This is the first post in my new ongoing series: Getting Your Hopes Up: Stories of Healing Thru Diet and Nutrition. Each month I’ll be posting 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.
Jessica Galligani and the Galligani Family
Oxalate diet and camel milk – Our two biggest wows to date!
Only three years ago, our sweet, intelligent six year old was rapidly traveling down the autism road. He was hand-flapping, lining up cars, had multiple tics, rocked himself silly, severely persistent bloating (think 6 months pregnant!), he had chronic rhinitis, loose stools, he hated dirty hands to the point of crying, didn’t like cuddling and even pulled away from us immediately following his birth, had more than 25 food sensitivities, he was waking about 5 times a night, had low muscle tone, delayed fine motor skills, couldn’t sustain himself long enough to walk through a store, had an incredibly low frustration threshold, viral issues, immune dysfunction, he was beginning to lose eye contact, and we learned that he was riddled with yeast and Clostridia which quickly turned into aggressive and defiant behavior. Around the same time we discovered he had Sensory Processing Disorder, he also began to experience extreme reactions to just about every external stimuli and the OCD symptoms were ruling his world….and ours.
We knew we had to do something and fast, we were losing our child to this monster we call autism, although we still didn’t have a label, I knew what we were up against.
Fast forward to today….at the risk of sounding braggy, our six year old is bright beyond his years, sensitive, empathetic, a fabulous communicator, is very empathetic, makes great eye contact, and has lost every single autism symptom he ever had, he is virtually indistinguishable from his peers. In fact, we’ve had two teachers tell us that he is one of the most mature students in his class. He is extremely creative and his cognition is above average. He jumped on a two-wheeler for the first time this summer and rode off into the sunset with no help, never even looked back! This is a child who couldn’t even peddle a tricycle at 4 years old! He had balance, confidence and the energy to do it! His food sensitivities are already down by at least ten foods. It’s not perfect yet, because we are still in managed recovery, but considering the struggles we evolved from, I am grateful for every precious day and I am confident that it’s just a matter of time before this becomes the norm for him, without help from us.
How did we get from there to here?
Like so many biomed parents out there, we have tirelessly tried many methods of healing, some with great success and some not-so-much. Looking back to where we started, there is one thing I do regret, and that is not starting the low oxalate diet sooner. We had an OAT (organic acid test) done when he was three years old. Among many other markers, his oxalic acid markers were severely elevated, but we were so flabbergasted by his other issues, including 25 food sensitivities, going GFCFSF and his out of control Clostridia overgrowth which turned him into a child we didn’t even recognize anymore. As newbies in the bio-med world, we were hit hard all at once….where to start? We attacked the most pressing issues (or so we thought) first. Knowing what we know now, reducing his oxalate intake should have been first on our list. We struggled through years of trial and error. The dietary changes were impressive, we had immediate progress removing IgG-sensitive foods along with GFCFSF, and even greater progress getting the pathogenic load under control, but there was always something still amiss. The bloating never went away, the mood swings were still evident, although less frequent and we were having more good days than bad, but when it was bad, it was really bad. Those days always came without warning or reason.
Something led me back to the OAT we had done years prior, I began picking his past apart a bit more and I had an “AH HA” moment looking back at the OAT. I decided his diet needed an overhaul and we jumped into the LOD head first. I thought it would be a trial diet, but I have never looked back, because the changes we saw were nothing short of miraculous. What was even more surprising was how much this effected our two year old!! He is neuro-typical, but clearly had gut issues that we were slowly addressing. The diet was a huge factor for his behavior issues and bloating. We began to see an overall normalizing, for lack of a better word. Our daily routines were less strained, there was less fighting amongst the boys, a weight was lifting, finally!! Another very welcome change was that the yeast and bacteria overgrowth instantly became easier to manage! This is where I regret not trying this sooner.
