Monday, May 30, 2011

Connor's Story: ADD, Autism or Food Allergy?

I want to tell you about my son Connor’s story because there are so many children being diagnosed with ADD and autism, but first, I need to educate you on some very basic, but important information!

Signs of a Food Allergy in Infants:
  • Crying
  • Colic
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • Rashes
  • Eczema
  • Cold-like respiratory congestion

Signs of a Food Allergy in Children:
  • “Allergic Shiners" or a bluish-brownish discoloration around both eyes
  • Flushing cheeks and ears, appearing bright red to crimson - sometimes only one ear will flush
  • Nasal congestion may be present as mouth-breathing, sniffing, snorting or snoring, nose rubbing
  • Increased mucus flow in nose & throat, ear-plugging with muffled hearing and ringing in the ears, recurrent ear infections, recurrent throat infections, swelling of the neck lymph nodes (glands), chronic or recurrent cough, wheezing

Infants who develop a food allergy may “outgrow” the first effects of the allergy, but tend to grow into children with pervasive health, behavior and learning problems - they very seldom ever “outgrow” the allergy, the symptoms simply change!

Connor’s story begins when he was an infant. As a newborn, he was colicky and seldom slept.  Because I was breastfeeding him, I tried to eliminate different foods from my diet to see if it would help him - of course I never thought to eliminate the dairy. I believed that the dairy was one of the most important foods that I should be eating! When Connor was about 6 months old, I tried to introduce him to a rice cereal recommended by my doctor. This particular rice cereal contained milk in it so all you had to do was add water. He immediately became very constipated and extremely gassy. He also developed his first ear infection. At the advice of his health nurse, I quit the rice cereal and strictly breast-fed him until he was one year.

At about 14 months old, I weaned Connor onto whole milk and started feeding him vegetables and fruits, staying away from the cereals. It didn’t take long for him to develop eczema on his cheeks and hands. His ear infections worsened and the antibiotics stopped working. He broke out in rashes that would cover his whole body, he even developed a wheezy cough. Each of these symptoms pointed to an allergy and yet, my doctor treated each one separately! He was put on an inhaler for his asthma, Benedryl for his rashes, cortisone cream for his eczema, tubes in his ears for his ear infections and enemas & prune juice for his severe constipation. Not a single doctor that we saw ever once told me that all of these symptoms were strong indications of an allergy and that we should try eliminating foods from his diet.

Connor was a very sick child and it broke my heart to see him in so much pain. I would have done anything to make life better for him! He constantly lived with fluid in his ears and the ear infections never seemed to go away - now he has a permanent hole in his eardrum from the excessive number of times they put tubes in. Connor always seemed like he was in his own little world and only started talking when he was four. I believed that the fluid in his ears made him unable to hear properly.

When Connor went to kindergarten, he had a hard time focusing. His teacher had no patience with him and would call me in to tell me how he was such a bad child! I was completely shocked because at home, Connor was an awesome kid and so easy to take care of - he would spend hours playing with his train tracks or drawing amazing pictures for me. He had always been very well behaved and always listened to whatever I asked him to do; he never complained - most of the time you hardly even knew he was there! However, his teacher continued to complain and flat out told me that he had ADD.

The diagnoses of ADD just didn’t seem right to me - he was not hyper at all. If anything, Connor lacked energy and appeared depressed. I took him to see his doctor, who assured me that he didn’t have ADD, but Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild form of autism). As soon as I got home, I researched Asperger’s Syndrome all I could, and found that most children improved when milk and gluten were removed from their diets. So I put him on a gluten-free diet for two months, which didn’t help him at all. I also replaced his cow’s milk with goat’s milk. I have since learned that goat’s milk is NOT a good replacement for cow’s milk, as they both contain many of the same common allergens.

The symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome are: lack of social skills, avoidance of eye contact, preoccupation with only one or few interests (such as designing houses or drawing highly detailed scenes), heightened sensitivity to noise, lights, strong tastes or textures, delayed motor development and depression/anxiety. I find it very interesting that all of these symptoms also describe ME when I was a child. I can tell you from my experience what this feels like: It feels like there is a heaviness in your body that pulls you down and makes you feel tired and weak. There is a “fog” in your head that makes it hard to focus on what your teacher/parent is trying to teach or tell you. This “fog” makes you turn inward and the people on the outside are scary because you don’t understand them. They get mad and yell at you, but you don’t know why - there is a block between you and them, like you are in a different dimension - a dimension where the air is heavy and thick. I remember not wanting to play with other kids because it took too much energy to try to be how they wanted me to be. It was easier to be alone - that was when I was happy. I would spend hours drawing, wishing that everyone would just leave me alone - a very sad existence in a very lonely world!

When I went off of all dairy products, I was shocked at how the “fog” lifted - I never knew what that felt like! I didn’t even realize how horrible I felt until I was able to feel good. It is incredible how living with a food allergy affects your brain. If you think that your child may have a food allergy, PLEASE get help for them. Do everything that you can to help them. No one should have to live this way! I hear a lot of excuses like, “I could never live without milk!” But what if you are directly making your child sick?! Wouldn’t you do anything to help them? Milk is very easy to eliminate from your diet - almond milk has the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk and tastes great. It is also much healthier because it doesn’t have any of the cholesterol or hormones that cow’s milk has. I prefer to look at it as not giving up dairy products, but simply making healthier choices. The main purpose of the food we eat is to nourish, not to entertain or excite. For more great info on changing your eating habits, check out the article on How to Change What You & Your Family Eat.

Please do not simply accept the diagnoses of ADD, ADHD or autism - look deeper! I know that everyone would like the cure to come in the form of a pill, but if we want to get down to what is directly causing these conditions we have to look at what we are eating.

