Salicylate Sensitivity and Summer 2021

If you were hoping that summertime – a time with no school, fresh air, sunshine, and exercise – would help your child feel better and improve their behavior…. but it hasn’t, then salicylates might be your challenge.

Salicylates in Food

Salicylates are naturally-occurring food chemicals in fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods like herbs, spices, nuts, etc. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Dr. Ben Feingold observed that artificial additives and high salicylate foods caused hyperactivity and other symptoms in some children. Biochemically, salicylates are a type of “phenolic acid” or “phenol.” Phenols need to be broken down in the body, i.e. “detoxified,” which occurs through a process called sulfation.

For children with salicylate sensitivity, summer can be particularly challenging because so many of the abundant summertime fruits are very high in salicylates, a high salicylate food list include:

  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Most melons including watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Plums
  • Apples
  • Red bell pepper
  • Cucumbers and pickles
  • Tomato sauce 
  • Zucchini (with peel on)
  • Cinnamon and spices
  • Almonds
  • Honey

Many of these foods are delicious and plentiful, children eat quite a bit more during summer than any other time. The resulting increase in salicylate consumption can cause a child’s body to become overloaded, and cause physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.

Salicylate Symptoms

Symptoms vary by individual, but some of the most common salicylate sensitivity symptoms are:

  • Red cheeks and ears (not from the heat)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Defiant behavior
  • Aggression toward self or others
  • Bedwetting and day-wetting accidents
  • Sleeping challenges

If you’d like more information on how these foods can cause behavior challenges, along with the foods to avoid and those to eat, see my post on salicylates and behavior challenges.

Chlorine in Swimming Pools

Chlorine from the swimming pool is another summertime stressor. Your child doesn’t even need to drink the water, just soaking in a chlorinated pool will cause it to absorb into the body.

Chlorine is processed by the same sulfation pathway as salicylates in fruits. Sulfation requires proper methylation and transulfuration, as well as adequate sulfate (sulfur) and many other needed nutrients.

Each of these stressors (the fruit and chlorine) will deplete the sulfate and detoxification pool further, making each that much more difficult to handle. After working with many children with autism in my nutrition practice, I’ve found that most react poorly to chlorine from swimming pools. Add this fruit consumption to chlorine from swimming pools, and a child can fairly easily hit “overload.” Crying, meltdowns, increase in stimming, and hyperactivity can result.

Food Additives

Junk food with artificial food additives are more plentiful during summer. Artificial additives such as artificial colors (red 40, blue 1 and yellow 5), flavors (such as artificial strawberry flavor and vanillin) and preservatives (BHA, BHT and TBHQ) are strong phenols–and require the same biochemical processes.

If you don’t consume these, good for you. You shouldn’t.

In the average American family, however, blue-colored sports drinks on hot days, cotton candy from the beach boardwalk or fair, shaved ice or blended slushies from the amusement park are all too common occurrences (sadly). Alone they are known to cause hyperactivity, combined with these other stressors and they can be particularly problematic. Learn about food additives to avoid.

Summer 2021 High Salicylate Food Substitutes

I hope this summer is better than ever. Here are some ideas to get you off to a good start.  The following foods high in salicylates and for lower salicylate substitutions.   

Please note: it might not be that you or your child can’t have ANY high salicylate summer fruits and veggies, it might just mean you have to pay attention to the amount and limit it (along with avoiding all artificial additives. Also peeling certain fruits and vegetables can lower salicylate levels.

Instead of This ======> Try This

Instead of blue sports drink ======> try a natural electrolyte drink like this organic coconut water 

Instead of artificial flavored and colored candy ======> try a natural one like Yum Earth, they have a variety of natural candy options

Instead of shaved ice ======> try to get your own shaved ice machine and use organic pear or another natural juice to flavor

Instead of popsicles with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors  ======> try and make your own with these silicon popsicle molds or try Ruby Rockets (they have veggies in them)

Instead of ice pops with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors ======> try and make your own with these reusable ice pop molds

Instead of high salicylate fruit ======> try pear or mango

Instead of cucumber ======> try peeled cucumber

Instead of zucchini ======> try peeled zucchini

Instead of lots of salicylate fruits ======> try a small serving

What Can You Do?

