Nutrition, Diet, Gut health and Behaviors

There is so much emphasis, attention and awareness on how we eat, what we eat, even when we eat. I know I find myself asking questions such as; Should I eat organic? Is Gluten really bad? How does sugar impact me? 

Throughout my life, I have generally been a health- conscious person — paying attention to general guidelines, reading materials on foods we should be eating and staying away from the foods recommended to cut out of our diets. However, more and often varying  information is out there, making the decisions on food, diet and nutrition choices confusing and complex. 

In the beginning of our journey with Maci’s autism, she experienced significant issues with her diet and wellbeing. We spent a lot of time with doctors and nutritionists trying to determine how to help her thrive. At age 1 she was only 19 pounds. It was super scary!

Nutrition wise, what we were doing for her during this time was simply not working. Her diet consisted of high caloric meals of butter, sour cream, Nutrigrain bars, pancakes, juice, etc. She contracted sinus/ear infections all the time. Experienced reflux and headaches. We, of course, gave her medications to help ease those symptoms. I watched as this all compounded for her and resulted in a rapidly downward-spiraling,  distructive path.

“I cannot get to know Maci until we have healed her gut. When her gut is healthy is when I will be able to know Maci.”
    – Dr. Jerry Kartzinel

Our blessing and life changing moment came from a referral by a friend to see a pediatric naturopath doctor specializing in autism, PDD-NOS, ADD, ADHD and other neurologic development delays. We began understanding Maci’s body and how she responds to food and her environment. We learned about the connection between gut health, the immune system and how these impact anxiety, behaviors and cellular make up. 

An unhealthy gut can lead to series health, behavioral and quality of life concerns.  A common concern and result of an unhealthy gut is inflammation. Inflammation in the gut causes multiple problems including: IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut, body pain, arthritis, Chrone’s disease, diverticulitis, diverticulosis, Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis. The best and most effective way of treating all of these series medical health issues is managing your DIET. 

Maci started on the GAPS diet. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  Developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, it is based on the premise that gastrointestinal dysfunction is a major underlying contributor to behavioral and developmental issues of childhood. The GAPS diet is a comprehensive lifestyle change that heals the gut and assists in the reduction of chronic health concerns; through the elimination of specific foods that feed abnormal gut flora, and the addition of the other foods that nurture and heal the intestine. It addresses chronic health issues such as:

In our case, of the 10 issues relating to gut health concerns, Maci had 7. Think about it, all of us, at one time or another doesn’t feel well. Not feeling well makes life and the world we live in very miserable. Continually feeling unwell undoubtably creates negative and destructive behaviors. Thus, for Maci’s sake, it was imperative we fix her gut health to improve her quality of life and reduce destructive behavior. 

Our naturopath did an extensive history and laboratory evaluation creating a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan. The biomedical treatment strategies she used were:

  • Dietary changes
  • Targeted nutrient therapy – high dose vitamins, botanical medicine support, methylation support
  • Gut treatment – specialized testing, probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, antifungal treatment
  • Decrease oxidative stress – melatonin, glutathione, mitochondrial support and mHBOT (mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy)
  • Detoxification
  • Immune system regulation
  • Supplement and nutritional guidance

It was truly remarkable how this approach made such a difference for us. It was an eye-opening experience for me, so much so I have changed my diet and nutritional habits as well. I see a naturopath on a regular basis and 100% notice a huge difference in how I feel and sleep. I’m less anxious and depressed. As my gut health has improved, so has my overall quality of life. I have encouraged many of my friends, family and other parents to follow the same path.

So, the answers to my earlier questions and more:

  • Yes, organic is better
  • Yes, gluten can be bad and testing for it is important to prevent inflammation and improve gut health
  • Yes, sugar and artificial chemicals in foods is bad
  • Food sensitivities are real and lead to poor gut health

Here are a few places focused on gut health, diet, nutrition and improving overall quality of life I am loving these days:

  1. Dr. Josh Axe
  2. Danielle Walker
  3. Dr. Jerry Kartzinel
  4. Dr. Terry Wahls
  5. Julie Matthews, Nourishing Hope
  6. Elisa Song, md, Healthy Kids Happy Kids

For more information and resources please visit and #MAPit!