Yeast, Autism and Sugar, Connecting the Dots

May 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Birthday Parties, GFCF, Yeast | 2 Comments
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By Shannon Penrod

I’m very fond of saying, “I’m not an Autism expert but I’m an expert in my kid.”  One thing I know for sure, my child’s Autism is related to yeast.  I don’t need to argue it, you don’t have to believe me, but I know it’s true for my child.  I don’t know what’s true for your child.  I know that my child was a normally developing child until he had his first infection and took his first antibiotic.  Then he began to lose language like water running through a sieve.  As a parent it was like watching a car accident in slow motion.  We have been putting the pieces back together ever since. 

We have been extremely lucky; we have a luscious little boy who is a social butterfly, is academically on target and has a divine sense of humor.  However, our son’s ability to connect with the world came at a cost.  There have been countless hours of ABA therapy which have made all the difference in the world, but I can tell you honestly that when my son’s diet isn’t right there is no amount of therapy that can reach him.  At first I thought “diet” just meant GFCF.  Then I realised that I needed to remove potatoes, then corn, that’s when I read about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  Since then a lot of foods have been sidelined from my child’s diet.  Here’s the bottom line, anything that can convert to sugar in my child’s system leads to erratic, compulsive, crazy behavior.  Give my kid an orange and one hour later he’s like a drunk who stayed at the party way too long.  Sometimes he is the happy drunk, other times maudlin, or aggressive, or simply “checked out”. 

Sugar feeds yeast.  Yeast is a living thing, it grows when fed.  Here is sucky part, if you don’t feed it, it grows too.  If you starve yeast it grows in an attempt to save it’s self.  This is known as “die off”.  It’s why when you pull sugar out of your kid’s diet they are even more miserable for a while.  It’s hard enough to make the decision to limit your child’s diet and to prevent them from having all the “fun” crap (this is the appropriate technical term for non nutritive, colorful, sugar laden food) that we all enjoyed as kids, it is even harder to stick to the decision when your child’s behavior worsens as a result.  I know for me it was the seventh ring of hell.  Fortunately when I was at the end of my rope, a friend explained die off to me and told me to hang on a little longer.  Four days later I was able to have my first conversation with my child.  I can tell you that there is nothing better than being able to converse with my child.  Sure there is always a moment at birthday parties when they haul out the cake and I have a twinge of regret that my child doesn’t get to participate in the fun.  But then I thank God for the fact that it isn’t a peanut allergy and I remind myself that he can have his cake or he can be a part of the world around him.  That’s when I hand him a gluten free, sugar free cookie with no artificial sweeteners or colors and I watch him talk to his friends. 

It took me a long time to connect the dots but I’m glad I did.  If yeast is an issue for you, I strongly urge you to look at the sugars (natural and otherwise) in your child’s diet.

Shannon Penrod is the host of Everyday Autism Miracles on the HerInsight Network.  She is an author, speaker and coach and most importantly the mother of a six year old recovering from Autism.  You can subscribe to the free podcast of Everyday Autism miracles on iTunes or download it here.



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  1. This is exactly where I am with my son. I am desperately trying to figure out how to remove the sugars and starches from his diet. We have been GFCF for quite a while, but just discovered the yeast problem, thanks to our new DAN! doctor. Would you mind explaining how I go about determining what to look for in picking fruits and vegetables for my son? I am so confused about good vs bad carbs, natural sugars, and what is ok & what feeds the yeast. Do I just look for lowest carb fruits & veggies? What about cooking with nut flours, such as almond flour? Any certain terms I should know that will help me determine which ones will convert to sugar? For example, I started making him baked squash fries, only to find that I was making a huge mistake! I need help! Thanks, for anything you may be able to pass along!!

    • Crystal,

      For us it has been trial and error. Kids need to have some carbs, if you cut them all out they can go into ketosis, which is not good. We removed corn, white potatoes, yeast, and he was never on sugar but if he had been we would have removed that. We ration fruit as if it were a toxic substance -fruit is a huge treat but he definately gets loopy afterward. Carrots are definately high in natural sugar, but he seems to tolerate those well – we don’t use nut flours anymore because he is allergic to almonds, but if your child isn’t allergic I would definately try them, just remember to rotate and watch for reactions.

      I don’t think the squash fries are a huge mistake, I think in terms of what messes with your glycemic index and sweet potatoes are considered acceptable. White potates are sugar rich, but sweet potatoes and squash are much slower to convert to sugar. What I notice is that when we pull the other stuff out he is happy to eat his veggies. I really wouldn’t worry about any veg in terms of sugar or carbs, I would focus on fruit instead. We are careful to not give him overly ripe fruit (higher sugar content), pears seem to have the least reaction with our son.

      Good luck, have you considered attacking the yeast from other directions? With enzymes, diflucan, fermented veg and coconut milk, grapefruit seed extract? We saw improvement with diflucan but it needs to be used sparingly and under a Dr.s direction. Keep me posted and remember that you will have “die off” before you see progress.

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