Keeping the gut clean and not continually having your child eat foods with toxins and chemical preservatives will help facilitate healing the gastrointestinal tract more efficiently. Sometimes changes are subtle and on a deeper biochemical level that are not always visible to parent. Good quality foods to which your child is not sensitive are very healing to the gut.
Please see our additional recommendations for healing the gut here, which include:
- Eating a clean diet
- Eliminating food sensitivities and intolerances
- Following a gut-healing diet
- Eating foods specific for gut healing
- Potentially incorporating the right nutritional supplements
- Eating good fats
- Optimizing stomach acid
- Potentially taking enzymes to improve digestion
- Encouraging good bile flow
- Supplementing prebiotics and probiotics to increase beneficial gut flora
- Improving liver detoxification
- Considering a fecal transplant
Sometimes more than one diet is necessary especially if your child has a chronic disease or disorder, even a neurological disorder. If your child does not show a significant amount of improvement on a particular diet, then try another diet. Below are the most commonly used healing diets:
This version of the Paleo diet eliminates additional foods that the standard Paleo diet does not: eggs, seeds, nuts and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant). It emphasizes a higher consumption of antioxidant-rich foods and is an excellent way to control inflammation.
Body Ecology Diet (BED)
The BED diet was developed by Donna Gates to heal the gastrointestinal system. While it does allow for the consumption of gluten-free grains, they must not be combined with protein in the same meal. In addition, very few fruits are allowed. By emphasizing an acid/alkaline balance, food combining and fermented foods, expansion/contraction and the “80/20 rule”, the gut is allowed to heal.
This diet takes major allergenic foods out of the diet at the same time then adds them back in one by one so you can determine if certain foods are contributing to your child’s symptoms.
This diet eliminates additives, salicylates, amines and high levels of free glutamates. This diet is not suitable for those with food allergies but is well tolerated for those with food chemical sensitivities, autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and learning disabilities.
This diet, developed by Ben Feingold MD back in the 1970’s, is the original diet that showed that removal of certain foods and ingredients can improve a child’s allergies, mood, behavior and ADHD. It calls for the removal of artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives as well as foods containing high amounts of phenols and salicylates, which includes natural foods.
GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) Diet
The GAPS diet was developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, who used it to recover her son from autism. It is similar to the Paleo diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet but allows for homemade, fermented dairy as well as eggs and some legumes. All fruits and vegetables must be well cooked. This diet emphasizes bone broth and fermented foods. It can also be helpful for children with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and learning disabilities.
Gluten Free/Casein Free Diet
The GFCF diet can help children with autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder as well as those with asthma and allergies improve their symptoms.
This diet is similar to the Paleo diet but does allow for the consumption of dairy and peanuts (a legume) while eliminating sweet potatoes and honey from the diet. The daily limit for “net carbs”, the remainder of the total amount of carbohydrates in grams minus the amount of fiber in grams, is between 20 grams and 50 grams, which means that most fruit needs to be eliminated. In general, higher amounts of fats versus carbohydrates are consumed. Because this diet forces the body to run on ketones rather than glucose, it is well documented to help those with seizures, high blood sugar and diabetes.
In this diet, an excess of free glutamate, found in processed foods as well as some natural foods), can cause brain fog, seizures, problems with attention and focus and symptoms of autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and Sensory Processing Disorder.
The low-histamine diet is often a secondary, refining diet that is explored if symptoms continue to persist. Having your child follow it can help to reduce inflammation and lowering exaggerated immune-system responses. Because of histamine’s ability to exacerbate allergic and immune responses, a low-histamine diet can be helpful in reducing symptoms of numerous autoimmune, gastrointestinal and neurological conditions.
Low-Oxalate Diet (LOD)
In this diet, oxalates are molecules found in food that join with calcium to create crystallized “stones” in the body that then contribute to inflammation. Unbound oxalates can interfere with sulfate and iron absorption and can impair brain function. Eliminating foods that are high in oxalates such as Swiss chard and spinach can help. This diet can help with symptoms of autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and Sensory Processing Disorder.
Lutein-Free Diet (Sarah’s Diet)
This diet theorizes that children with autism crave opioid-producing foods (gluten and casein-containing foods) as a way to reduce the stress of the immune reaction to lutein, which are found in colored fruits and vegetables.
This diet includes plenty of olive oil, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains and some dairy products. It has been shown to prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.