  1. Avoid food additives. Firstly, if your child eats artificial additives, cut them all out.
  2. Identify salicylate intolerance: If you want to determine if your child may have an intolerance to salicylates, start by simply observing your child within the hour after they eat, and before bedtime—making correlations with high salicylate consumption. The best way to determine salicylate intolerance is to avoid high salicylate foods for a period of time and observe any improvements, and then add them back and see if you notice a reaction. You can also try digestive enzymes such as No-Fenol by Houston Enzymes to help the body process polyphenolic compounds.
  3. Try a low salicylate diet trial. There are two diets that I like that address this: The Feingold Diet and The Failsafe Diet. The Feingold Diet is a smaller list of salicylates to avoid—it includes many of the big offenders (but misses some) and is easier to do. The Failsafe diet is much more comprehensive, but more complex and restricts more foods.
  4. Determine swimming pool solutions. The best part about having your own swimming pool you can choose a less toxic sanitizing option. While I’m not a expert at this, you can Google and research: salt water chlorination, ionizers, ozonators, and more. At public pools, these other options are not usually available, though you can ask around about any public pools that might use them (as some do).
  5. Consider epsom salt topically for support. You can also try Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths or magnesium sulfate cream before or after a swim in the pool—the sulfate absorbs and helps supply sulfate for sulfation/detoxification. This can help a child process the chlorine better, hopefully, creating less (or no) reaction. An Epsom salt bath or Epsom salt cream can also help reduce salicylate reactions too. You can apply cream before or after swimming. Not everyone likes or can take a bath. Showering after swimming and then applying Epsom salt cream can provide similar support to a bath.

In our Nourishing Hope for Healing Kids nutrition program for parents I cover everything you need to know about addressing salicylate reactions and improving your child’s behavior, focus, and mood.

Enjoy your summer and the time with your family! And keep nourishing hope.

Share your family’s experience with salicylates and summertime in our comment section below.

Amazon Disclaimer: Julie Matthews and Nourishing Hope is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

FTC Disclaimer: Some of the links above may be affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, Nourishing Hope may earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost you. I do not recommend products and services lightly and would not recommend anything here that I haven’t or wouldn’t use myself.

Cookware and Storage: Non-Toxic Choices

We often spend a lot of time talking about what foods to eat and not eat regarding diet for autism.  However, we spend less time on how to prepare the food, cook it, and store it.  You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment, but you will want pots and pans as well as storage containers from non-toxic materials.

The cooking tools and storage materials we use can be harmful, depending upon the materials they are made from.  The chemicals from pots and storage containers that our food comes in contact with leaches into our food, and therefore exposes us to toxins.  I’d like to talk about common cooking equipment and storage materials that are healthier, and how to avoid the toxic ones.


What to Avoid

Cookware is often the first question people ask about cooking… what pots and pans are safe to use and not use.

I recommend, do not use aluminum (where the cooking surface is aluminum), copper, or Teflon-coated. These materials contain metals or chemicals that can be harmful to health. Aluminum is known to cause health concerns and not a good material to cook with unless it is a layer inside the pot, which is surrounded by a non-toxic material like steel. And when we cook with copper pots, when our food is exposed to the copper surface, it leaches into our food. While zinc is technical needed in very small amounts as a nutrient, can can cause harm in large amounts, and imbalance and cause deficiency of other minerals such as zinc. Zinc is crucial for good mental health.

Especially, do not use Teflon.  I know they are easy and non-stick but there have been many studies showing how toxic this material is.  Even if they are new and unscratched I would not recommend using them, as there is still concern. Teflon is also toxic to produce, so I don’t recommend its use.

There are also newer varieties of cookware, all claiming to be non-stick and non-toxic.  Because some of these are so new, I have not seen enough research to recommend them.

Recommended Cookware

Cast Iron

As with most areas of nutrition and cooking, I prefer to stick with the traditional and classic options. Cast iron is a great option. Yes, it does take some time to learn how to clean it and keep it seasoned, but its benefits are many. Cast iron helps supply iron in our diet from the small amounts that get into our food from cooking. It retains heat really well, so its great at creating a sear on steak and even vegetables.

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron is another good option for cookware. It has many of the benefits of cast iron but it is easier to clean and you don’t need to keep it seasoned. The most well-known high quality brand is Le Creuset. I have had a Le Creuset Dutch Oven pot for years, and it’s still like new. This single pot, while a bit of an investment, can serve so many functions. I love making pot roast in mine.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pots and pans are also good options; however, stainless steel can contain high levels of nickel.  Buy stainless steel that attracts a magnet—these are much lower in nickel, such as my favorite, All Clad’s Stainless Steel line.

Pyrex and CorningWare

For bakeware, you can use glass such as Pyrex, ceramic stoneware such as CorningWare, and natural stoneware. Pyrex and CorningWare are old standbys. However, some vintage versions of CorningWare may contain lead, so be aware.


