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Autoimmune Stories: How Fiona Used The AIP Diet To Support Her Son With Autism

Picture of Fiona outstide in the garden
Fiona Walker

1. What health issues were you dealing with and when did they begin?

This all started with my son struggling. By aged 2.5 years old, I was starting to notice that something wasn’t right. He wouldn’t get out of the buggy to walk, was a super fussy eater, didn’t play well except for what I call, cathartic play, which was 2 things that he would do. He took a long time to potty train and would have long (3-4 hour) meltdowns every day.

2. Tell us about your diagnosis story, how long did it take to get a diagnosis?

He has never been diagnosed with Autism as at the time (12 years ago) it was medication or go home, so I figured I would start with learning all the things and work on some possible solutions at home and see what happened first.

It was hard to get any help as most people told me that it was his age, my parenting, because he was a boy, there wasn’t anything wrong. I spent a long time reflecting on these comments but luckily I had another son just 16 months younger than him and he wasn’t displaying these behaviours.

3. Which symptoms were you struggling with?

The biggest struggle was the meltdowns and then that I felt he was ‘losing time’ by not doing the things that the other children his age were doing.

4. Tell us about some of the emotions you experienced.

All the emotions: sad, frustrated, alone, determined to find a solution, thankful that I have the drive and determination to try different lifestyle choices.

5. What made you decide to go beyond medication and primary care?

They initially weren’t helpful and I am resistant to medication unless it is the last resort. I tried the lifestyle choices first, and wanted to try to support my son's autism with the AIP diet, with the thought that I would investigate diagnosis and medication later if I can’t make the changes needed for him to thrive in life.

6. Why AIP?

I worked with a functional nutritionist and the exclusions and inclusions she recommended make AIP the closest diet to follow. I found the AIP cookbook when I was looking for a cookbook that I could open and cook anything in there.

7. Tell us about your journey to recovery.

Within 3 days of taking all gluten out of his diet, the meltdowns stopped. He could sleep better, concentrate on things that weren’t ‘cathartic’ better. Some of the other symptoms took longer to dial down. It is still something we watch and flex with, 12 years later. I think that when you commit to changing your lifestyle you often have some quick wins and then some longer term wins. I think you have to remember that it takes a long time to cause the dis-ease in the body and so it will likely take a long time to truly heal from it. With Autoimmune disease you need to accept that it will always be there but, you can dial down the symptoms and damage so that you can continue to live a full vibrant life.

8. What was the result of making these diet and lifestyle changes?

Everything! He leads a full and healthy life. Sure he feels different sometimes because we eat differently etc but I think that is a small price to pay. He was so young when we changed things that I can really only imagine what his path would have looked like, if we hadn’t.

9. Did you try any other alternative therapies that helped?

Yes, we used massage, aromatherapy, affirmations, music and therapy for retained primitive reflexes.

10. Do you have any favourite resources that helped you? A blog? A book?

I like listening to Sarah Ballantyne, I use the AIP cookbook by Mickey Tresscot a lot. I search the web for recipes that comply with our reintroductions so I can make the boys something similar to what their friends are eating. Eg. donuts made from plantain.

11. What helped you nail the Autoimmune protocol?

People used to say isn’t it hard eating like that and I always said, ‘It’s much harder to watch him struggle and not enjoy his life’. The sheer will to make a difference and help him made what can be hard, much easier.

12. What was your biggest challenge?

Modern ultra processed food fed to other children and the boys wanting to eat that instead. Some days I can find it a challenge to make packed lunches etc but it is a small price to pay.

13. What was easier than you expected?

I am not sure what I expected but after the initial change of how we all ate as a family, it is much easier long term than you would expect.

14. How did the people around you react to you doing the AIP diet?

Bear in mind that this was 10 years ago, but they thought I was crazy. I was limiting their diet too much, it was extreme, how did I manage to cut vegetables every day for lunches etc, how do you have time. There was lots of adversity but it was working for my son and the whole family felt so much better following his diet changes.

15. What Reintroductions have you managed successfully, if any?

Rice, oats, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, chickpeas, lentils and nightshades. We eat some beans now and again. Some of these were introduced and tolerated immediately after the elimination phase and some have taken years to reintroduce and I have continued to try them every 6 months or so and then watch for any issues.

16. What one thing did you learn that you’d like to pass on to others?

If you want to see a change in your health, give this a good go. It isn’t a ‘diet’ that you are going to be on for a short time but with whatever reintroductions you can make, this will be a ‘way of eating’ that will probably last a lifetime.

You can have what others eat but you will have to cook it yourself and use a different way of doing it. What can you lose by giving it a try? It will do no harm!

Fiona Walker

As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Autoimmune Paleo Certified Coach, my aim is to support you in your individual health goals. We will work together, using goal setting around nutrition, sleep, stress management, exercise, time management and connection, to find a plan that works just for you. I have a special interest in supporting adults and children with autoimmune conditions and autistic spectrum disorders.

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