Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Personal Look At Diet Therapies

Before having a child with special needs, I associated the word diet with something painful that I needed to do pretty much constantly to lose weight. Now, even though that association is still true, the word diet means so much more. A diet is truly a medical treatment for many conditions. As a disclaimer, I must say, I am a mother who has gathered a lot of information regarding different diet therapies. It is extremely important to note: You should never implement any diet without consulting a healthcare professional. That being said, having put my own daughter on a Modified Atkins Diet for Epilepsy, under close supervision, I have seen first hand what changes in diet can do for anyone. Whether you must make a diet change due to allergies, or you choose to make a change to improve certain conditions or lessen side effects, diet is a valuable medical tool.

There are so many different diets out, and there are so many different thoughts, perspectives and insights. I am but one person. Little Miss M began the Modified Atkins Diet for Epilepsy (MAD) in April. If you have heard of the Ketogenic Diet, MAD has very similar objectives in that it puts a person into a ketotic state by drastically lowering carbohydrate intake and increasing fat intake. There is no measuring in MAD, and so the ratio is not consistently exact. This has been a problem for Little Miss M as her mood has swung and we've had some blood sugar issues. Her cholesterol has also tripled. The pluses of the diet, for us, have been unlocking a new piece of Little Miss M. The last six months have brought about a clarity of cognition and understanding that we hadn't previously seen. We also saw my creative child, who once struggled to get out what was inside, now able to produce detailed and recognizable pictures. As a parent, there is a struggle to weigh the pros and the cons in this situation. The diet was not introduced for seizure control in Little Miss M's case, so we didn't need to weigh seizures into the decisions. We saw may good things with the diet, but Little Miss M's overall health and well-being are not good, so we had to choose to discontinue MAD.

That being said, we are not abandoning the idea of a diet as a therapy for Little Miss M. Her doctor even said, we really don't have an exact science as to why, but many children with developmental challenges do well on regimented diets. She theorized that this was due to the structure of the diet and perhaps not always the foods. I've also noticed that most of the diets embrace whole foods, and not always prepackaged ones. We will be slowly transitioning Little Miss M to an Low-Glycemic Index Treatment (LGIT) and hopefully get her astronomical cholesterol back under control.

So far I've mentioned: Ketogenic Diet -- a strict diet limiting carbohydrates and calories to ensure the patient is kept in constant ketosis. This is a truly medical diet, and must only be initiated under very careful supervision. I have seen children who were having 100s of seizures daily have a drastic reduction in their seizures. This diet has worked for so many. More information on the Ketogenic Diet and MAD can be found on the Charlie Foundation website.

A diet therapy that many swear by, and that we looked into, is the Gluten-Free/Casein Free Diet or GFCF. I have no personal experience with this diet. Just like everything, it may very well work for some and not for others. In very basic terms, this diet eliminates all foods containing gluten and casein. More information can be found at: http://www.gfcf.com/gfcfdiet/gfcf-diet.html.

There are many other diets out there, but as we've said, it really is best to consult with your healthcare professional before starting any diet regime. I've heard great success from eliminating food-dyes, gluten, complex carbs, sugar, aspartame, etc. In my experience, each person is different and diets can be tailored to each specific person.

We look forward to hearing your experiences with diet therapy and 
what has worked or hasn't worked for you. 
Please comment below!

Amanda is a full-time mom to three girls with various dietary restrictions and needs. She tries hard to find creative food solutions to meet those needs.

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