If you are like me, when someone first suggested that changing my son’s diet might help improve his behavioral issues, I thought they were crazy. What does diet have to do with behavior? I quickly found out the answer was “Everything!” With the 20/20 hindsight of a mom who has traveled down this road, I share with you my tips on how to successfully implement dietary changes, keep your sanity, and help your child feel better.
1. Create a Roadmap
Food sensitivity (IgG) testing can be very helpful in creating your roadmap. If possible, work with a MAPS doctor or other health professional. IgG testing will indicate which foods create a hypersensitive inflammatory response. Focus first on priority foods – those foods that show the highest reactivity level. Eliminating these foods will go a long way to reduce gut inflammation – our ultimate goal. In absence of testing, a good beginning is the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet.
2. Get Organized, Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Need to change your child’s diet? Breathe and be prepared. Spending time getting organized upfront before making any changes will help you feel more confident and less overwhelmed. Break it down into manageable, bite-size pieces (no pun intended).
Create a list of all foods your child takes on a weekly basis. Evaluate which foods can stay and which ones need to change based on test results. Don’t fret if there are more foods to change than keep. Your child will not starve.
Find cookbooks, websites or apps that specialize in recipes that match your new diet (i.e., gluten-free, paleo, vegan for dairy-free options). It will be less frustrating than trying to modify yours. Consider pre-made baking mixes. For premade or packaged foods, carefully read food labels to fully understand what ingredients are in each product. If you are going gluten-free, look for products with one of these symbols to certify that the product is safe for your child:
For other foods, check out product websites for FAQs or call the company directly. To make it easier for you to find ‘safe’ products for your child, use the ‘Search’ feature on my online market (www.WellAmy.com) to filter through more than 1,000 products based on 16 common allergens to be free-of.
3. Eliminate Artificial Ingredients
Beware of the use of artificial ingredients – colors, flavors, preservatives – in boxed processed food. These ingredients are not only void of nutrients, they are chemically synthesized from neurotoxic petrochemicals not detectable by IgG testing. Avoid foods with artificial colors (such as FD&C Red #40, FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Yellow #6), flavors (such as vanillin) or preservatives (such as BHA, BHT, TBHQ). I was amazed at how much my son’s behavior improved after eliminating artificial ingredients before even starting a GFCF diet.
4. Take One Step at a Time
You’re now ready to start eliminating certain foods. I suggest taking one food out at a time instead of going cold turkey. It’s important to remember that offending foods create inflammation and can be addictive for our kids. Lying behind that inflammation may be stored toxins. Taking foods away too quickly can create an overwhelming dump of toxins as well as an opiate-like withdrawal reaction. Neither of these are a good thing.
So let me give you an example. For my son, his most beloved and problematic food was milk. Instead of taking it away all at once, I gradually diluted his milk over a ten day period (90% dairy milk/10% non-dairy milk on day 1, then 80% dairy milk/20% non-dairy milk on day 2, and so on until 100% non-dairy milk on day 10). This enabled his body to adjust without creating a negative reaction.
I also suggest focusing on one meal category at a time. For example, focus first on breakfast. Only after you and your child feel like you’ve found good substitutes for this meal category, do you move on to tackling lunch, then dinner, then snacks, and so on. By taking one step at a time, you’ll feel more successful and your child’s body will feel less overwhelmed by the changes.
5. Take Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzyme supplements can also help reduce your child’s digestive burden. They will start to feel better as you implement the new diet. Do NOT mistake digestive enzymes as an alternative to changing your child’s diet. Instead, enzymes are there as additional level of support. I suggest a broad spectrum supplement in the early stages that contains protease, peptidase, amylase, lactase and lipase enzymes designed to break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats. More targeted enzymes can be used at a later stage.
6. Don’t Worry about a Limited Diet
In the beginning, eliminating offending foods is more important than worrying about a restricted or limited diet. As gut inflammation diminishes and your child starts to feel better, he/she will naturally become more interested in broadening their appetite. Strive for moderation and rotation with new foods. If after few months you aren’t seeing an increased interest in new foods and/or behavioral improvements, consult your MAPS doctor or a nutrition practitioner for additional IgG or phenolic testing and other interventions to further heal your child’s gut lining.
7. Don’t Worry about Lack of Nutrition from Food
Yes, I said not to worry about whether your child is getting enough nutrition from food, at least not in the beginning stages. One of the most common concerns I hear from parents is how can my child get enough calcium for his bones if I eliminate dairy from his diet? The reality is, most nutrients are probably not being fully absorbed by your child’s body anyway due to chronic gut inflammation. Until the gut heals, I recommend taking high-quality, allergen-free, practitioner-grade nutritional supplements to alleviate nutritional deficiencies.
Utilize these seven tips and I’m confident you will successfully implement a new diet for your child. It’s a marathon, not a race. Stay steadfast. You can do it!
About Amy Hull Brown:
Amy Hull Brown, Founder of Well Amy, is a Holistic Health Practitioner who takes an individualized approach to health recovery. She is a certified Nutritional Consultant, Health Coach, GAPSTM practitioner, Biotherapeutic DrainageTM practitioner, EAV technician and Clinical Aromatherapist.
Her focus on holistic healing began several years ago after her twin sons were diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. Not finding answers from conventional medicine, Amy was successful in recovering her sons using a variety of natural approaches including dietary modifications, biomedical treatment, detoxification, immunotherapy, homeopathy and biotherapeutic drainage. Amy knows firsthand what is required to follow are a restricted diet as her sons were once sensitive to over 30 different foods. www.wellamy.com.