In my book, EnVISIONING a Bright Future: Interventions that Work for Children and Adults on the Autism Spectrum, I chose the Body Ecology Diet (BED) developed by Donna Gates as my favorite or all the “special” diets for kids with autism.
Because unlike some of the other diets, it removes the most problematic foods: sugars, gluten, casein, processed foods, soy and canola oil AND includes the best quality, most nutritionally dense foods from all the food groups:
- Plentiful, nutritionally dense, dark, leafy green and root vegetables, such as collard and mustard greens, kale, broccoli, onions, parsnips, winter squash and potatoes.
- Animal proteins that are hormone and antibiotic-free, and easier-to-digest, such as fish, chicken, and softly scrambled eggs. Sometimes amino acid supplements may be needed to help with protein deficiency problems. Both digestive enzymes and fermented foods help with protein digestion.
- Four gluten-free grains: quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat, all of which are high in vegetable proteins.
- Organic, unrefined, virgin oils and fats: coconut, cod liver, flaxseed, macadamia nut, olive and pumpkinseed oils, ghee, raw butter and for some, but only if they do overcome their sensitivity to casein, even raw cream. These provide monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, zinc and omega 3 fats. Important for immunity and brain health.
- Selected fruits: berries, grapefruit, kiwi, green apples and pineapples, eaten with at least four ounces of coconut kefir (see below), to counteract the negative effect of fruits’ natural sugars, which can feed a systemic fungal/yeast infection and cause the blood to remain too acidic.
Because the Body Ecology program follows seven principles, it encompasses the benefits of all the other special diets, along with a few special additions.
- Principle of Uniqueness: This principle is a foundation of the Defeat Autism Now! protocol. Individual dietary and nutritional needs change daily, with the seasons, as well as with an individual’s total load factors. Donna adds the principles of the original blood type diet[i] to help guide food choices that might be better for individuals from one blood group than another
- Principle of Expansion and Contraction: Based on the macrobiotic principles of yin and yang, which look at the energetic properties of food, this principle helps a person maintain dietary balance by avoiding foods and substances that are too contracting such as meat, eggs and salt or too expansive, such as sugar. The Body Ecology program encourages primary food selection from the middle of this continuum, which includes many types of vegetables.
- Principle of Acid and Alkaline: Keeping blood in a slightly alkaline condition is vital to restoring health. Too much acid encourages yeast overgrowth, viruses, parasites, and other unhealthy cells to thrive. Every meal should contain no more than 20% acid-forming foods combined with 80% alkaline-forming foods. To download a food chart showing the pH of many foods, go to www.acidalkalinebalance.com. Another good reference is the book Alkalize or Die. To assure an alkaline gut, the Body Ecology program uses Vitality SuperGreen® or other powdered nutrient-rich green drinks to alkalize the intestines and restore and maintain a healthy inner ecosystem.
- Principle of Cleansing: This principle states that humans must continuously cleanse to remove the toxins of modern-day living. The Body Ecology program is unique in recommending regular colon cleansing (such as home enemas) as an element to this most important principle.
- Principle of Food Combining: The basic premise of this principle is that different nutrients require different conditions in the stomach to be properly digested. For example, protein requires a high-acid environment; starch requires an alkaline environment. Mixing starch and protein in a single meal does not allow the stomach to digest either properly.
Three rules: Always eat:
- Protein with non-starchy and/or ocean vegetables.
- Allowable grains (amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat and millet) and starchy vegetables (acorn and butternut squash, lima beans, peas, corn, water chestnuts, artichokes and red skin potatoes) with non-starchy and/or sea vegetables.
- Fruits alone, and on an empty stomach.
- Principle of 80/20: Two more rules:
- Eat until your stomach is 80% full, leaving 20% available for digestion.
- 80% of your food should be land and/or ocean vegetables. The remaining 20% are animal protein (fish or poultry), an acceptable grain, and starchy vegetables.
- Principle of Step-by-step: True healing takes place in small steps, which happen in their own time and their own order. The program may seem confusing at first but begin by taking small steps. Pick up one or two tools and use them until you are comfortable with them…then pick up a few more. As you begin your journey to wellness you must focus on four actions:
- 1) Create more energy
- 2) Conquer infections
- 3) Correct digestion
- 4) Cleanse out the toxins
Separating starch and protein into separate meals and eating fruit separately, increases the efficiency of digestion. Following this principle can often lead to great success with digestive issues.
The body goes through cycles of progress followed by periods of cleansing. Each step gets deeper and deeper into the body to pull out toxins and heal. Quick fixes, such as drugs halt the body’s innate wisdom to cleanse, drive sickness deeper into the body, and open the potential for more serious illness later. The toxins that have accumulated over years cannot be eliminated in days.