Avoid Storing in Plastic

Most importantly, do not put hot food in plastic, and avoid putting fats in plastic such as oils, butter, or cheese, as the toxins from the plastic can leech into the food. Store in glass with plastic/rubber lid, or in stainless steel. While it’s best to avoid the microwave altogether, certainly don’t microwave in any plastic containers, even if considered “microwave safe.” 

Avoid Plastic Wrap & Aluminum Foil

Use wax paper for wrapping food, or store something like cheese in glass with lid.  This will keep anything that need to avoid contact with air fresh. You can also get natural plastic wrap alternatives such as Abeego made from hemp/cotton cloth coated in beeswax.

If you use aluminum foil (for wrapping a burrito for example), wrap food in parchment paper first to avoid contact with aluminum, then wrap in aluminum to give it structure.

Avoid Freezing in Plastic

Store frozen food in glass mason jars or Pyrex storage containers.  Mason jars can be frozen—you may get an occasional broken jar at the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it’s uncommon to have the glass break.  Just be sure not to fill the jar too full—allow plenty of room in the jar.  If possible, don’t screw lid on all the way until completed frozen.

Since eating healthfully is such an integral part of healing and recovery, learning how to cook and store food without exposure to chemicals is important.  When you prepare a meal, begin to think of not only the ingredients you use, but how to cook and store it to support good health.


Amazon Disclaimer: Julie Matthews and Nourishing Hope is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

FTC Disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these.


Watermelon Popsicles

These popsicles are a great treat that’s low in sugar and high in phytonutrients. It’s great for the summer, when the weather is warm and fruit is abundant. But can also be made anytime for a natural, low sugar treat.

Try any fruit you like. The sweetener is optional. It’s not really needed with watermelon, but can be helpful with more sour fruits like raspberries. Watermelon Raspberry is one of our favorite flavors.


  • Watermelon
  • Honey or stevia (optional)



That’s all there is to it! Please comment below with your favorite popsicle and if you try our recipe, let us know what you think!

Amazon Disclaimer:
Julie Matthews and Nourishing Hope is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

FTC Disclaimer:
Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these.

Coconut Pancakes (Grain-Free Recipe)



  • ¼ cup, (plus 1 Tablespoon) coconut flour
  • ¼ teaspoon unrefined salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 large or 5 medium pastured eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk or other diet compliant non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil or ghee
  • ½ Tablespoon raw honey (or other sweetener if not on SCD) – sweetener is optional


Beat eggs in a large bowl; add non-dairy milk, honey, vanilla, and ¼ cup melted oil. In a separate bowl combine ¼ cup coconut flour, salt, baking soda—next, place this flour blend in a sifter. Sift flour into liquids bowl little by little while mixing it with an electric mixer until combined and smooth. If the pancake batter is too thin add 1 Tablespoon of coconut flour. If it’s too thick to pour or scoop, thin with more non-dairy milk.

Pour pancake batter into greased pan. Cook on one side then flip and cooking thoroughly, as you would any pancake.


GFCF = Gluten-Free and Casein-Free
SCD = Specific Carbohydrate Diet
GAPS = Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet
LOD = Low Oxalate Diet

Sauerkraut Recipe

GFCF/SCD/GAPS/Paleo/LOD/BED/Keto Diet Compliance

Sauerkraut is wonderful for digestion and the immune system. It’s also beneficial for our mood. 

Sauerkraut is made with fermented or cultured cabbage and other vegetables. When they are made raw, the traditional way, they contain live bacteria that aid our digestive health, as well as our brain and immune system. Since sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, it supports a balanced, healthy microbiome and good health.

Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, which supports a balanced healthy microbiome and good health. And it’s never too early to start. See my daughter below at 10 months old.

It’s easy to make and a really fun experiment with kids when you’re home with free time on your hands. All you need is a cabbage, some salt, and time.


  • Ceramic crock and a plate or other jar that fits inside crock to hold the cabbage down
  • 1 quart or 2 liter jar filled with water (scrub the outside)
  • Cloth cover such as muslin or kitchen towel


  • 5 lbs/2 kilograms cabbage (Green or red/purple)
  • 3 tablespoons/45 milliliters sea salt


