Autism and the Low Oxalate Diet (LOD)
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
Can a change in diet be the answer you are looking for? I have always believed that what we put into our bodies has a direct affect on our health. From GMO's, processed foods and chemicals being introduced to the food chain is it no wonder people are coming down with a whole host of gut related issues? Could problems such as irritable and inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, colon cancer, kidney stones and maybe even Autism be directly linked to what our bodies are ingesting and attempting to break down? Our gut is often referred to as our second brain and controls gut behavior separate from our neurological brain. Did you know 95% of the bodies serotonin ( the happy chemical) is found in the bowels? Serotonin released from the "second brain" may also play a part in Autism. Michael Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the emerging field of neurogastroenterology and author of the 1998 book The Second Brain (HarperCollins) states That it may explain why children with Autism have a higher rate of GI motor abnormalities coupled with elevated levels of gut produced serotonin in their blood. So you see, the importance of having a healthy and balanced gut cannot be understated. I think we do ourselves a huge disservice by not researching the affects food has on our system and what part it may play in regaining control of our health. I have come to the belief through my own personal experiences with nutrition that food can in fact be our own medicine.
A few months ago I had a client come to me with a rare kidney disorder. She was told by her doctors that she needed to be on an LOD diet. Otherwise known as a Low Oxalate Diet.
As I began doing my research I came across numerous posts and articles from parents and medical professionals talking about how an LOD diet had greatly benefited their child with the symptoms of Autism. I was totally taken by the story of a man who was diagnosed with kidney stones. As a result his doctors had prescribed an LOD diet. His son however, had been diagnosed with Autism at a young age and after years of going through medications and different therapies to no avail he felt at his wits end. Being totally exhausted by his own health issues while trying to parent a child with such severe needs he decided that he was only going to prepare meals from his LOD diet. After all, how could he continue to support and help his child if his own health was in question. His son would just have to be on it too. He said at first it was an adjustment but almost immediately he had noticed a huge beneficial change in his sons behavior. He claims that the diet greatly helped both of them and his son's symptoms had all but disappeared. He credits this to the LOD diet. I found it completely fascinating that a diet prescribed to help people with kidney disorders could also be of benefit to those dealing with the challenges of Autism. As I researched more I even found studies that showed by controlling the level of oxalates in the diet of those affected with Autism may have huge benefits on the overall health and emotional well being of the child.
Did you know that recent CDC studies have shown that 1 in 59 children will be diagnosed with Autism. 1 in 59! Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. For those parents who have Autistic children they know that it can come with a litany of problems ranging from behavioral and physical issues like head banging, scratching and sleep disorders. Autistic children are eight times more likely to suffer chronic gastrointestinal disorders than their peers. They also have a higher rate of being bullied and experience depression and anxiety. Much to our dismay the professional community still have not come up with a root cause for the disorder and sadly many parents are left to research and find answers on their own.
So what the heck is an oxalate anyway? Oxalates are naturally occurring minerals that are found in certain plants and foods as well as the human body itself. That's right... we produce oxalates in our liver. So it is pretty impossible to avoid oxalates all together. They also have beneficial properties to them. In nature, it's sort of like a survival switch in plants. It helps them to ward off predators and the plants high in them usually give off a bitter taste so animals will avoid ingesting it. Rhubarb for example, are very high in oxalates and if too many are ingested it can be poisonous.
What is the function of an oxalate in the human body? They bind to other minerals in the body and prevent them from being absorbed. Some scientists believe they "chelate" and by binding to substances in the gut they help to remove toxins from the body. However, in people with compromised guts they may block your body from receiving the healthy benefits that come with eating healthier foods. Most of us equate a healthy diet with eating lots of dark leafy greens, nuts and sweet potatoes etc. but to those on an LOD diet this would have the opposite affect as these foods are high in oxalates. It really is a hard diet to follow as the levels are constantly changing depending on the time of year, the acidity in the soil and how the food is prepared i.e. raw vs boiled or soaked. A healthy individual on a non restrictive diet ingests around 200-300mg of oxalate daily. An LOD diet suggests limiting that number to between 50mg and 100mg. Following the LOD diet can be challenging. That is not to say it isn't worth it though. Numerous individuals and families have reported great beneficial changes by following it. Research is constantly being done in this field and as I was doing mine I came across numerous forums and support groups for those who are changing their lives and finding new normals through an LOD diet.
If you or someone you love is living with Autism it might be of benefit to try out the LOD diet for yourselves and see if it can't help to make improvements in your world. Feel free to contact me directly for more information regarding this diet and how I may be of further service to you.
Love and light!
Noel's Healing Hearth