To assist the body in healing, Donna makes the following suggestions:
The Body Ecology program also includes unique “signature” foods that aid in detoxification and healing: kefir and fermented coconut pudding from young coconuts, cultured vegetables and ocean vegetables, raw butter for the brain and intestinal lining, Celtic sea salt and undenatured whey protein. These fermented and other important foods are the real “stars” of the BEDROK protocol that can help jump-start healing.
- Young coconut kefir (yck) and coconut pudding are made from the green or white, unripe baby versions of the mature fuzzy brown coconuts most people recognize. These gems are available in most health food or natural food stores. Their sterile pale “milk” and gelatinous “meat” are full of minerals and enzymes. Donna “kefirs” these parts of the coconut, using a special “starter” that she sells, to make a drink and pudding that most children love. She recommends drinking at least 1/4 -1/2 cup of the kefir in the morning upon rising, with meals, and at bedtime. The fermented meat, great for breakfast or a snack, provides a raw, easily-digested, vegetarian protein that contains valuable lauric (antimicrobial) and caprylic (antifungal) fatty acids.
- Cultured vegetables (CVs) aid in digestion, especially when eaten with meals containing animal protein. Ideally everyone should have some CVs or yck with every meal. Puree cultured vegetables for children who do not chew well. They taste tart and sour, and can be made more palatable by combining them with olive or pumpkinseed oil, raw cream, homemade mayonnaise, Celtic sea salt, and/or Stevia.
- Raw Butter is almost 100% milk fat, In healthy breast milk over 50% of the calories burned for energy come from the fat in the milk. Donna noticed that most children with autism are fed formulas that do not contain the benefits of raw milk fat. The raw butter is an important nutrient for the developing brain. The goal is to duplicate the raw fat in a healthy mother’s breast milk. Raw butter contains vitamins A, D, E and butyric acid. It is very healing to the mucosal lining of the gut, and helps the micro-flora adhere there and colonize. Butter is 99% casein-free, that’s less casein than in human breast milk. If kids start on raw butter four to seven days after coconut kefir, the small amount of residual casein does not cause a problem for those following a GF/CF regimen. In fact, the butter seems to really jump-start the healing process. Find a reliable, local source for raw, organic, grass-fed butter.
- Whey protein, while a milk product, whey protein concentrate contains no sugar or fat and only trace amounts of casein. Cows milk is made up of 20% whey protein and 80% casein. Breast milk is 70% whey protein and only 30% casein and it is an A2 casein. Whey protein increases glutathione levels in the liver, thus helping with detoxification. It is also great for muscle development. After being on yck for about two weeks, add one scoop of the undenatured whey protein to the Vitality SuperGreen drink.
Donna Gates has made her autism support program available to anyone serious about learning about the BED. She has established an online community of families interested in healing their children using her diet called BEDROK for Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids. The goals of the BEDROKprogram are to:
- Nourish the cells and tissues of the body with high quality, easily-digested foods that contain superior nutrition.
- Bring ALL infections and virus’ under control.
- Open detoxification pathways, thus allowing the body to continually cleanse out toxins that have accumulated since conception.
- Create a strong, vital inner ecosystem in the intestines that ensures the digestion and absorption of foods, and corrects the nutrient deficiencies that accompany autism. This vibrant inner ecosystem also builds a healthy intestinal lining, and a strong immune system that protects a child from further infections.
The BED can be a very different way of eating for many people, especially those who currently eat a standard American diet…high in wheat, dairy and carbs. Just cleaning up the quality of your diet can result in some remarkable changes. When combined with some of the sensory and other therapies in my book, it can make the difference between a continuing autism diagnosis and recovery!
EnVISIONing a Bright Future: Interventions that Work for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder shares close to 50 interventions from two dozen recognized experts ranging from medical doctors, scientists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, alternative medicine, optometry and Applied Behavioral Analysis. Donna Gates and the Body Ecology team recommend this book highly. Learn More and Order It Now.
About Editor, Patricia S. Lemer:
Patricia S. Lemer is a Co-founder and the Executive Director of Developmental Delay Resources (DDR), an international, non-profit organization integrating conventional and holistic approaches for children with developmental delays. She holds a Masters of Education in counseling and learning disabilities from Boston College and a Masters in Business from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Lemer is a National Certified Counselor, and draws on over 40 years experience as a mental health professional, and 20 years as a liaison between the worlds of optometry and special education.
Ms. Lemer lectures internationally on viewing developmental delays, including autism, PDD, AD(H)D, LD, OCD, NLD and others, as a spectrum of disorders. She is especially interested in helping parents choose and prioritize appropriate interventions for their children. Her great interest in vision and the role of visual dysfunction in autism led to her becoming the Editor of EnVISIONing a Bright Future: Interventions that Work for Children and Adults withAutism Spectrum Disorder. Ms. Lemer lives in Pittsburgh, PA and is the mother of an adult daughter and the grandmother of Penelope, born in August, 2006.
Sources:[i] D’Adamo, J. The D’Adamo Diet. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1989. [ii] Baroody, TA. Alkalize or Die. Waynesville, NC: Holographic Health Press, 2002.
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