Connor is definitely improving in many ways now that I have taken him off of dairy products. He has more energy and the depression has completely gone away. He is always smiling and laughing and is loving school. He has jumped a couple of reading levels in the last month and is very proud of himself. Up until now, I was giving Connor Metamucil almost daily to help with his constipation, but now he is happy to report that he doesn’t need it at all! He is becoming more social with other kids and adults - and yes, the “fog” is definitely lifting!!

Carrie Wall is a wife and mother of two. She builds homes part-time with her husband, and is a piano teacher, artist and photographer. You can read more about Carrie's story here. If you are interested in contributing an article as a guest writer, please contact me.

Linked to Fresh Bites Friday and Fight Back Friday.


Crystal Rassi said...

I'm Connor's Aunt. I remember the time when Jody and Carrie talked about the possibility of Connor having ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome. My husband and I shook our heads and thought - no way. Dr's are too quick to assign a label and make a quick buck on prescriptions.

I see similar symptoms in my coworkers son who now has tubes in his ears. The doctors are blaming it on his premature birth and "typical" growth of ear drums in children - hogwash. But I do know that the family will unfortunately not likely look a diet as a cure.

Connor is an awesome normal kid who has intriguing interests in certain things which is typical. I like art more than science so I didn't pay that much attention in science class during school. This is normal - not ADD. And I think with the change in Connor's diet, he will just get better at what he loves, and the things he doesn't love? Well, I would nurture a child's serious interests over forcing them to do something they don't want to do.

Good for Jody and Carrie for going this route. Connor is doing great.

Shanon Hilton said...

Conner's story is testament to how powerful the gut-mind connection is. Diet really does make an impact on our health and behavior.

Anonymous said...

I found my way over to your blog today. My oldest son had all sorts of mystery "illnesses" and my special needs son started out with this too. I took both of them off of gluten and cow's milk, and yes, myself. The fog, allergies, and some of the ADD lifted. My SN son is still on the spectrum, but it does run in our family, and he does have a genetic syndrome. You are right about the symptoms changing; my oldest showed me this. There is a connection!

Danielle said...

Hi, Carrie,
This is my first time visiting your blog, and I really love your passion for the health of our families and our world.
It's amazing to hear about Connor's improvement! Just curious - what do you think about GAPs? It sounds like you're already seeing improvement, but do you think something drastic like that might help even more?
I look forward to reading more of this good stuff!

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Danielle, Carrie was a guest writer on this blog, so I will pass the comment along to her. My own personal opinion is that everyone would benefit from adopting the GAPS diet, but especially children with Autism.

Carrie said...

Crystal, you are very sweet and I know that your intentions are good, however, Connor really has struggled with fitting into society and does have ALL the symptoms described as Aspergers Syndrome. I love Connor and his quirkiness very much-in fact, he is a lot like me, so I have always related to him. I wouldn't change a thing about him, I only want to help him be happy and healthy. Children with Aspergers get emotionally drained easily and experience depression and social withdrawal. They are very trusting, making them easy targets for teasing and bullying.
Since eliminating dairy from our diets, Connors ability to focus in school has improved dramatically. He is now getting his work done and he has more energy. The color in his face has improved and he has a bright glow. He has even made a couple of friends in his class who have actually come over to play after school, a first time ever! The best part is watching his confidence grow.
Danielle, I honestly had never heard of the GAPS diet, but I think we may be almost following it without knowing it! By eliminating dairy, we have cut out all processed foods. I always use honey as a sweetener. In an attempt to keep my family getting their calcium intake, I have made a rule that raw veggies must be eaten at every meal, as well as a salad at supper (topped with only home mead dressing). Snacks are only fruits and veggies. Butter and most of the margarine has been replaced with olive oil. We have cut out all food coloring and make our own juice from fresh fruit. We do still eat grains, but we limit the amount. Basically, I am cooking everything from scratch because I have found that is the only way to make sure there is no dairy in our food-and it tasted so much better!
Thanks for the tip, I will keep exploring this avenue!

Lexie said...

Carrie thank you for sharing this story. The more stories like this that get out the more "aha's" we'll see and people who are hopeless will begin to find answers that lead to HOPE for healing.

If at some point you would like to share this story again, it would be perfect content for the Making the Switch series on my blog That is, if Shanon will share : )

Shanon, I love your site and thank you for linking up to me! Your bio could be mine ... we are on the same mission ... you just can put it into words so much better than I : )


SunnyB said...

This is a great story! Thank you for many aspects of this story hit home. I have one child with ADD (and I suspect Aspergers) but has become a new person on a GFCF diet. Another child has not had cows milk since she was diagnosed with an allergy at 17months old. It took me being diagnosed with celiac to realize that she had other symptoms I needed to pay attention to, and now she is not just cows milk free, she is GFCF as well. It is amazing what food can do, good and bad. Thank you for sharing your story!!

Carrie said...

Lexie, I would love to share our story on your blog! The more people we can help, the better. Let me know if you need anything from me, or can you take it straight from Shanon's blog? Your recipes look fantastic and I can't wait to try some of them!
Sunny, thank you for reading! I am now a true believer that every single thing we eat directly affects our bodies and minds. The change that my whole family has experienced is absolutely incredible! Who would have thought that the answer could be so easy!?

Lexie said...

Shanon and Carrie,

I will have the story formatted and ready to post in a few weeks on my site. Thanks again for agreeing.

Carrie, I wondered if you had a larger file of the cute picture of Carrie and Connor behind the blender? I can format to the right size.

You can email it to me at lexieskitchen[at]


lumin smith said...

Food allergy is very dangerous to allergic patients, some time leads up to death of the patients. Several people suffer from this allergy and some of them could be life threatening symptoms that occur due to it.