Tag Archives: organic food

Sick Bay

That nasty stomach-bug thing that’s been going around has made its way to our house. Right before bed last night, Nigel ran to the bathroom to throw up. I thought at first that it was because (I’d discovered) he drank way too much soda that afternoon and evening while I was working in my office. But typically if his stomach’s upset for that reason, it’s a one-time elimination deal. And, unfortunately, Nigel’s trips to the bathroom occurred several more times throughout the night.

Usually, he makes it on time, but at one point in the wee hours, I heard him (the sound at which all parents groan) and went to check on him. It wasn’t pretty. I cleaned him up, got him back in bed and reminded him about using the old pot that I’d put by his side for the next episode, and then cleaned up the carpeted hallway, the bathroom door, sink, mirror, and floor. I didn’t even want to know what time it was.

Nigel has always been a trooper when it comes to being sick. Even as a young child it didn’t seem to faze him. He never whined about being sick – he just took it. He’s still the same way. And he loves saltine crackers, which I only buy when the kids are sick. I think it’s like a consolation prize in his mind – he requested the saltine crackers moments after he vomited his entire dinner. Not yet, I told him. Your stomach needs to rest. I’ll get you some tomorrow. And he accepted that. His stomach probably made him sense that it was best to wait.

Fortunately, though, our family doesn’t get sick much, especially in recent years. Two and a half years ago, we started eating organic food. Not everything – in fact, probably about half of the food we consume is organic – the stuff that we eat every day. But it really makes a difference in our health. In two and a half years, both boys have only been sick twice, and it was mild – over in two days. I’ve only been sick once, also mildly.

But still, even in my children’s teen years, I’m cleaning up puke. At some ungodly hour, no less. Afterward, I manage to get a little sleep. In the morning I get up and get Aidan off to school, check on Nigel, empty and clean out his used pot, wash my hands, and come in the office to work. Suddenly I hear retching sounds in the hallway right outside my office door. It’s one of the cats, about to yak on the carpet. I leap up from my desk and grab the poor thing, herding him into the bathroom and holding him over the linoleum. Then I clean that up, laughing at the fact that I have cleaned more puke in the last nine hours than I have in the past four years. I wash my hands for about the thirtieth time, put on my shoes and coat, and go out to buy non-organic saltine crackers. And maybe a new mop.

The Organic Difference

I mentioned in a recent post how eating organic food has made a big difference in our family’s health, and I wanted to go into more detail about that. In the past two years, I have had only one mild illness, over in two days, and the boys have each had only two mild illnesses. I used to have spring allergies so bad that I would need to be on Claritin-D for two months straight. Not since I started eating organic food.  My nose still gets a little itchy and I sneeze a bit, but at least I can breathe at night.  I have not experienced any major congestion in two years.

The great thing about organic food is that you don’t have to buy everything organic to notice the benefits. All you have to do to get started is to look at what you consume every day and choose one of those items and buy it organic. For me, I almost always have cold cereal and milk for breakfast. So do my sons. We started drinking organic milk and noticed the difference right away. For one thing, it tastes so much better than non-organic, somehow fresher and more flavorful. I switched my cereal to an organic brand, and Nigel’s also. (Aidan is addicted to his Crispix. He’s an even pickier eater than Nigel.)

Next I looked at what else we eat a lot of in our house: fruit. Both boys eat apples every day, so I started buying organic apples. Yes, they are more expensive, but our health is worth it. And neither of the boys got sick at all until almost a year later, when the next school year started. A nasty flu was going around, but they were only down for two days. And I didn’t get sick at all.

I started buying more organic fruit, yogurt, eggs, and tried some organic meat. Words can’t accurately describe how much better it all tastes. I’m not saying that I’ll never go back to non-organic. On the contrary – I would say that at this point the percentage of my diet that is organic is probably only half, or less than half. I’m not the type of guest at a potluck who passes up a great-looking dish because it’s non-organic. And on the rare occasions I eat out, I don’t ask if anything’s organic. Eating organic isn’t like being a vegetarian or vegan – it’s not all or nothing, unless you want it to be. Another great thing about organic food is that it cuts out all the chemicals – the artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives present in most non-organic food that can be so detrimental to the functioning of an autistic person, as I mentioned in my previous post.

Try switching to organic even for just one or two items that you eat on a regular basis. It’s definitely worth the effort.  

7 Dietary Changes to Try

It can be extremely difficult to regulate your autistic child’s diet. I know that song and dance all too well. But it is something we parents must attempt. Diet – what we put into our bodies – affects our health even more than most of us realize, and this is certainly true for autistic individuals, as evidenced by the success of the GF/CF diet. But since we did not have a successful experience with that, I have modified Nigel’s diet over the years to one that seems to work the best for him. Following are seven suggestions for diet modification:

1) Try the GF/CF diet. It might benefit your child. Be sure to maintain consistency with it for several weeks to accurately gauge its effectiveness.

2) Limit sweeteners, especially artificial ones. Nigel is okay with the occasional bit of natural sugar that crosses his path, even a little corn syrup now and then, but he absolutely cannot have any artificial sweeteners. He becomes completely agitated and unmanageable, reverts to echolalia, and general chaos ensues. That means mainstream sodas (Coke, Pepsi, etc.) are out, but once in a while I allow him to have some even though I regret it later. He is particularly sensitive to Aspartame, which I’ve read many bad things about on the internet.

3) Limit other chemicals: artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. I’ve read that the Red No.-whatever colors are the worst, but the rest can’t be far behind. We frequent the natural foods section of various grocery stores and buy all of our cereals and snacks there. No Trix or rainbow-colored goldfish crackers!

4) Try organic food. Yes, there’s been a lot of debate about if it’s worth the extra cost or if the money’s all in the organic labeling. That may be true in some cases, but know this: In the past two years since I started buying organic food, and not everything – just about one-third of the food we consume is organic – I have only been sick once and it was extremely mild. Both of my sons have only been sick twice. Twice, in two whole years! And those were also mild illnesses. For kids, that’s pretty amazing. I am sold on organic foods no matter what I read or what anyone says. They are so much better for your health. They automatically exclude artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. And pesticides! And they taste far better, too.  I think I’ll write a whole post about organic food.

5) Push fruit. Fruit aids the digestive system and is full of vitamins. Of course, consuming vegetables is just as important, but if your child balks at most vegetables (like mine), you may have better luck with fruit since it is sweeter.

6) Encourage water consumption. This will be very difficult if your child acts like water is poison. My younger son used to fall into that category. I was able to get him to drink more water by bargaining with him with what he wanted: If you drink half a glass of water, then you can have a glass of lemonade.

7) Limit meat consumption. Meat is more difficult to digest, so I cook with smaller amounts and on fewer days of the week. You don’t have to cut something out completely to see the benefits of scaling back.