As many other biomed moms do, I am still always actively researching and talking with other parents. Camel milk had been on my radar, because my uncle in Dubai mentioned it once, then later a friend told me I should look into it more. Since things had calmed down so much, I actually had some down time to look into it! The facts were absolutely astounding!! Why had no one else found this information? Why wasn’t every autism parent using it? Oh wait….we ARE talking about CAMEL milk here, aren’t we? Where to get it was the question on my lips. I immediately went into research mode yet again and within days, we were picking up our first batch of camel milk to try with our kids. We were lucky enough to have two farmers right in our state! Had I lost my mind? It’s MILK! My kids need to avoid the opiate-effect of milk like the plague, so why would I try yet another animal’s milk with my children?
Camel milk is nothing like cow milk. In fact, a camel is closer to humans and pigs than to cows! Their milk doesn’t contain beta-casein which is what becomes an opiate-like substance in the presences of leaky gut syndrome. I had read many testimonials and studies suggesting that it was actually medicinal and healed the leaky gut as well as providing incredible nutrition to our milk-deprived little ones.
In this whirlwind of biomedicine, it can be challenging to decipher the treatments that are worth trying, there are SO many opinions and protocols, it can send your mind reeling with anxiety, which way to turn? I try to focus on the science of the interventions, sticking to things that will heal the root of our problems rather than hastily slapping a bandaid on a symptom to just make it go away, even if it means more work in the long term.
There have been numerous claims to fame with miraculous health discoveries in the alternative world, but I consider it my job as a mom to weed out the bogus from the worthy. My choices to date have been to: reduce inflammation and heal the gut by removal of all allergenic and irritating foods, using high volume supplementation to address deficiencies, rotation of tolerated foods to prevent additional sensitivities which would hinder the healing process, correcting immune system function, working feverishly to rebuild gut flora balance in the face of stubborn toxicity, and ultimately, the removal of heavy metals. It’s a long road so when we meet these miracle claims, it can be hard to keep focus on the road ahead. But every now and then, a tried and true method crosses our paths. Again, deciphering their validity is the name of the game. In the case of camel milk, not only does science and studies back up the hype, but entire cultures have proven over thousands of years, what we are still searching for. What I have personally witnessed in my children leaves me in awe of these claims, because they are coming to fruition before my very eyes, and rapidly. It’s not often we are met with such promise so when it becomes available, I am one of the first in line. So here I am, sharing with anyone who will listen.
Improvements from Diet Changes
I will try to briefly bullet my boys’ improvements and I want to call out the fact that these things listed below are things that have only begun since starting the camel milk on May first of this year. The amazing thing about this is that I could have added to this list hourly! The changes were occurring that fast.
- An initial “cleaning out” lasting a day or two. It resembled the stool we experienced when our older son was on an antibiotic called Flagyl, aimed at killing Clostridia, a bad bacteria that grew out of control for months on end. Camel milk is reported as being a strong bactericide.
- Perfect stools after two days on the milk, and I mean perfect! I’ve never seen this in our two year old, he has always vacillated between constipation and loose with the occasional normal looking stool.
- TALKATIVE beyond belief, they are happy, giddy, animated and very talkative.
- Listening to direction better. I say better because we do have a two year old with a two year old set of opinions.
- It’s like their creativity had suddenly been unleashed. They were creative before, but they suddenly had follow through. That night they both made boats out of cardboard and then instead of jumping to the next project of the moment, they both took their “boats” into another room and began very creative imaginary play with them….for probably an hour!!
Our two year old:
- His personality was awoken in ways we’ve never experienced before.
- Significant vocabulary growth (using words like “Tyrannosaurus” and “cardboard” on his own) with words I didn’t even know he KNEW let alone remembered.
- He went from short spurts of meaningful words to full-blown sentences using connecting words like “in, on, the, my…”
- Intense and mind-reading eye contact (what I mean by this is he began reading moods through an interaction with the eyes)
- Cognitive awareness that is noticeably visible in his facial expressions. For example, if I catch him doing something he clearly should not be doing, in the past my existence wouldn’t even have deterred him never mind instigating a reaction. Now he is very aware of these moments and he responds accordingly with phrases like, “I’m sorry” and “I love you” as he single-handedly schmoozes me with kisses and hugs! Can’t say I mind that too much! =)
- Humor, he is hysterical, playing the air guitar when music is on, making faces, hamming it up.
- Clever, using affection to get his way. More inquisitive, curious = getting into things suddenly!!
