Well, we’ve changed direction yet again. That seems to be the story of my life, actually. “Let’s try
this path! No, wait...that one looks more interesting. Oops...dead end! New direction...whee!” ;)
The problem—and I’m sure many of you can relate to this—is that there are more therapies and theories and ideas and possibilities out there for autism than I can shake a stick at (to borrow one of my Mom’s favourite sayings)—compounded by the fact that not all of them work for everyone. The only way to find out if something is for you (or your child) is to give it a whirl. Which is what I’ve been doing for approximately 15 years now, ever since Mika received the first diagnosis of dyslexia.
In all of my trial and error, however, there has remained one constant: nutrition. I’ve lost track of the hours of research I’ve done on various supplements and diets recommended for people with autism. I looked into gluten intolerance, leaky gut syndrome, vitamin and mineral deficiencies...the list is endless, as have been my attempts at filling the nutritional gaps I instinctively felt existed.
But there was a major issue with my approach: I lacked basic information about what my daughter actually needed. A gluten-free diet helped...a bit. A magnesium supplement helped...for a while. Going mostly sugar-free helped...kind of. And while our family doctor was supportive and ran all the blood tests I asked for in my attempts to ferret out potential deficiencies, she is the first to admit she knows next to nothing about nutrition because it’s not taught in medical school (wtf?! How is that even possible?!). All the tests came back within the ‘normal’ range as defined by the textbooks...and yet my daughter’s condition progressively worsened as she developed a hand tremor and slid further into anxiety and depression.
And then I did something I wish I’d done years ago. I took Mika to a naturopath—but not just any naturopath. This clinic specializes in body chemistry balancing, and it has been nothing short of a revelation. Before we even spoke with a practitioner, Mika had to undergo a full blood and urine analysis. Fortunately, our doctor was willing to requisition the tests for us so that some of them would be covered under our provincial health plan—because I’m not going to lie, this particular path we’ve stepped onto doesn’t come cheap. :P
Once all the test results were in, we met with one of the naturopaths at the clinic to go over everything...and what a lot of everything there is. While our family doctor had already reviewed the results and called to tell us again that everything was ‘normal,’ the naturopath’s interpretation of those same results was very different...and eye opening. As it turns out, Mika has candida and severe inflammation. She is low in vitamin B12 and D. She has a microbe living in her gut that feeds off magnesium, resulting in low levels of that, too. Her thyroid function is low. Her dopamine and serotonin levels are virtually non-existent. And her white blood count is high, signalling the possibility of an underlying strep infection.
All of those things—every single one of them—can play a role in (are you ready for this?) anxiety, depression, and yes, even a hand tremor.
But medically, her tests were ‘normal.’ Medically, our doctor was prepared to send her to a neurologist for the tremor. Medically, our only resort for the anxiety and depression was pharmaceuticals that my daughter refused to take because she couldn’t bear even the possibility of their many potential side effects. Medically, there was nothing overtly ‘wrong’, but my beautiful, brave, funny daughter was folding in on herself as her spirit slowly withered away...all the while believing there must be something she was doing wrong.
So where does this put us now? Our family doctor has ordered a strep test, and we're waiting for the results on that. In the meantime, Mika has embarked on a 21-day elimination diet to help rid her body of the candida and inflammation (we’re at the five-day mark today). She takes a probiotic, Candida Stop, vitamins B12 and D, a supplement to boost her ability to produce serotonin and dopamine, a supplement containing L-DOPA (which becomes dopamine when it crosses the blood-brain barrier), CoQ10, an adaptogenic supplement that helps keep her mood level, an omega supplement, and (now that we’re dealing with the magnesium-eating bug) a magnesium supplement.
She’s been taking the supplements for a week as of today. For someone who has difficulty swallowing a single pill, taking 15 of them a day is a monumental task...but she’s doing it. She’s also sticking with the elimination diet, which I’ve gone on with her for moral support, even though it’s meant giving up some of her very favourite foods (peppers, tomatoes, eggs, potatoes, cheese, black tea...). We’ve rid the house of temptations, and we have never eaten so healthfully. We’re long-time foodies here, so I spend a good couple of hours in the kitchen every day trying out new recipes that fit her protocol (and another half hour a day pinning those recipes to a special Pinterest board I’ve set up because even limited food should be fun ;-) ).
Have I seen any changes in her? Actually, yes...and so has Mika. The L-DOPA supplement (something I actually found on my own before we even met the naturopath) has made a huge difference, particularly with the tremor. She takes two in the morning, and remains tremor-free for the better part of the day—which has let her return to keyboarding, gaming, and pouring her own drinks. It’s not perfect, but it’s better...and to me, it signals that we’re on the right track for her. I suspect it may also be responsible for her renewed ability (lacking since March) to get out of bed, leave the house (still only with us, but hey, it’s a start!), and reconnect with her online friends—and with her ability to cooperate with the new diet/supplement protocol.
As with any other approach, only time will tell if this whole thing will work, but for the time being, I’m hopeful. More so than I’ve been in a while. Partly because I need hope at this point, I think, and so does Mika. There hasn’t been much of that in this girl’s life for a long, long time—or, by extension, in mine. Will this protocol ‘cure’ her autism or her Triple X Syndrome? Of course not. We don’t expect it to. Will it alleviate enough of her symptoms to let her return to the kind of life an almost 23-year-old young woman should be living? Our naturopath says yes, and I say that would be amazing. Because this girl has more than earned the return of a little fun along her journey.
Stay tuned for results! ;)
Stay tuned for results! ;)