Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I believe this universe is entirely connected and that nothing stands alone.  That our universe is filled with interdependent and interwoven elements, whether you are talking about people, animals, bacteria, a phone call at just the right moment, natural systems in a forest, or the ecosystem I call my body.

Just like diamonds... by Wayne Dixon
found at: http://www.photographyblogger.net/12-beautiful-spider-web-photos/

Most of us do not spend much, if any, time contemplating these connections.  Is it the inherent complexities of an interwoven universe and we just don't want to think that hard?  Is it our busy lives that leave us with little time to contemplate anything?  What do we miss if we are not in the habit of observing the interwoven nature of our systems, bodies, and universe?  Do we frequently ignore the big, interconnected picture and overlook important/meaningful connections?  When we do notice them, do we pass them off as coincidence or chance?

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” - John Muir
This past week we had a visitor at our farm.  Austin, the lead researcher from last summer's study of diet and autism, stopped by to give me an overview of the study's empirical results and his progress in writing it up for publication.  As we were talking about food and autism and kiddos I told him my thought evolution to where I now see everything as connected...  the soil microbes, the gut microbes, the health of our soils to the health of our foods, the cleanliness of the water to the health of the people and animals.  It is ALL connected.  Talk about a "duh" moment -- how did it take me so long to get here?

He said he sees that same interconnected web.  We talked about how one of the challenges in our study was the interconnectedness of the family unit, the food culture in a family, the complicated ecosystem called a child, etc..  To best study a complex system our study design is best described as a "food challenge."  To best ensure we were proving true cause and effect between the food changes and a child's behavior we tracked the old diet for two weeks, implemented a new diet for awhile, reverted to the old diet, and then came back to the diet being tested.  Data collection took place during each phase.

So that is what the design looked like.  It was crazy and intense.  As a mom who did SCD/GAPS/Low Oxalate without someone else buying and preparing the food I thought it was going to be pretty smooth for the families.  But it was a massive shift and as much as you may warn someone how hard it will be there is no substitution for experiencing it first hand.  It was hard.  Really, really hard.

One key piece in the study's support structure turned out to be missing from our design, so the families contracted with a local ABA therapist who helped with food training.  We went from, "It is unreasonable to expect my child to eat broccoli," to, "He loves almost everything."  The transition, once she was involved, went quickly.  Major kudos to her and the next study will include her role in the study design from day one, it was that critical to our success.  If you don't get the kiddo to eat the food it is difficult to study dietary intervention!

During the pilot study we accommodated issues and learned quickly what worked and didn't work.  There were highs and lows throughout the study, as would be expected.  One of the early high-five moments was when both participants discontinued using MiraLAX after the first couple of weeks on a new diet.  Both of them had been on it for awhile so this was a wonderful change for each of them.  It wasn't just chance, of course, and the kiddo who completed the food challenge portion of the study got right back to his former constipated self during the food challenge.  Food does matter...

Note:  The removal of MiraLAX from both children's daily routine was major in my book...  Why?  Read this article for the ugly downsides of this drug.

Getting back to the interconnected nature of it all, other improvements were documented throughout the study because what you eat does not impact just one part of your body.  The participant who completed the full study had a measurable decrease in difficult behaviors (tantrums, elopement, and attention).  Additionally, this participant was able to discontinue another major pharmaceutical drug after just a couple of days on the new foods.  The participant's parents also reported an increase in communication and notably in the ability to communicate specific needs unprompted.  Unfortunately the videotaping did not corroborate this reported improvement (note to self:  kids sometimes act funny with a stranger + video camera in the house so we need a less intrusive measurement tool...  with less intrusive methods we can hopefully identify if it was a design flaw which caused the uncorroborated report from the parents).

Now What???

So now I get it.  I really, really, really get it.  Our two and a half years on the SCD/GAPS/LOD healing diet was very challenging, particularly emotionally.  Who knew that food was so heavily indoctrinated into our culture that changing your foods would change your relationships with friends and family?  Many moms know this only after making extreme changes...  But I would not trade what I learned for anything, particularly because it worked!

Today we enjoy starches, sugars, and grains in moderation and everyone is doing well.  I am very picky about which grains we eat and how things are prepared, but life looks more the way it looked before we did our healing diet.  With one major change -- our food is WAY more healthful than it ever was before and we plan to keep it that way.

So we will continue working with the research community to prove what a bunch of Mamas already know...  On the one hand it seems silly to spend time on it, but published, peer reviewed research is the requirement for most in the medical community before they will "prescribe" dietary intervention.  So we play the game in the hopes that we can somehow systematize a solution for families in need of solutions.

I hope to one day hear from friends in the area that the majority of doctors are addressing a variety of issues not with Big Pharma symptom management but instead with commonsense "eat what your grandparents ate" solutions.  Some extreme cases, like autism, may take more intense dietary intervention.  But surely many chronic ailments would be lessened just by reducing the yoga mat ingredient intake in the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Okay, I may be picking on yoga mats but you catch my drift.

Finally, we will also continue to evolve as a family.  If everything is interconnected, and if we now understand that our foods impact our health and that the water/soil determine the healthfulness of our foods...  next stop:  FARMING!  Now that we own a farm we are half-way there!  Okay, maybe just 5% of the way there...  the one thing we have learned about farming so far is there is always a LOT to be done and not enough time to do it all.  But we love the farmers who healed us and we look forward to being the farmers that build community and are involved in healing the next set of children.