  1. Rinse cabbage.  Retain two outer cabbage leaves.  Grate cabbage by hand with mandolin or in food processor, finely or coarsely.  
  2. Place cabbage in bowl.  Sprinkle salt on cabbage as you go.  The salt pulls water out of cabbage and creates the brine so it can ferment and sour without rotting.  The salt also keeps the cabbage crunchy by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it.
  3. You can add other vegetables such as carrots, ginger, radishes, onions, garlic, leafy greens, seaweed, beets, turnips and burdock roots.  Juniper berries are common. For consistent results, I typically use a majority (75%) cabbage with some of these other vegetables for flavor and variety.  You can try almost anything, but without a starter, vegetables containing natural lactobacillus are the best such as cabbage and root vegetables including beets, radishes, turnips, and carrots.
  4. Mix ingredients and pack into crock.  Pack a small amount into the crock a little at a time and tamp it down with your fist or a kitchen implement like a potato masher.  You can also massage cabbage with your hands, and then tamp down. The goal is to force water out of cabbage, pack the kraut tightly, and press out any air. If you’d like, you can place a cabbage heart (the center of the cabbage) in the center of the sauerkraut in the crock.  The center pickles and leaves you with very crispy, crunchy cabbage that you can eat with your fingers—this is often fun for children.
  5. Place cabbage leaves in crock on top of packed cabbage to keep any shredded cabbage from floating to the surface of the water.  Place the plate over the leaves to keep everything down. Add a weighted jar (filled with water works) to top to act as a weight.  The goal is to keep EVERYTHING (except the jar) under water. The water is formed by the liquid in the cabbage and the salt. Let it sit for 6 hours or so and see if the water line rises above the cabbage.  If there is not an inch and a half of water, add salt water in the ratio of 1 tablespoon salt to 1 cup of water. Salt inhibits mold growth, but too much salt slows good bacteria. As such, you want to be fairly accurate with your salt/cabbage and salt water proportions.
  6. Cover with fabric cloth and tie with a string or large rubber band. Make sure it goes all the way around so no bugs can get it.  
    1. If you use a Harsch crock, the process (in steps 5 and 6) is simple.  Instead of needing a plate and weight, specially made weights are included.  Place the plates on top of the cabbage making sure the water is over the top of the vegetables.  Place lid on top and fill rim with water to form water seal. No fabric is necessary.
  7. Ferment for 2-8 weeks or more.  Personally, I like long ferments of 8 weeks or more.  Because my home (in San Francisco) is very cool all year round (resembling a cellar), the kraut turns out great every time.  Always sour and crunchy. Never soft.

The types and amounts of bacteria differ in the raw sauerkraut as the fermentation changes over time.  For this reason, I like Sandor Katz’s suggestion of “eating it as you go.” Make a large batch. After two weeks, “harvest” one jar or one week’s worth.  Pack the sauerkraut back up and set aside to ferment. After that jar is finished, harvest another jar in the next week. Continue for eight to ten weeks or whenever it is done.  This ensures that you get the various bacteria types and counts over time.

Additional notes:

  • If you live in a warm climate, you will want to invest in a Harsch crock.  They help insulate the sauerkraut with its thick ceramic. The crock keeps the kraut from getting mushy in hot weather.  The weighted “plate” inside with an air tight water sealed lid keeps air out but allows gasses to escape.
  • You can make sauerkraut with whey but it is not necessary and I’ve never noticed any difference either way.  More importantly, whey is from yogurt and contains casein—something many people are trying to avoid with sauerkraut.  You can also use a cultured vegetable starter such as the one Donna Gates has on I like to do things the “old fashioned way” without a starter—it feels empowering.  
  • There is another method seen in books and online. This method typically doesn’t weight the sauerkraut down, they use a starter, an airtight lid, and only ferment them 3-7 days.  Be aware not to use this method for long ferments; otherwise, you will blow the top of your ferment. 

Variation and note on salt: You can use half the salt by substituting seeds (an even mix of celery, caraway, and dill).  Although, the original recipe uses only salt, it is not “salty” in taste—especially the longer it ferments.

*I adapted this recipe from Sandor Katz’s sauerkraut recipe and his book, Wild Fermentation. This is one of my favorite books on fermenting everything.  And he has a new book, The Art of Fermentation.

Here’s a photo of my daughter at 10 months, eating cultured vegetables. And my “intention kraut” where I write my desired intention on the jar and I believe the good bacteria help me put the good energy in the sauerkraut. Here’s my batch of Love Kraut.

Share your experience, comments, and questions on sauerkraut with us. 

Inflammation in Anxiety, ADHD, Autism, and Other Neurological Conditions:
Nutrition to Calm the Nerves

In today’s fast paced world, with little rest, overloaded with toxins, and devoid of nutrients, inflammation is very common. Once triggered, it can be hard to shut off – and if certain biochemical processes persist, chronic inflammation can ensue.

Inflammation acts like a fire in the body, literally burning up many of our necessary nutrients. Inflammation can be triggered by infections, irritants, and biochemical processes that have gone awry. It creates pain, and can lead to cellular damage and a cascade of health problems.

