This post is the second in a series about Ganesh, a 6.5 year old boy with severe autistic disorder. Please read my blog post from last week, which describes the circumstances surrounding the consultation, as well as a summary of Ganesh’s history. This post will discuss aspects of the history which predisposed Ganesh to developing autism, as well as basic treatment recommendations. Ganesh’s case shares classic features found in some children who develop an autistic disorder, and thus maybe useful in understanding factors which may predispose an individual to develop this devastating condition.
Children who develop autistic disorder frequently inherit pathogenic parental gut flora. Ganesh’s mother suffered from constipation, a condition which is caused by deficient gut flora in children and adults. In a well functioning bowel, the majority of beneficial bacteria are Bifidobacteria and friendly strains of E.coli, which manufacture enzymes and other substances that are critical to the proper production of stool. These bacteria stimulate the cells of the bowel to produce mucous. The mucous lubricates the stool, so that it can be excreted efficiently as soon as it is produced. A healthy individual has 1-2 bowel movements a day. Constipation is a pathological and debilitating condition, which allows toxic substances in the stool to diffuse back into the body, instead of being excreted quickly.
In utero, a baby’s gut is sterile. As the baby passes through the birth canal, he/she swallows mouthfuls of the mother’s vaginal flora which comes from her bowel. Her vaginal flora is a combination of her own and her partner’s bowel flora, which has been sexually transmitted to her. Thus a baby inherits the parental gut flora. The baby’s bowel also continues to be populated by the microflora in the environment in the first several weeks of life.
At one week of age Ganesh was hospitalized for 4 days with a serious urinary tract infection and given broad spectrum antibiotics. This further compromised the already deficient bowel flora he inherited from his parents. He nevertheless recovered and went on to develop normally until he was vaccinated. Very shortly after he was vaccinated he lost all language and retreated into his own world. Please see last week’s post for a discussion of vaccination and autism. The loss of language and other developmental milestones shortly following vaccination is a commonly reported phenomenon by parents of autistic children.
The combination of deficient bowel flora, antibiotic treatment, and the additional immunological stress of vaccination are common features of GAPS patients. Other common factors which may contribute to compromised parental gut flora, not related to Ganesh’s case, are hormone therapy such as birth control pills, which have a deleterious effect upon the microflora, chronic emotional and physical stress, and diets high in refined carbohydrates and processed foods. In addition, the fact that many parents of GAPS patients were themselves not breast fed, resulting in compromised immunity from their infancy, as they were deprived of the vital immune protective factors, which are naturally transmitted in breast milk from mother to child.
Given how common antibiotic treatment is, how many women take birth control pills, how the Standard American Diet is filled with processed foods and refined carbohydrates, and how common lack of breast feeding is, it is no wonder that the incidence of autism, allergies, learning disabilities and attentional problems, depression and anxiety, as well as all sorts of autoimmune conditions are skyrocketing. All of these conditions are related to the state of the microflora in the bowel, which has been severely compromised by these extremely common predisposing stressors.
I will now turn my attention briefly to treatment recommendations. Specific recommendations will be elaborated in future posts. The purpose of all the recommendations is to heal and seal the lining of the gut, thereby restoring and strengthening the patient’s immune function.
Ganesh, his 8 year old brother and his mother all suffer from constipation. I recommend that they all follow the GAPS protocol together, beginning with the Introductory GAPS Diet, (please refer to the link for a list of foods permitted at each stage) remaining at each stage for 3-5 days. If new foods which are introduced are well tolerated, Ganesh may progress to the subsequent stage. Typical indications of his condition and readiness to progress to a subsequent level are his bowels, rash, and behavior. These factors should be monitored in terms of progressing to a more advanced stage of the diet.
As they are all constipated, they should begin introducing fresh pressed vegetable and fruit juices from the beginning mixed with fermented raw cream and egg yolks. (GAPS milkshakes) The sour cream will provide much needed lubrication to the bowel. Raw egg yolks are a very nutritious healing food for the intestinal mucosa. Once they have completed Stage 6, they may progress to the Full GAPS Diet. The Full GAPS diet should be maintained for a minimum of 2 years before careful and controlled introduction of foods not included in the diet.
Another important component of the healing protocol is detoxification. Juicing is a time honored method of detoxification, as are baths with epsom salts, baking soda and seaweed powder. Sunbathing, without the use of sunscreens, is also very supportive to the immune system. Careful attention to the ingredients included in personal care products is essential. Dr. Campbell-McBride stated in the GAPS Practitioner’s training, that if we would not be comfortable putting the product in our mouth, then we should not be putting it on our skin. The skin absorbs everything. It is not a barrier, rather it is a living organ that absorbs materials directly into the bloodstream. The personal care product industry is largely unregulated, and many highly toxic substances that are very damaging to the immune system are commonly used ingredients in skin creams, shampoos, toothpastes, etc.
Only supplementation with fish oil, cod liver oil, an omega 3-6-9 oil blend, an increasing dose of probiotics as tolerated, and elderberry syrup is recommended. No other supplements are to be used at this time.
Constipation should resolve with proper diet, juicing and probiotics. If it persists, it must be treated, and enemas are the recommended method. Laxatives are not to be used. Boiled, filtered water mixed with probiotics and a small amount of natural salt should be used for the enemas.
It is recommended that Ganesh continue to receive all of the in school and at home services to support his functioning. Continued application of the ABA method is recommended. Hopefully as his brain toxicity clears, he will be able to make better use of the training.