This diet avoids processed foods, sugar, legumes, grains (including corn), potatoes and dairy but does allow for the consumption of sweet potatoes and honey. The paleo diet promotes taking healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and may have cardiovascular benefits. However, there may be a deficiency of calcium, vitamin D and fiber, so be sure to include lots of animal protein and fats for a good source of vitamin D and lots of cruciferous vegetables because they are rich in vitamin C and calcium. A low-sugar and low-fruit Paleo diet (see ketogenic diet and Wahls Protocol) is an excellent way to control inflammation, high blood sugar and diabetes. This diet can also help with symptoms of autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and Sensory Processing Disorder.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
The SCD diet was developed by Elaine Gottschall to stop the vicious cycle of malabsorption and microbe overgrowth by removing the source of energy to the microbes: sugars and certain carbohydrates. By doing so, inflammation decreases, the digestive system heals and the immune system can return to normal. This diet can help with symptoms of autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and Sensory Processing Disorder.
This protocol was developed by Terry Wahls MD to recover herself from symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. People with MS as well as those with other autoimmune, neurological, metabolic and mood disorders can benefit greatly from following the advice set forth in this protocol. There are four levels to the protocol: the Wahls Diet, the Wahls Paleo Diet, the Wahls Paleo Plus Diet and the Wahls Elimination Diet.
Whole 30 Diet
This diet removes grains, dairy, legumes and added sugars and sweeteners from the diet for 30 days. A challenge with these foods can help determine if these foods are triggering food intolerances and sensitivities.
Depending on which healing diet you choose for your child, some of these healing foods will or won’t be allowed.
- Umeboshi plum vinegar
- Fermented pickles
- Kvass fermented beverage
- Kefir yogurts (preferably coconut based)
Bone broth from chicken, turkey, red meat or fish bones are very healing. Work them into much of your other cooked foods or serve them by themselves.
Good Quality Fats
Good-quality fats are NOT derived from vegetables or seeds, as they are highly inflammatory due to their high processing and large amounts of linoleic acid. Instead, good fats come from the following:
- Butter or ghee
- Wild fatty fish such as salmon and sardines
- Coconut oil
- MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) oil
- Cold-pressed olive oil
- Animal fats such as tallow from grass-fed beef
- Cod liver oil, which includes EPA and DHA
Algae and Seaweeds
- Chlorella (fresh water)
Leafy Green Vegetables
- Mustard greens
- Beet greens
- Collard greens
- Mesclun greens
- Dandelion greens
- Turnip greens
- Other dark-green lettuces
- Micro greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Broccoli rabe
- Broccoli sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Parsley root
- Celery root
- Turkey tail
- Lion’s mane
- Pomegranate arils
- Goji berries
- Wild blueberries
- Dark chocolate
- Acai berries
Seeds (But Not Seed Oils)
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Wild rice
- Gluten-free oats
- Grass-fed beef
- Grass-fed lamb
- Pastured turkey
- Pastured chicken
- Wild game
- Wild-caught fish
- Wild-caught seafood
- Pastured eggs
- Wild venison
- Wild buffalo
- Wild bison
- Kidney beans
- Adzuki beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Navy beans
- Lima beans
- Mung beans
- Raw local honey
- Manuka honey
- Maple syrup
*Not all people can tolerate sugar alcohols.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Himalayan salt
- Paleo ketchup
- Paleo mayonnaise
- Paleo salad dressings
- Summer squash
- Winter squashes
Herbs have been used in traditional medicine practices for millennia. We recommend that you work with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner to determine which, if any, of the following healing herbs can help your child:
- Ginger (for nausea)
- Turmeric (for inflammation)
- Garlic (to support the immune system)
- Cinnamon (to lower blood sugar)
- Hot pepper (to stimulate the liver)
- Thyme (for sore throats)
- Holy basil (to reduces stress)
- Horse chestnut (for hemorrhoids)
- Kudzu (to counter alcoholism)
- Sea buckthorn (for dryness)
- Chamomile (to aid digestion)
- Ginseng (for energy)
- Sage (for colds)
- Green tea (to support immune system)
- Dill (to aid detoxification)
- Hops (for calming)
- Licorice root (to balance blood sugar)
- Nettles (to support kidneys)
- St. John’s Wort (to counter depression)
- Slippery elm (to heal leaky gut)
- Echinacea (to support the immune system)
- Goldenseal (natural antibiotic)
- Mullein (to support the lungs)
- Kava (for anxiety)
- Lemon balm (for digestive calming)
- Herbal marshmallow (for a sore throat)
- Chasteberry (for PMS)
- Calendula (for skin soothing)
- Black cohosh (for hot flashes)
- Ashwagandha (to support the adrenals)
- Hibiscus (to lower blood pressure)
- Milk thistle (to aid in liver regeneration)
Foods That Promote Detoxification
Lemon water first thing in the morning supports liver detoxification, and here are other foods that aid the removal of toxins form the body:
- Brazil nuts
- Goji berries
- Sesame seeds
- Collard greens
- Green tea
- Mung beans
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