- This was one of the most astonishingly obvious changes we saw in him….he was failure to thrive up until his last appointment a few weeks ago!! He weighed 27 pounds for about a year. TWO days after starting the camel milk, he gained two pounds (I weigh him daily in hopes of seeing weight gain miraculously appear), within the next week, he gained an additional pound. He jumped from 10% to 37% for weight. He also grew a half an inch. In the following weeks, he gained two more pounds increasing his growth chart percentages to 47% and inches in height bringing him to 8% from under 3% on the growth chart! This is huge for us. He ate CONSTANTLY and never gained, now his eating has slowed slightly and he is gaining which tells me he is USING the nutrients! Camel milk has 3 times the calcium and 10 times the iron of cow’s milk. Using a food source is more bioavailable than synthetic supplements. Oh, and we have been able to stop their digestive enzymes completely with no ill effects! In the past that would have resulted in very obvious changes to their stool.
- FULL participation in music class, this was a first. He sat on his own instead of on my lap, followed ALL of the instructions AND sang along. I can’t tell you how different this was from before the milk.
- Reduction of keratosis and nothing ever worked, we’ve tried high doses of cod liver oil, hemp oil and black currant seed oil.
- He began dressing himself on his own, without frustration. Now he wants to do everything himself…gladly!
- While reading a book together he pointed to characters and mentioned their moods based on how they looked. One character was gasping, so he said, “She’s scared” and a sad face resulted in, “He’s not happy”…like I said, I could add daily and I swear it’s like he has gone from 0-60 with no in between. These changes are day and night, not gradual like most development happens.
Our five year old:
- Immediately calm, he’s become Mr. Mellow. He still has his charm and his goofiness, but he’s tamer and appropriate in his actions, they have purpose.
- A previous tic temporarily returned and then subsided a day later.
- Became more emotionally unstable with a low frustration threshold for a day (same day as tic) then he came out of it much more consistent than ever before.
- Tummy is remaining flat, he has had severe bloating his entire life. It had reduced significantly with the LOD, but the camel milk has resulted in a constant flat tummy.
- Verbalizing his needs better with complex thoughts. He’s been able to discuss emotional needs with us without getting out of control. In the past, he would get angry, turn away from us and act out of embarrassment.
- Proudly played his guitar for his grandparents without hesitation, no embarrassment.
- Singing songs he is learning in school more than usual.
- More confidence which is a large part of his other behavior. In the past his lack of self esteem was so disheartening, because we have always focused on building up our boys, we just couldn’t understand this piece, but it was obviously physiological.
- Coloring inside the lines with appropriate color choices rather than large scribbles across the whole page with one solid color.
Could some of the things I’ve mentioned above be normal child development and just coincidental timing, sure, anything is possible. But what I’d like to draw attention to is the sheer number of things that have occurred over a very short period of time and in many cases, the overnight change coinciding with the inception of camel milk usage. My mommy instincts tell me most of these things would not have occurred otherwise. I look forward to continued improvements on both the low oxalate diet and with the ongoing use of camel milk.
This article was written by Jessica Galligani, mom of two beautiful boys. She describes herself as “the mom, the wife, the chef, the scientist, the pharmacist, the researcher and the photographer.” She is the author of the blog: You Are What You Eat.
Julie’s Comments: I’m thrilled to share this story of Jessica’s—in part because of the wonderful response her boys have gotten from dietary intervention, and because of the particular approaches she’s seen the most improvement with. Her story discusses the low oxalate diet and camel milk—two of the dietary approaches I find most intriguing. The low oxalate diet is less well known than other diets, but because the positive response I’ve seen from my clients with this diet (and the recent research out), I find it one of the most compelling new dietary considerations. Regarding camel milk, I actually met Jessica while researching camel milk on the Healing with Camel Milk Facebook group that she started (with Nicole Sanford Antunes). Because much of the autism community is aware of the problems with casein and cow/goat milk, all animal milk has been considered “off limits” to most children with autism. However, as I wrote about recently, camel’s milk has amazing healing properties (particularly with the immune system) and is starting to get the attention it deserves. May this story shed further light on the healing benefits of these new, leading edge, food and nutrition principles for autism and all children.