As the mom of two kids with disabilities, I have tried many things over the years to help them thrive. For a long time, there were few answers. My youngest daughter is on the autism spectrum and still didn’t sleep through the night by the age of five. As a family, we were extremely stressed out and lacking quality sleep. We tried every recommended intervention but nothing worked.
Then a friend advised me to remove dairy from my daughter’s diet. She said it would only take 2-3 weeks to see results. I didn’t believe anything would happen but I was desperate. It seemed like a small sacrifice to make so I removed all foods that contained cow milk from our kitchen and said a little prayer it would work.
I couldn’t believe the results! In less than two weeks, my daughter was finally sleeping through the night. That would have been enough for us, but amazingly, there were some big changes in my 7-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, too. A few days later, her teacher called me to tell me that “suddenly” she was doing much better in school. In another week, her lifelong sinus allergies disappeared.
I learned the incredible impact that food can have, even on kids who don’t have allergies. We began to hope that we could heal more of their cognitive issues with the right diet and other interventions. Eventually, we found more foods that were harming them and other protocols that benefited them.
If you are wondering if dietary changes can help your child, here are a few tips on how to get started:
Select one food to remove from their diet. Research common reactions to this food (outside of allergic reactions) for your child’s specific disability or medical issues. You can do allergy and food sensitivity testing, but they all can have false positive or negative results.
Remove only one food at a time. If you remove more, you won’t be able to determine which food caused what reactions.
Research how long to keep the food out of their diet. Each food takes a different length of time to leave the body. Dairy takes 2-3 weeks, soy takes a few days, and gluten takes 3-6 months.
Observe your child. Don’t forget to also ask her teachers, aides, therapists, childcare providers, etc. if they’ve noticed anything new or different after a few days or weeks.
Learn about the food you are removing. For example, when removing dairy, what you’re really removing is any cow milk proteins, which are also called caseins. If you see any ingredient that looks like the word “casein,” such as “caseinated,” that means the product contains milk. (There are lots of great dairy-free products on the market to replace them!) The only cow milk product you can use is ghee.
Learn to read food labels. This will open your eyes to what kind of fillers and chemicals are in your child’s food.
Your child may not be happy about this. If the food you are removing is particularly toxic to their systems, you might see stormy or unusual behaviors. Hang in there as the food passes through their systems and their body detoxes from its effects.
I also recommend creating a system to keep track of your observations, like the organizational Excel and Word worksheets I created. You may even want to record your child before and after to see if there are any physical changes, such as eczema or dark circles under their eyes clearing up.
Diet is one of many tools we can use to help our kids, especially if they have disabilities. There are more things you can do, too, besides just finding foods that harm them, such as balancing their gut bacteria and feeding them superfoods. The key to intervention is starting simple and taking the time to observe your child.