This Article was first Published on BodyEcology.com in April 2010.
Today, Dougie’s father, Doug has shared his experience as a dad on this journey to help his son recover. Body Ecology was the first step in really helping little Dougie regain his health. But, as his dad puts it, it was a struggle for him to understand the importance of diet until he tried it on himself. Doug’s candidness and honesty are an inspiration to any parent.
Q: Doug, will you share your feelings about how you discovered that your son had autism?
A: I would love for those reading this interview to know that when we brought Dougie home from the hospital, he rolled to his side at two days old. He made eye contact with us. He slept through the nights, loved to be held and even came on dates with my wife and me. He was beginning to walk and talk at eight months old. He was pointing. He remembered relatives.
We started him on organic baby foods when he was around seven months old. He absolutely loved zucchini squash, rice cereal, spinach and blueberries. Gina often made baby food from scratch. We were so in love with our little guy. We would have family dinners where we sat him on a cushion between us, and talked to him as if he were an adult just like us. It was just so much fun!
We made all of our Well-Visits to the pediatrician and were so excited that our son was never sick. Other children around us were sick all of the time.
Until my beautiful, alert, active baby boy regressed from all smiles to tantrums, illness, and eventually –loss of eye contact, loss of language and stopped wanting me to hold him — the only thing I ever understood about autism, I learned from the movie, Rain Man. My wife was the first person to mention the word “autism” to me regarding Dougie. And I was furious with her. To me, autism was a disability, and my son was not disabled. My son was sick.
I knew something was wrong with him, but I didn’t know what to call it. There were so many layers to what we were experiencing. My son was sick. My son had a toxic overload.
I still refuse to call it autism because I completely disagree with the way that label is used and thrown around these days. So, yes, my son was labeled as having autism. But, I was never one for labels.
I was feeling like I should know what to do, but I had no clue how to help him. Here I was, blessed with this amazing child who needed my help, and I was helpless. It wasn’t about getting him to be like anyone else. You hear that a lot when you attempt to recover your child from “autism.” It was never about that for us. My wife and I have always lived outside the norm on many levels. We just wanted Dougie to thrive. We wanted him to have great health.
I think most people in my shoes would feel the same. We are simply not taught that there are toxins in the environment and that the way we eat can affect our brains and our development. So, how did I feel? I felt angry. And, this lead to so many difficulties between my wife and me.
She just wanted me to come to grips with this idea that Dougie had “something” so that we could work together to get rid of it.
Gina and I couldn’t sit down to talk very much to even come up with a plan for how to make things better. Dougie was so sick that Gina would pass out from exhaustion after spending 24+ hours awake rocking him; walking him or whatever else she could do to soothe him. In the beginning of his health issues, our home would be loud with crying tantrums. Toward the worst part, our home was silent with the fear that Dougie would never communicate with us again. And, as he healed, he went through months of dangerous behaviors, no sleep and sadness.
For a long time, Gina just held the emotional, and physical burden of this all. And I buried my pain. Gina never stopped working. If Dougie slept she was on the computer looking for answers to help him. She wasn’t talking to me much because I didn’t understand her. I missed her.
Both of us were so young and confused that I feel grateful that we found answers to make it out. But, I have to admit; there were times when I didn’t see that light at the end of the tunnel. Gina says she couldn’t talk to me because she had to focus on the positive in order to pull our family out of the situation. It seems like so long ago that we were in that place in our lives.
Q: How did you feel about the diet changes in the beginning?
A: I resented these changes for sure. When we found Body Ecology my son was physically ill with viral and bacterial infections. He didn’t want to eat anything. The antibiotics he was on completely killed his taste for vegetables and healthy food. Gina told me this was called candida, a yeast overgrowth that becomes pathogenic, feeds on sugars and causes us to crave processed foods. She assured me that she was doing the right thing by introducing healthy foods and fermented foods.
We could get an occasional French fry into Dougie, but that’s about it. So, when my wife wanted to give him this sour smelling coconut drink, coconut kefir, that took days to make and would spill everywhere when Dougie spit it out – after a long day’s work, I really resented this. I knew that if I had given Dougie a fry or a cracker he would settle down and be happy. And, we would be able to get some food into him. When Gina first began Body Ecology with Dougie I did not agree with it at all.
I was afraid he would get malnourished just because he wouldn’t eat at all. In hindsight, we were not starving him. Gina was giving him foods he liked between bites of Body Ecology style foods. And, it didn’t take too long before we found some foods that he really liked. Stevia became a savior for us. Because of its sweet taste, he loved it on anything from quinoa, to kefir and even his cultured vegetables.
I was a meat and potato fan myself. And soon, my wife, who once made me a one-pound burger – the best burger I’d ever had, was refusing to make the dinners I loved because she felt they were toxic to have in the house.
Dougie didn’t seem to like the food. And, I would sit there and have to listen to him tantrum while his mom struggled to get him to eat a green bean or a piece of spinach – things he previously loved.
Now, I see the stress that my disapproval caused our family. I believe that even if Dougie didn’t understand my words, he certainly understood my negative energy; I didn’t make these changes easier on them in the beginning.