In fact, inflammation is underlying most neurological and chronic disorders in children and adults. All of following conditions have been linked to inflammation:

Autism1,2,3, Asthma, Allergies, ADHD4, Autoimmune conditions, Depression5, 6, Anxiety 7, 8, Inflammatory Bowel disorders, Eczema, Schizophrenia 9, 10

Inflammation is a necessary process for the immune system. When the body can’t shut it off however, it can cause serious problems. Inflammation is linked to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, as well as the myriad of mental health and mood conditions described above. Some substances that people use to “help” inflammation, like over the counter anti-inflammatories and cortisone creams, are generally ineffective in the long run and can have harmful side effects.

So what can you do? Take charge by avoiding common causes of inflammation – factors you can influence, like food choices and toxic exposures.

Avoiding Inflammatory Foods

Gluten, dairy, and soy are major food sources of inflammation. Any food sensitivity or allergy specific to an individual will almost certainly create inflammation.

Caffeine, sugar, alcohol and omega-6 fatty acids, such as those found in vegetable oils, are inflammatory. Processed foods containing trans-fats, artificial ingredients, and food additives are inflammatory. Foods with AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End Products) such as baked goods, fried and barbequed foods, are also inflammatory.

For some people, especially those with gut inflammation grains and other starches can trigger inflammatory conditions such as asthma.

Studies have shown pesticides can trigger inflammation (such as asthma and cardiovascular disease). Genetically modified foods (such as corn, soy, and canola) have also been shown to create inflammation and leaky gut in the animals fed these engineered foods. Eat organically whenever possible.

Even foods that are nutritious can be problematic for some people; particularly certain food chemicals or compounds in them that some people can’t tolerate. For example, oxalates found in spinach and almonds create oxidative stress and inflammation, particularly for those with issues regulating oxalate and those that eat extremely high levels of oxalates. Histamine is an inflammatory substance. People with problems handling histamine-rich foods such as fermented foods and bone broth or foods that trigger histamine release can have high inflammation in the body. Salicylates found in nutritious foods like berries and grapes can cause inflammation in people that don’t have the biochemical support to process them. Additionally, glutamates, such as those found in MSG and other food additives, as well as those naturally occurring in certain foods, are often inflammatory. Finally, FODMAPS (an acronym for certain fermentable carbohydrates) found in foods such as onions and apples, can cause bloating, pain and inflammation in certain people, including those with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).

BioIndividual Nutrition

However, this does not mean everyone should avoid these wonderful foods.This is where BioIndividual Nutrition® comes in. BioIndividual Nutrition is customizing the food and nutrition choices based on the unique biochemical and health needs of the individual. In other words, people that have a problem handling these foods, are more likely to have inflammation when consuming them, whether in small or large quantities. If a person does not have trouble with them, they are healthy foods and can usually be consumed without triggering inflammation (although extremely high oxalate foods are generally best consumed in moderation by everyone). If you suspect an issue with salicylates, histamines, FODMAPS, or oxalates, you can read more online, find a knowledgeable practitioner, or read my book, Nourishing Hope for Autism.

Anti-Inflammatory Support

Eat an organic, GMO-free diet, devoid of pesticides. Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory. Certain herbs such as turmeric and ginger are also anti-inflammatory.


• Antioxidant rich foods – fruits, vegetables
• Herbs and spices
• Fish
• Olive oil
• Green and cruciferous vegetables
• Blueberries
• Coconut oil
• Fermented Foods
• Kelp
• Shiitake mushrooms
• Wild salmon
• Green tea
• Papaya
• Pineapple
• Sweet potato

Phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables and spices have anti-inflammatory properties; however, remember that for some people, the salicylates and other food chemicals can be irritating and cause inflammation (so these recommendations would need to be customized).

Do your best to bio-individualize your diet to your unique needs. If needed, seek out the support of a practitioner to understand if broader categories of food intolerances might be affecting you, your child, or your level of inflammation.

Talk with your integrative clinician about inflammatory lab markers, and appropriate medical treatments. Sometimes the inflammatory process needs to be stopped, and there are useful functional medicine interventions: both natural remedies and/or medications that can help.

As you are exploring and working on this, I might suggest you start with food, toxin and lifestyle factors that you can address at home. This may provide you some relief (mild to major) and help you, as your doctor determine next steps.

Let us know what’s worked for you in the comments below.


1 Vargas, Diana L., et al. “Neuroglial ac- tivation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism.” Annals of neurology 57.1 (2005): 67-81.

2 Li, Xiaohong, et al. “Elevated immune response in the brain of autistic patients.” Journal of neuroimmunology 207.1 (2009): 111-116.