The family will return for consultation on an as needed basis. No follow up meeting was scheduled. A report with detailed recommendations was provided. The GAPS healing protocol was conceived of as a self help program and the family need only return should they wish for further support, or if Ganesh’s condition does not improve. I will provide updates about him when they contact me with news of his progress.
Next in the line of gut flora insults comes diet the introduction of wheat and pasteurized dairy products. These foods, along with other processed foods, all feed the abnormal flora in the gut. By now, the gut dysbiosis is well developed, sending toxins throughout the child’s body. The gateway to learning disabilities is now wide open.
Janna Lara says
Did you have any updates about how Ganesh did on the diet? I am very curious. My son has ASD and I want to help him. I would do anything to help him but I am worried if I can even get him to eat the stuff he’s allowed to eat on this diet.
I have not seen that child or family for many years, and I do not know how he fared. It is a challenge with what is permitted on the diet. But so important to figure out a way to make it work. Diet makes such a difference with these kids.
I was really pleased to read this, it has been rather helpful. My daughter has suffered from agonising constipation and we eventually saw a holistic GP. He immediately asked about her birth and i replied she was a shoulder presentation and so an emergency c-section. Straight away he told me it was likely to be a gut flora problem because babies born by c-section don’t pass through the birth canal. We followed his advice and she’s as right as rain now! Very interesting!
Its so great to hear about people who have been able to heal. Thanks for taking the time to write.
I am thinking about starting this diet, but I have a question about birth control pills. They usually contain starch and sugars, is that daily amount still too much even if you take all the other starches, carbs, and sugars out while on this diet. Will starting the diet and continuing these conventional bc pills conflict with each other?
Thank you for writing. The problem with the birth control pill is not primarily the amount of starch and sugar in them, but the fact that the hormones themselves profoundly disrupt the gut flora. This is one risk factor for developing a GAPS condition that is very common in our culture, because of how many women, and even teenagers, take birth control pills. They are not good for the health of the bowel, according to Dr. Campbell-McBride.
Thank you for your prompt response Dr. Safrir. Its very encouraging that a conventionally trained doctor is also an advocate of dietary intervention in treating mental health issues.
I have been to many doctors who were condescending and dismissive of the relationship between diet and health.
My son has had the benefit of the best that modern medicine can give him in the way of medications and therapies for the last eight years. I have exhausted every treatment option and fell for every snake oil on the market. But it was not until i implemented the GAPS diet that i saw, and for the first time ever, a direct cause and effect.
After only one week on the diet, he stopped soiling himself , bedwetting stopped, and his rapid manic depressive cycles dissipated. Keeping in mind that he is non verbal, he went from being a compulsive eater (we had locks on the fridge), to self limiting his own diet. To make a long story short, i think the physical pain is all but gone, and now we are dealing mainly with the psychiatric issues like OCD ETC..
I think you are correct that Dr. Campbell would never recommend meds. I will keep at the GAPS diet and continue to up the ante by introducing more and more healing foods. Its not an easy process, but its the best hope most we have.
Thank you for writing and letting all of us know about the improvements you witnessed after implementing the diet. It is especially remarkable, given all that you had been through previously and everything you tried. I imagine that many people will feel encouraged to persevere by hearing your story. I am repeatedly moved when I learn about what parents have done to try and help their children. It’s a monumental task. Blessings to you and your family for the New Year.
My 14 year old is severly autistic, with OCD , pica, and while host of other issues.
He has been on the GAPS protocol for three years now, and although he has made tremendous improvements relative to where he was prior to starting, he is still going through severe periods of die off. There are times that his frustration levels result in self injurious behaviors and tantrums that last throughout the day.
During these times, I am tempted, (just a little), to consider medications. He used to be on a cocktail of different meds., but since starting GAPS, he has been weaned off all of them. At what point should one consider medication as an option?
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for writing. I find myself curious about the tremendous improvements your son has made since starting GAPS. It might be encouraging to other readers to hear about how he has improved.
In terms of when is it appropriate to consider medications, I have the feeling that Dr. Campbell-McBride would say never, though I am of course not sure she would say that. I myself do not know the answer. I guess it would have to be a cost benefit analysis. If the medications were very helpful, and the behaviors very destructive, you may want to consider it. If on the other hand, if the medications have serious side effects, and the benefits equivocal, it would not seem worth it. That is not much of a definitive answer, but I don’t think there is a single answer. It depends on your philosophy.
This is the first I’ve heard of Dr. Campbell Mc-Bride’s cautions about products used on the skin. I would like to start being more careful about what I use. How can I identify appropriate products?
Hi Andy . Thanks for writing.
It is very important to pay attention to which personal care products you use, because the industry is completely unregulated. Dr. Campbell-McBride suggest using egg yolks to shampoo with a diluted vinegar rinse. Many people do not use soap at all. They feel that they do not need it and that it strips the skin of natural oils. They feel like the body adjusts and eventually it becomes unnecessary.
Coconut oil is a good emollient as is olive oil.
There is a group called EWG, Environmental Working Group, which has a site called Skin Deep Cosmetics Data Base
That is a good source for checking into things.
Penny Strong says
I have just found you a few weeks ago. It feel like a miricle to me. My son has ocd. It started 2 years agi. He is know 11 years old.. Will this diet help him?
I personally have only been recently certified in this method of healing and so cannot speak from my own clinical experience, but Dr. Campbell-McBride would say yes. I definitely would try it if I were you. Its a big commitment and effort, but the pay off would be enormous if it helped your child.