our journey of hope and healing through autism

Why would a diet help autism? Specific Carbohydrate Diet- Part 1


The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has been the most helpful intervention we’ve tried to alleviate Hannah’s autism symptoms.

You can read more about what life was like for Hannah before we started the Specific Carbohydrate diet here https://holdingtomorrow.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/sleep-deprivation-how-we-came-to-pursue-biomedical-interventions-for-autism/



For a brief history, you can read here:



Before regressing,   Hannah was developing typically, but was showing signs of what I now recognize as food allergies.  You can see her red, red cheeks in this series of pictures.  This was a sign that her immune system wasn’t functioning as it ought to be.

From the time Hannah was 2 until she started SCD at 3 1/2, she was spiraling downward.   She moaned and screamed for hours one night, and not the next.  Sometimes she made eye contact.  She used the occassional word.  If autism is a static neurological condition that can’t be changed, why is there variability in how severe Hannah’s symptoms are?


The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has made such a difference for Hannah.  Every ounce of effort I’ve put into peeling veggies and prepping special meals  has paid off in reduced autism symptoms and quicker mastery of skills during speech and occupational therapy.  It might seem crazy, until you learn about how the health of the gut affects the brain.



It may seem foreign, but producing gas is an indication that your body is not digesting something you are eating.  That undigested food is being fermented by undesirable gut bacteria, which fuels their growth.

Many non-verbal kids with severe digestive problems hurt themselves or are aggressive with others in attempting to cope with the digestive pain.

For more details on this, there is a great video presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Mumper.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvbJC5tTg6U.  If you are pressed for time minutes 10 through 15 of the video are most pertinent.


Hannah didn’t have lots of physical signs of digestive tract problems, other than a distended belly that was disproportionate with her thin arms and legs.  But, boy did she have lots of signs of discomfort!

Serious digestive tract problems are very common in kids with autism.  Many kids with ASD can’t communicate their discomfort through language

•“The prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with ASDs has been reported to range from 9% to 70% or higher.”
In 2010 a paper was published in the journal Pediatrics, suggesting standards of care for gastrointestinal (GI) problems in children with autism.  Their conclusion was:
” The presence of any alarm symptom should initiate an evaluation, but even in the absence of alarm symptoms, a diagnostic evaluation (Table 2) or empiric trial of a therapeutic intervention (Table 3) may be considered.”
In other words, children with any signs of digestive system problems deserve an evaluation by a GI specialist.  If you only remember one thing from these slides, I hope you’ll remember that autism andi problems go hand in hand, but the digestive problems are treatable.  You may have a hard time finding a GI specialist that will evaluate and treat a child with autism.  Crazy, huh?
GI problems that accompany autism are treatable.


You can view a larger stool chart here 

A few years ago, I never would have imagined that I’d be celebrating and fist pumping when my child’s  poops were consistently “perfect”.  The ideal poop is a Type 4.

When constipation is present, children experience discomfort or pain. It also impacts their health, because one of the major jobs of the digestive tract is to ridding the body quickly of toxins that the body wants OUT.  When stools hang around for long, toxins begin to be reabsorbed.

If stools are too loose, the body is missing out on absorbing nutrients.


The role of digestive health in autism is the subject of a great deal of research currently.  When digestive health is improved through the SCD, autism symptoms improve.  Ridding the diet of foods that are not digested and absorbed easily is a key in begginning healing of the digestive tract.


The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is designed to be a temporary healing diet.  The general guideline is that a person remains on the diet for a year after the last symptom dissapears.   Non-SCD foods are slowly introduced at this point.



The ARI Parent Ratings are compiled from parent surveys and indicate whether an intervention made a child’s symptoms better or worse.   There are ratings for pharmaceuticals, vitamins, diets, and so on.   In my mind, the parent ratings are kind of like going to a huge ladies night and getting to ask 537 moms who have tried the Specific Carbohydrate Diet if it helped their child.  Of those 537 moms, 71% said that their child’s autism symptoms improved.  Pretty impressive, in my mind!


This is the very first study that I was exposed to that showed that autistic like traits are observed in an animal when harmful gut bacteria produce a neurotoxin.  You can watch more about this on David Suzuki’s program  The Autism Enigma

For Part 2:



2 comments on “Why would a diet help autism? Specific Carbohydrate Diet- Part 1

  1. Pingback: Then and Now- 1 years progress | holdingtomorrow

  2. Pingback: Hannah’s Big dreams | holdingtomorrow

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