3 Rossignol, D. A., and R. E. Frye. “A review of research trends in physiological abnor- malities in autism spectrum disorders: im- mune dysregulation, inflammation, oxida- tive stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and environmental toxicant exposures.” Mo- lecular psychiatry 17.4 (2011): 389-401.

4 Donev, Rossen, and Johannes Thome. “Inflammation: good or bad for ADHD?.” ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders 2.4 (2010): 257-266.

5 Miller, Gregory E., and Ekin Blackwell. “Turning Up the Heat Inflammation as a Mechanism Linking Chronic Stress, De- pression, and Heart Disease.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 15.6 (2006): 269-272.

6 Raison, Charles L., Lucile Capuron, and Andrew H. Miller. “Cytokines sing the blues: inflammation and the pathogene- sis of depression.” Trends in immunology 27.1 (2006): 24-31.

7 O’Donovan, Aoife, et al. “Clinical anxi- ety, cortisol and interleukin-6: Evidence for specificity in emotion–biology rela- tionships.” Brain, behavior, and immunity 24.7 (2010): 1074-1077.

8 Pitsavos, Christos, et al. “Anxiety in re- lation to inflammation and coagulation markers, among healthy adults: the AT- TICA study.” Atherosclerosis 185.2 (2006): 320-326.

9 Saetre, Peter, et al. “Inflammation-relat- ed genes up-regulated in schizophrenia brains.” Bmc Psychiatry 7.1 (2007): 46.

10 Leonard, Brian E., Markus Schwarz, and Aye Mu Myint. “The metabolic syn- drome in schizophrenia: is inflammation a contributing cause?.” Journal of Psychop- harmacology 26.5 suppl (2012): 33-41.

Nourishing Hope Success Story: Getting Your Hopes Up with Tara

[This is part of our series: Getting Your Hopes Up: Stories of Healing Thru Diet and Nutrition – stories directly from mothers and fathers, on their experience using food and nutrition to help heal their child with autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays.]

Tara’s daughter’s success story of hope and healing demonstrates the power of a multi-faceted approach which encompasses a therapeutic diet, biomedical intervention, developmental therapies and functional neurology-based rehabilitation. Her daughter is now thriving!

The journey begins….Red Flags at 9 months

By the time our daughter was nine months, we noticed that she seemed to be lagging behind her developmental milestones, but by the time she was 12 months it became apparent that she lagged behind in speech and gross motor movements. As in most cases, our general practitioner expressed some mild concern but continued with the wait-and-see approach until she was almost two and her expressive speech was less than five words, at which point we received a referral to public health for a speech assessment. She also refused to stand or walk on her own, requesting to hold onto one finger of an adult (even though she was clearly capable) until she was 21 months old. We now know that this was because her vestibular and proprioceptive signals, which help her understand how her body moves in space, were being misinterpreted by her brain.

Sensory Overload and meltdowns

Our daughter often melted down and clung to me in public places or during a gathering, seemingly overwhelmed by all the sensory inputs around her. This made it difficult to attend parties or go to loud events without having to disappear from the crowds to give her some relief. I remember once having to abandon a full shopping cart at the grocery store because a false fire alarm went off and she couldn’t cope with the noise.

Incredibly Bright – Exceptional Memory – Learning Disability – Dyspraxia – Delayed Speech

My daughter is incredibly bright with an exceptional memory. Intelligence testing showed her to be of “average to above average” intelligence. (IQ tests are skewed to those who can read, and she scored high enough despite not being able to, which is why they felt she was in the above average range.) She fit the classic definition of a learning disability, and was also diagnosed with dyspraxia, but she didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria for most conditions. We constantly sat on the fringes of many different diagnoses. She couldn’t seem to learn to read or do math, and her speech was significantly delayed. Everything that required her brain to do any kind of sequential processing (like most everything we do), needed to be taught step by step, right down to how to use scissors and how to go down stairs one foot after the other.

Developmental Pediatrician – Occupational and Speech Therapy at School

We took all the traditional approaches possible recommended to us after pushing to see a developmental pediatrician, getting a psychoeducational assessment, having her hearing and vision assessed, and engaging speech and occupational therapists. We moved into the city so she could attend a school that taught in the instructional style best suited to her by the recommendation of the psychoeducational assessment, and where she could have both occupational and speech therapy delivered in school daily.

