and think about being healthy again sometime in late January.

I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t need to be that way!

Eating healthily is not about deprivation!  It’s about eating high quality, nutrient dense and delicious foods.

Here are 12 Christmas foods to eat in abundance!

  1. Soft Cheese

I love a cheese platter, and there is something very Christmassy about brie and camembert.  These soft cheeses are high in a vitamin called Vitamin K2, which is really lacking in modern diets.  Other sources are beef liver and natto (fermented soybeans), and we don’t eat much of these foods!  Vitamin K2 is good to prevent wrinkles, and for the kids, it is good for their brains!  It acts as an antioxidant in the brain, alongside glutathione (read more about glutathione here), so it reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.  Don’t ruin a good cheese with cheaply processed crackers.  Make your own seed crackers like this these ones, or buy crackers that are made from seeds only (not the ones with a token 2% seeds so they can put a seed claim on the front of the packet).

 

  1. Pâté

Another platter favourite is pâté .  Pâté is usually made from liver, and liver is a powerhouse of nutrition.  I often recommend liver for kids, as it is a really nutrient dense food, so they don’t need to eat much to get the benefit.  Parents often wrinkle their nose at the idea of liver, until I remind them of pâté !  It is so easy to make at home, and when you do you can use organic livers and organic butter.  The shop bought stuff (even the premium brands) are often made with cheap fat like canola, and non- organic liver.  The liver is the organ in the body that detoxifies, so you really need to be eating organic liver.

 

  1. Turkey

Turkey is a great source of protein.  One of the amino acids found in turkey is called tryptophan, and it is really good for sleep.  It is so good for sleep, I often prescribe it as a supplement for insomniac kids!  Of course, it is always better to get nutrients from food, so give your children lots of turkey and see if they sleep well.

 

  1. Brussel sprouts

Forget about the soggy Brussel sprouts you were served up as a kid.  Braise them in a pan with bacon and garlic, and it’s a completely different experience.  Brussel sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which means they are very good at detoxifying.  Kids need to detoxify their livers and get rid of medications, pesticides, environmental pollution.  So load them up with Brussel sprouts on Christmas day

 

  1. Seafood

Another nutrient a lot of Australians are deficient in is iodine.  Iodine deficiency leads to lower IQ.  Seafood is a great way to get an iodine hit, but make sure your seafood is coming from clean water, not polluted waters, and is sustainably sourced.  Oysters are a great source of the nutrient zinc.  Lots of kids are deficient in zinc, especially fussy eaters, as not having enough zinc means you can’t taste as well.  Of course, getting a fussy eater to eat an oyster is not necessarily going to be easy!

 

  1. Mango

Don’t reach for the paddle pops when you can eat real, tropical summer fruit instead.  Make your own slushies, ice blocks, sorbet or chia puddings.  Mango is high in sugar, but you only eat them seasonally so don’t worry too much about it.  They are still lower in sugar than any other dessert or lolly, and they contain lots of great nutrients and fibre.

 

  1. Cherries

Cherries are synonymous with Christmas in Australia, which is good, as they help to balance out some over indulgences! Lots of people will get an attack of gout at Christmas because of the rich food, and eating cherries help reduce the symptoms of gout.  They do this by reducing uric acid in the body.  Even in people without gout, cherries help reduce inflammation in the body, and inflammation is associated with many diseases, including Autism and ADHD.

 

  1. Kombucha

Strictly speaking, kombucha is not a Christmas food, however, it is a great way to reduce alcohol consumption.  Instead of the ritual of popping a bottle of bubbles and sipping with friends, try opening a bottle of kombucha and drinking it from a champagne glass.  You can drink as much as you like without getting tipsy!  Kombucha is full of good bacteria, which is great for your gut health.  If you haven’t had it before, don’t go crazy the first time you have it as all those good bacteria can cause a bit of excitement in your guts.  Build up gradually until you are used to it.  Kombucha is made from tea, therefore it contains caffeine, so I don’t recommend it for kids.  If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could make mulled wine from Kombucha.  Heating the kombucha will destroy much of the good bacteria, but it is still better for you than wine!  Try adding lots of anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger and cloves.

 

  1. Gingerbread

Sorry, I don’t mean normal gingerbread.  I mean paleo gingerbread, made with lots of healthy nuts and spices.  Lots of children are deficient in essential fatty acids, which affects their brain health.  Eating nuts is really important to get more essential fatty acids in their diet, and because school is a nut free zone, it’s good to indulge at home to prevent sensitivity developing.  Check out my recipe here.

