Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Diet's Impact on Neurological Struggles: Not Everything, But Hardly Nothing

This morning, I came home from Crossfit to a couple of very hungry girls. My five year old had already gotten them each a banana (hey, maybe in another 5-7 years I can have her making us all eggs and bacon!), but they were looking around eagerly for the next course.

They were delighted to realize I had a pomegranate in the house. We normally classify pomegranates as fancy holiday fare, because of their more typical $2.50+ price tag, but I'd stopped into a Food Lion by chance yesterday, and they were selling them for $0.99 each!

I used a chef's knife to crack open the pom (YouTube has a TON of videos on pomegranate prep, watch them for great tips!), and after pulling it apart into sections, I could hardly pry the seeds out of the inside fast enough for the four little hands to grab them off the plate.

Their faces and hands quickly slicked with the delicious red juice, my youngest started counting the arils, "One, two, three." She has made real, very noticeable strides in the time since we overhauled her diet. When we first started buckling down on diet, after her diagnoses, she was 26 months old, using around 20 words clumsily, incompletely and inconsistently. She wandered around in a fog, with little eye contact. At most we were getting her to try one new word in a week, but those rarely stuck. Her language development essentially froze sometime in the middle of her second year of life, and stayed stuck until we changed her diet - this dietary jump-start to her progress was observed and acknowledged by my mother-in-law (a retired speech therapist) and our current speech therapist.

At six weeks shy of three years old, she now counts to twenty, knows all of her colors, all of her shapes, and recognizes the entire alphabet and numerals on sight. Her language development is pacing nicely - she recently tested as being developmentally on track for her verbal articulation skills, and her spontaneous combinations of 3-4 words have been increasing in frequency. Instead of being roughly a year behind on language (as she was this spring), she is now probably only a few months delayed in certain aspects of language. Her sensory processing disorder symptoms have also been blunted a bit - she does not grind her teeth or squeeze my arm until it hurts as intensely and as frequently as she used to. Perhaps most charmingly, she has developed a lot of social skills that I had not seen before - saying, "Hi!" to strangers in public places, making steadier eye contact in general, and mentioning friends, classmates, and teachers by name.

Has diet fixed everything 100%? No. But it unquestionably got the ball to recovery rolling, and has bolstered and supported a diligent therapy schedule. My daughter will probably always have sensory issues to manage, but I rest in the knowledge that her progress now reflects a future with increasingly fewer, if any, limits.

This blog post is an explanation of personal experiences for entertainment purposes only, and is not to be misconstrued as medical advice. Please consult your trusted primary care physician with any questions about major changes in your diet and your family's diet, and remember that decisions about your diet are your own to make based on your own health and circumstances. Every family and child has unique nutritional needs, and those are for you and your health care providers to identify.


  1. Your post may not be meant as medical advice, but I absolutely believe it 100%, since my youngest also suffered from the same set of symptoms when he was her age. I so wish I'd discovered our present diet 15 years ago.

    1. Thanks, Jan, it is very heartening to hear encouragement from a parent who has "been there"!

  2. My son was diagnosed as developmentally delayed at 3. He started early intervention with our local school system (where I am a Special Ed teacher) and that has made huge difference in his life. But, at the beginning of last summer my parents started following a paleo diet and after seeing their health benefits we started following along with them. We are not always strict about it, but we almost never have bread or any other gluten rich products. I have seen HUGE improvements in his ability to follow through with a conversation and he's doing so well in school! Your posts have encouraged me to continue with what we have started and shown that the foods we eat are SO important and impact SO many areas. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    1. Thank you for writing and telling me your son's story. Every time I hear stories like this I feel a little less alone in this I'm looking up in a field from blazing my own little trail to see other parents with their own lit torches. I wish you and your son the best as your continue with his diet and his progress! :-D


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