If you have read Our Story, it is clear that Charlotte and I had some underlying health issues that the Paleo diet was able to help with. Our healing came in the form of re-nourishment at a time of depletion.
Specifically, with Charlotte, her intestinal system was so underdeveloped that she was not able to digest even breast milk. Her system needed immediate intervention in the form of nutrients. Thankfully, we found a formula she could digest, and I firmly believe she was able to meet her milestones as an infant because she was receiving nutrients that her system could tolerate. It kept her bleeding and other intestinal symptoms at bay, but the damage had already been done. A gut-brain disconnect was developing in her nervous system that first year. Her issues became present to us through her sensory seeking and antisocial behavior when we introduced unknowingly toxic foods to her system in the form of grains and gluten. We had to work against the clock to restore this connection in the form of food based intervention.
In my case, the nursing failure caused an inefficient production of prolactin, the hormone that makes us feel good after the baby is born. Along with crashing post birth hormones and cortisol from the stress of a sick infant, my hormonal system instinctively worked to keep me alive and flooded my system with adrenaline as a fight or flight response. This caused Adrenal Fatigue and three and a half years later I am still learning how to feed and care for my fragile system. After the birth of Charlotte, the nursing, stress, and my SAD (Standard American Diet) during pregnancy and pre-baby life left my body with nothing to function on. Like Charlotte, I was in desperate need of nourishment and food based intervention.
The key link to both of our stories is depletion. When we were able to restore healthy, whole, unprocessed Paleo food to our system, positive changes took place immediately. Charlotte first noticeable change was eye contact. At age 2, she was in a sensory seeking state of constant movement and we had scarcely noticed that she was looking past us and avoiding social interaction. We figured that she was an active kid with no time to slow down. However, the connection she made with us after the toxic foods were taken away was life altering. It gave us an emotional connection to build with her, and we were able to get into her world and get a clearer picture of her issues.
For me, I was more energized and had a feeling of fullness for the first time since pregnancy. The stress on my body from nursing with a depleted system left me searching for caffeine, carbs, sugar, and anything I could get my hands on to make it through the day. It wasn’t until I found healthy fats in avocados, animal proteins, and nuts that my body responded with appropriate energy regulation. During taco night, I skipped the tortilla and just ate the meat and veggies like a salad. We stopped eating pasta. I substituted my morning peanut butter toast for eggs in the morning and avoided the 10am blood sugar crash that made me feel nauseous. I began to listen to my body and give it the right foods at the right time and my insulin and other hormones responded positively.
Sadly, this depletion of bodily systems and atypical nervous system development that Charlotte and I experienced is becoming more common. Each generation of modern humans are depleting their systems in various ways. The days of home cooked meals and real food are moving away from our family values at lightning speed. Excessive stress and a fast paced lifestyle fuels a cycle of hormonal inefficiency. We’ve been conditioned to treat our symptoms with over the counter and prescription drugs that mask the messages our body is trying to send us. If certain foods give us acid reflux and digestion issues, those foods are not working for us. Loading up with caffeine and sugar is ignoring our body’s need for sleep. The Paleo diet lets you listen to the likes and dislikes of your body and the signals your child’s body. I’ll insert a short story here:
When Charlotte was first starting her mainstream preschool program last March, she would come home at noon in a severely dysregulated state, so tired and hungry she could barely sit up at the table. It was clear that she had given her all to regulate herself throughout the morning. One afternoon after she had finished lunch, she sat at the bar stool and began snacking on some sliced almonds that happen to have been on the counter. I was doing the dishes and watched her eat handful after handful of almonds. Knowing that she had just finished the lunch I had served her, I opened my mouth to tell her to slow down and not to eat any more. Then I noticed how much more alert she was. She was sitting up straighter and began chatting with me about her day as she kept eating. I decided to step back and let her own mind and body tell her when she’d had enough. She ate quite a bit more than I expected, but eventually finished, hopped down and went to play with much more alertness and energy. It was clear to me that her body was responding to the healthy fats in the nuts that rejuvenated her energy levels and gave her what she needed to regulate herself.
In simple terms, we improved Charlotte’s health through diet and exercise. We’ve heard this all of our lives. A diet rich in healthy fats, high quality proteins and loads of fruits and veggies made her feel better, the way we know good eating can. Modern foods, including grains are full of anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of the nutrients are bodies so desperately need. A typical American diet is full of gut irritants and toxins that leave us tired and depleted, seeking caffeine, sugar, and alcohol to regulate our systems.
Giving our children even small amounts of processed foods prevents the whole foods that they do eat from giving them the best nutrition. As a result, kids may be sick more often or chronically dysregulated. Eating healthy, real food in the form of a Paleo Diet re-nourishes the body at a cellular level and provides all of the body’s systems the optimum nutrition for development and day-to-day functions.
In addition to eliminating grains and processed foods and supplementing with more meats, fruits, and vegetables, our only other intervention for Charlotte was exercise in the form of play and Occupational Therapy. Again, we understand that we are fortunate that her needs did not extend beyond these services. However, I feel that we achieved positive results with Charlotte’s program due to its simplicity and our ability to focus on her overall health.
Obviously, I cannot predict how the Paleo Diet and lifestyle will help your family. I cannot guarantee the success that we have had with Charlotte, but we have learned so much about how the body works, what it needs, and how to intervene, that we can’t help but share our successes and offer resources to other families looking for Food Based Intervention.
Please see Recommendations & Advice for ways to get the Paleo Diet started for your family.