 

  1. Cranberries

Cranberries go great with turkey, but normal cranberry sauce is made with a lot of sugar, as it is such a tart fruit.  If you can get your hands on some fresh cranberries, try making a stuffing with them and a natural sweetener.  Cranberries are great for people who are prone to urinary tract infections as they stop the bacteria sticking to the bladder.  Be careful when you buy cranberries, as quite often they will be sugar infused.

 

  1. Pineapple

Pineapple is also very good at reducing inflammation, but only fresh pineapple, not tinned.  Eating about a cup a day will help reduce inflammation so useful for arthritis, and other conditions associated with inflammation, such as autism and ADHD

 

  1. Smoked salmon

One of the great things about holidays is that you have more time to make breakfast, and don’t have to rely on quick fixes.  We love smoked salmon, and try to buy one that has very few ingredients.  It is a good source of protein and contains lots of omega 3 fatty acids.  Salmon has been called the edible antidepressant as these omega 3 fatty acids are so good for your mood.  It is real brain food, and studies have shown that omega 3 can help control ADHD symptoms as effectively as Ritalin.  You would need more than a few breakfasts of smoked salmon to get an effect, but it certainly won’t hurt!

The GAPS diet

What is the GAPS diet good for?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology syndrome or Gut and Physiology syndrome.

GAPS is a healing diet

The diet was developed by a Neurologist called Dr Natasha Campbell McBride.

When her son developed severe autism, she delved into the research to try to understand why he was autistic and how she could help.  From this experience, she developed the GAPS diet.

GAPS is based on another diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) which has been used successfully to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis for many years.

The GAPS diet revolves around the fact that poor gut health leads to many chronic health conditions.  In children, this can be issues such as autism, ADHD / ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, epilepsy, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and eczema.

There are 2 phases in the diet.  There is the Introduction phase of the diet, and the “Full” GAPS diet.

The introduction phase moves through 6 stages, designed to rebuild the integrity of the gut wall, and repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.

The focus is on fermented foods, bone stocks and broths, lots of fat, non-starch vegetables and gelatinous meat.

As you would expect on any diet, there are no processed foods or fast foods.

How long it takes to get through the 6 stages depends on how severe your symptoms are to start off with.  It could be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months.

Once you move through the 6 stages of the introduction diet, you move on to the full GAPS diet.  This will be your eating protocol for about 1.5 to 2 years.  It is more flexible, but the focus is still on whole foods.

Meals are generally eggs, meat, fish and vegetable with lots of broth!

GAPS also has a big focus on detoxing your entire life.  This includes juicing, safe sun exposure, Epsom salt baths, cutting out perfumed and fragranced personal care product, and generally following a healthy lifestyle.

Sounds pretty restrictive?

Yes, there’s no doubt that GAPS is a big departure from the standard Australian diet.  But let’s not forget that the standard Australian diet is making us sick.  Levels of food allergies, autism and auto-immunity have skyrocketed in the last decade.

Why would I do the GAPS diet?

You might look at doing the GAPs diet if you child has a behavioural diagnosis or allergy that conventional medicine can’t help.

Or perhaps you suspect your child has compromised gut health because of antibiotic overuse.

Or maybe you would prefer not to medicate your child.

Autism requires lots of specialist therapies, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy.  The GAPS protocol works alongside these to restore your child gut and help the therapies be more effective.

What happens after the GAPS diet?

Once you or your child have healed enough to come off the diet, you can start the gradual introduction of properly prepared grains and starchy vegetables.  Of course I would never recommend you jump back into the standard Australian diet, as it is not healthy for anyone.  But the good news is that if you have restricted your child’s diet because of food allergies or intolerances, you should be able to reintroduce some of these foods. 

So a couple of years of restrictive eating and intense gut healing will allow a wider range of foods to be eaten long term.

Where do I start?

Deciding to go on the GAPS diet can be overwhelming.

For that reason, you are recommended to speak with a Certified GAPS practitioner, like me.  I offer a 3 month coaching package to hold your hand as you transition your family.  If you are interested in finding out more about GAPS and whether it is right for your family, book in for a free 20 min chat and I can answer any questions you might have.

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988”.