Slow Progress – Mom’s Gut Sense More Could be Done

Although we most definitely saw progress in some areas of her learning and gross and fine motor skills, the progress was slow, which meant she continued to fall further behind her peers. We were pleased to see her progress in these areas, but I still was looking for more ways to help her. I knew in my gut there had to be more.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet

I had always been an avid reader of all things nutrition, but I now know it was a superficial understanding of what I now refer to as mainstream nutrition—“healthy eating” books and magazines focused on the weight loss and fitness industries. It wasn’t until I did a random Google search on my daughter’s diagnosis of dyspraxia that I found the book by Natasha Campbell McBride, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, that our journey to true healing began. I confess that it was two years from the time I first found this book to the time we implemented the GAPS diet. My initial reaction when I read it was probably similar to the perception of many parents of picky eaters: “My child will never eat that.”

GAPS Success + MRT Food and Sensitivity Panel – Significant Progress

During the two-year period between first discovering the book and implementing the diet, I dove head first into the research. Eventually the reasons for taking action far outweighed my fears of how I would pull it off. We implemented the GAPS diet and saw many significant improvements in her overall health (allergic shiners disappeared, eye contact improved, speech clarity improved, digestion improved), however after two years on the GAPS diet, I felt we needed to take it to the next level with functional tests to better assess gut health and MRT food and chemical sensitivity testing to identify offending foods. We launched into a three-month intensive gut healing protocol (on top of the GAPS diet protocol) to great success. We had finally made significant progress on some of her nagging digestive issues (such as slow transit time) and resolved other symptoms of leaky gut.

Methylation Support/Methyl B-12 Injections – Improved Emotional Regulation

Around this time we also added methylation support in the form of subcutaneous methyl B-12 injections and additional dietary and supplemental changes. We noticed improvements in her emotional regulation at this time. She “felt better” overall with the methylation support.

Functional Neurology-Based Rehabilitation – Big Jumps in Cognitive Functioning & Speech

In addition to nutritional and biomedical interventions, adding functional neurology-based rehabilitation in the last couple of years has made a major impact on her progress. This multifaceted therapy works to retrain the neural pathways. Since introducing this, along with diet and biomed interventions, we have seen big jumps in her cognitive functioning and improvements in her speech. We continue to make tweaks and changes every few months to optimize her healing and recovery.

Big Takeaways

If I were to do it all over again, I would not have hesitated to start a dietary intervention from day one. In addition, I would have started the methylation support and neuro-rehab with the help of a functional neurologist as early as possible to address the integration of primitive reflexes and then would have continued the neuro-rehab from there.

The Journey Continues …

Through the years, my research led me to enroll and complete my certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association, and to travel to London, England to train with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner.  Even after all these years I continue to learn about new interventions that can help our children. I am currently continuing my education with the Bioindividual Nutrition Institute, Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs and with Dr. Melillo’s course on Childhood Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Disorders. I started an online community to help parents like me who are trying to make sense of the many therapies and interventions available for our children. My Child Will Thrive is a place for parents like us to connect with and learn from each other.


Do you have a success story that you would like us to share? Please send a message at our Facebook Page: Nourishing Hope for Autism

Methylation Nutrients from Food – And a Bonus Recipe!

By Dr. Kara Fitzgerald and Romilly Hodges MS CNS

If MTHFR is on your radar, this article is for you. Methylation capability, often assessed by MTHFR genotype, is a crucial piece of the puzzle for many with autism. But reaching for that bottle of supplemental methyl-folate (5mTHF) or methyl-B12 (methylcobalamin) shouldn’t be the only consideration. FOOD is a fabulous source of methylation nutrients and comes bursting with complementary vitamins and minerals, packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, and nourishes both body and soul. Food is both powerful and safe. It’s time to feature food more prominently in the methylation discussion. 

You probably already know that methylation pathways need folate and B12, and that if you have an MTHFR polymorphism that reduces enzyme activity, you may need to have a source of methylated folate that bypasses that enzyme blockage. Foods that are rich in folates include dark leafy greens, legumes, and liver*. B12 is found in animal foods or nutritional yeast. In addition to this, there are host of other nutrients used in those pathways – magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, betaine and choline, for example. DHA is also a player since it activates certain enzymes. And certain sulfur amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) provide important substrates for the enzymes to act on and convert*. A healthy, well-designed diet should be our first go-to for supplying these nutrients.

If you heard our recent webinar, you will also know that just as important as having sufficient methylation, is avoiding too much methylation, especially because methylation is one of the most important ways that our body regulates the expression of our genes. Having too much methylation on our DNA can actually be detrimental by shutting down the expression of genes that protect us against certain diseases like cancer. Balance is key, and there are actually ways that we can support that healthy balance, and avoid too much methylation. Once again, real foods are a piece of the puzzle here.

