Saturday, April 5, 2008

Eating My Words

I think I might owe Jenny McCarthy an apology. And possibly a gluten-free, casein-free lunch.

When Jenny McCarthy went on the talk show circuit saying she cured her child of autism with this special diet, my most judgmental inner voice blurted out, "Great, another B-List Celebrity hawks a diet plan, and this time kids are the victims. She ought to be ashamed. What is wrong with people? Her poor kid. What a load of garbage." That was ugly talk, and as tempted as I am, I will not blame my upbringing on my wicked tongue. I am judgmental and it's the thing I am working on hardest about myself.

Now, that is not to say I'm writing tonight to take a stance, get political, persuade you the joys of the gfcf diet, or start a Jenny McCarthy fan club (I'm not only not a fan, I'm not sure I've ever seen anything she did). NOPE. I am writing tonight, for one thing, to say, in as low-jinxy of a way as I can, that today was not awful, because those of you rooting for us (and holding us up with your strength and love) deserve to know that, and I am giving a bit of credit to diet.

I have still not read Jenny McCarthy's books or even heard her spiel, more than a minute-long recap on the radio, so I'm not saying that we follow whatever it is she advocates, because I don't know thing one about her story. I also know that plenty of people have tried all kinds of diets as a means to help their children, and it didn't work. Diet clearly is not a one-size-fits-all sure-fire miracle. What I am saying is that I do know I am certainly learning -- in a way I never imagined -- how powerful diet can be to the human brain. (Are you thinking, "No duh?" I don't know why I never got it before, but I never got it before.)

Now, we've made many changes in the last couple months, because we'd reached an unsustainable level of misery and we needed to throw the kitchen sink at it to get some peace. A gfcf diet (also no soy and very little sugar) is just one thing among many we've tried, so I can't say for sure how much to credit it with the rooster's better days. I don't know if diet played a part to somehow help rooster share his toys with his sister today, or kept him from tantruming on the long car ride (to pick up some gfcf supplies), or helped him blend in (when does that happen?!) at two birthday parties in a row, or inspired him to walk up to his daddy unprompted and say, "I'm crazy about you, Daddy!" Maybe his pragmatics and reciprocity issues seem better lately for a host of other complex reasons.

do know this, though. My rooster's first cold happened when he was three months old. Every entry in my thorough journals indicates it's still with us, more than three and a half years later. But without a doubt in my mind, today he is the least sick he's looked in all that time. Furthermore, without giving you TMI, our rooster is still in diapers, and the contents of those diapers have NEVER seemed healthy. Until this weekend. He looked better, he felt better, he digested better, than he ever has, and today was not awful, not even a little awful. We've been religious about the diet for several weeks now, and my gut tells me it is paying off.

I can barely forgive myself for not trying this diet sooner. I was hugely ignorant about food. Even if you might find it understandable that I rolled my eyes at Jenny McCarthy before I knew better, I should have heard what Barbara Kingsolver was saying. I am a huge fan of Kingsolver's fiction, but I also read her memoir about eating locally. She made a point I think of often lately. She marveled that people who might not think twice about expensive travel or clothes don't want to spend extra on food in order to eat what is best for them. She said something like this: food is one of the three essential things that humans need in order to STAY ALIVE. Given that NO DUH fact, you would think that people would be willing to put effort and money toward eating right.

Well, hey, I will be the first to say that I personally have all kinds of issues with eating, issues that go way back, issues that come from all corners and could support another whole blog, but I thought I was doing much better for my kids. Both of them have always been provided very "healthy" diets. I always thought I was providing better for them than for myself in that way. I just had no idea that for some kids on the spectrum, kids like my rooster, "healthy" is more complicated. Once again, I learn that he has special needs, but that we can find ways to meet them if we try really hard.

So, anyways, I hope you heard this one thing amid all the other stuff I rambled about in this post: Today? Not awful. Really that's what I'm trying to say. Thanks again, everybody. (I'm going to drop and cover now.)


Niksmom said...

Hurray for a "day not awful!" :-) And the diet...we saw very marked shifts in Nik when we cut out certain types of food. Of course, we also didn't realize that his formula (tube fed) was compounding the problem.

I have tons of food sensitivities (no official "allergies" though) that really throw my body out of whack. If I have soy, my tongue gets inflamed and burns and gets a film on it (sorry, TMI but relevant to the point). I finally realized, after a long time of "putting up with it," that if my tongue reacts like that, what does the rest of my body do?

The more I "eat clean" the less congested and inflamed I am and the easier it is for me to drop some pounds (NOT miraculous amounts, unfortunately!).

Soy, like high fructose corn syrup, is insidious. It's even in some store brands of iced tea! I've become an avid label reader.

My long, rambling point is that our kids (yours and mine, I am not speaking for all autistic children here) may be sensitive to more than gluten or casein.
I've not read JM's stuff either (she bugs me) but I do know that a change to more "natural" foods seems to help both Nik and me. :-)

Anonymous said...

you say, "today, not awful." and i say, YAY!!!

we tried the diet for about 10 months. religiously. it helped. then we tappered off while using digestive enzymes. i think it was a good thing to do. i believe fluffy was better for it and now we are not needing it. not saying that will happen with anyone else, but it does feel good to try things and see that they help.

personally, the things JM's said that i've actually read, about diet, about vaccines, and about her experiences, i agree with. she's getting a lot of heat, unnecessarily.

redheadmomma said...

I'm tranquilo about your post, have no problem with JM. Hey, I'm glad it's getting more media attention because of her.

that is WONDERFUL that you're seeing a difference - and the not-so-nice stuff in his diaper is a big red great that he's seeming more healthy. SO great!