Really, in almost no time, Dougie was eating fermented foods, loving quinoa and vegetables and gesturing for green smoothies. This was a great thing. When he started loving the foods I was totally fine with the diet changes. His health improved right away after beginning Body Ecology and he hasn’t needed medications for the last three and a half years.
But, it even took me a while to catch on that the diet was the reason he began to heal. I just attributed it to my wife’s healing abilities. I was still sneaking my fast food on the side and still really feeling confused about what was going on at home.
But, Gina began to get happier too. She began calling me at work to tell me that Dougie threw a ball to her or called her mama or pretended to talk on the phone. When Dougie started to heal I would receive 5-10 calls from Gina each day. We were so excited about his progress.
Q: What did you do to change things around for your family?
A: For a long time I hid behind the idea that I did what I could when I was home, but that my role in the family was that of the financial provider. In the beginning, when I would step in the door after work, it was like I entered a disaster area. I never could understand how our little apartment got so messy with green gooey smoothie spills, broken toys and our child, still crying like he’d been in the morning when I left.
I never came home to a happy family anymore. That was rough.
I argued with Gina over nonsense, like stating that I was doing my half by working and she was not doing her half because our house was a mess and our child’s and her health were disastrous.
But, Dads – Listen up – Taking care of a child who is recovering from a severe toxic overload and working a 9-5 corporate job are not equal jobs. I was not doing HALF. I was barely doing my share.
So you know what I did? I finally gave in and began implementing Body Ecology on myself. I gave up pizza, bread and candy. It was so hard at first. But, it was literally the only way I could see and feel the effects of this diet. It wasn’t long before I realized that I could still eat delicious foods, even the foods I loved with some minor adjustments. Quinoa is a great replacement for pasta and rice. Green smoothes take some getting used to, but man, do they make you feel good. I literally felt like the good food I was eating was making my cravings for sweets and junk foods disappear. In the beginning, I would get angry with Gina when she told me that I probably had a candida yeast infection too, like Dougie and her. I guess I just wasn’t ready to heal. But, now that I feel the effects of the fermented foods, green smoothies and proper food combining I am healthier than I’ve ever been.
Body Ecology and raw foods reduced my stress, gave me energy and helped me deal with my own health issues.
Once I did that, I was able to jump on board with all of the changes Gina was making for our health. With my support, we felt like a team again and the energy in our home really settled down.
We believe that it’s very important to create structure in a family. In the beginning when I was eating differently than Dougie, I know he felt strange. Now that we all eat the same way, we are one solid unit. Dougie knows that he is cool for eating cultured foods.
Then, besides Body Ecology dietary changes, Gina and I decided to take our healing one step further and simplify and detoxify our home environment. We got rid of Our TV, microwave, washer and dryer, house phone and desktop computer to reduce electromagnetic fields. We keep cell phones and a laptop, but we unplug all electricity when we’re not using it and we don’t let Dougie use the phone.
We made a commitment to cook only in non-toxic cookware or keep our food raw. We got rid of toys that had any toxic chemicals in them – sadly this was most of our toys at this point. And now, our most recent step was to move our family to a warmer climate where it’s easier for Dougie’s body to heal.
We never had any real funds to help Dougie recover. We were able to accomplish all of this with hard work, research and a lot of faith that he would get better. If it seems crazy that we got rid of his toys – it’s not! We now spend much more time together in nature. We make art, ride bikes, go rock climbing – all things that are also very healing.
Green smoothies are highly nutritious and gentle on the digestive tract. Try adding some Vitamineral Greens, Spirulina, or even Body Ecology’s Potent Proteins to your green smoothie for a heightened nutritional value.
Q: What was the most important step you took to help your family connect during this time?
A: We needed balance. In our family, that meant beginning by eating healthfully and eating together in a peaceful manner. I had to join in on eating the foods that Dougie needed for recovery. We created love and peace at the table where there was once fighting and chaos. Because of this, our son can look at eating as an enjoyable experience rather than a struggle.
Families need to get on the same page and stick together. Whether you are the mom or the dad of the affected child, trust each other. If one of you discovers an answer, decide together to make that your plan. Act it out together. Support each other.
Q: What does autism recovery mean to you?
A: Autism recovery means that Dougie is engaging in social interaction now. He wants to talk to people. He introduces himself to kids and asks them to play with him. Dougie can communicate his needs to us. He understands us when we talk and is interested learning more. He asks so many questions. When he doesn’t understand something he tells us.
Once his digestion was clean, our main focus was eliminating behaviors that caused harm to Dougie, like hitting himself, putting everything in his mouth, banging his head – he no longer has these behaviors. Next, we wanted to be sure that Dougie would be safe in social situations, like understanding to stop before crossing the street – He now totally gets it.
Dougie is happy. He laughs and makes jokes. He makes up his own songs and plays pretend. Dougie can express his feelings. He can tell us what he wants.
Just yesterday he said “ It’s just so boring here, dad. I want to go ride my bike.” You can’t imagine how my heart filled up because my son knew how to express that he was bored.
Autism recovery means that nobody knows my son had autism. Nobody knows that he was even sick. My son is happy and everything about him shines. He is a rock star and I am so thankful to know him.