When we eat a diet that is anti-inflammatory, full of anti-oxidants, detoxifying and with appropriate calories, we are automatically helping to ensure we don’t push methylation too far in the wrong direction. In addition, if we include specific plant nutrients, such as curcumin (from turmeric) and sulforaphane (from cruciferous veggies)*, these act as direct regulators of DNA methylation, helping to promote healthy rather than unbalanced gene expression. 

OK, and I hear you now, everyone who is responsible for caring for a beautiful autistic soul… you’re probably thinking “That’s all very well, but how am I going to get (my child) to eat these foods?!” You’re not the first to face this challenge with a picky eater, but I can promise you that is will be a worthwhile endeavor to work on broadening their palate and including more phytonutrients in their diet.

To get you started, I wanted to share a recipes from my nutritionist Romilly Hodges MS CNS. It’s a take on a good-ol’ steakhouse creamed spinach that is gluten- and dairy-free, switches out the spinach for kale, and is packed with folate, as well as other important methylation nutrients like magnesium, potassium, B2, B3, B6 and prebiotic fibers. 

If we eat plant fibers that nourish our microbiome, then we are helping them to produce all different kinds of vitamins that we can use, including folate and even methylated folates. 

Plus, it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant rich, detoxifying and methylation balancing (from the sulforaphane) so you’re getting lots more methylation benefits than you can from a jar of supplements. The onions lend natural sweetness and the cashews bring a rich creaminess that is super-satisfying and mellow-tasting. 

Finally, and crucially, it is picky kid (and adult) tested and approved!

Creamed Kale

By Romilly Hodges MS CNS

Diet Compliant: GFCF, SCD, GAPS, Paleo, Egg-Free

Yields 4-6 servings, cook time 30 minutes. 

You’ll need a food processor for this recipe.


3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium bunches of washed kale, stems removed and roughly torn into pieces (you can also use 4-5 cups of frozen kale instead)
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 2-6 hours then drained**
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional: lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Gently warm the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sauté on low-medium heat until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the kale, cashews and garlic and cook, stirring as needed until the kale is just wilted.

Transfer the whole mixture to a food processor and blend until completely smooth. You want the pieces of cashew to blend into creaminess rather than bittiness. This may take 5 minutes or so.

Add salt, pepper and lemon juice (if using), to taste. Serve warm.

 ** Cashews contain higher amounts of copper. If high copper (and/or low zinc) is a specific concern, as can be with some with autism, substitute a lower copper nut such as macadamia or omit.

*For a full list of foods, nutrients and methylation regulators (adaptogens) as well as a complete guide to supporting healthy methylation through diet and lifestyle practices in addition to supplements, see the eBook available HERE.


Sugar-Free Ketogenic Chocolate Mousse (RECIPE)


Contains Dairy. You can make this GFCFSF and Paleo, use coconut cream.

This recipe is perfect when you cannot have any sugar in your diet. And the cream adds the perfect mouth feel for a dessert treat that is very satisfying for those on a sugar-free or ketogenic diet.


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (or coconut cream, see variation below)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • A few drops of stevia liquid


Place cream in a bowl (or quart-sized jar for emersion blender). Add cocoa powder. Whip with emersion blender with whisk attachment or with electric mixer. Add stevia drop by drop until it’s the right sweetness level for you. Do not over sweeten. Chill and serve.

To make with coconut, use coconut cream. Refrigerate cream overnight. Scoop out the hardened cream (reserve the liquid for other uses) and place in the bowl to blend. Follow the rest of the directions above.

Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies

GFCF, Grain-free, SCD/GAPS, Paleo, nut-free (with modification, see instructions)

To make this recipe nut-free use a seed flour in place of the almond flour.


1 ½ cups almond flour (or any combination of nut flours)*
½ cup coconut flour
1/3 cup coconut or unrefined cane sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 ½ teaspoon almond extract (gluten-free)
½ cup coconut oil (use raw if you don’t mind a more coconut’y flavor, or refined for a more neutral flavor)
¼-½ cup of raspberry jam (or any flavor jam)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder) in a large bowl.

Beat eggs and add almond extract. Gently melt coconut oil, cool to body temperature. Mix the egg mixture and coconut oil together, and then add to the dry ingredients.

Let the cookie dough rest for 15 minutes so the coconut flour can absorb the liquid, firming up the dough so you can form balls. Form small balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place them on a cookie sheet. Press your thumb into the balls making an indentation to fill with jam. Place ½ teaspoon of jam into each cookie.

Baking at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Brown the bottoms lightly but not so much as to brown the sides if possible.

Makes 18-24 cookies.


*Typically I like 1 cup Almond flour and ½ cup walnut flour. To make nut flour simply blend raw, unsalted nuts in a high quality blender or coffee grinder.