When my younger brother, Ethan, was diagnosed with autism back in 2005, my family had no idea where to turn. A gluten-free diet? Yuck! Applied Behavior Analysis ? Again?! Luckily, with lots of research and the support of Generation Rescue, we were able to find some relief for Ethan.
With the implementation of a gluten and dairy-free diet and some essential vitamins and minerals, we saw great progress with Ethan. However, there were still those moments where he’d slip a bit of food his body couldn’t tolerate, or the ever-prevalent allergies, and don’t even get me started on his insomnia!
After more research on environmental toxins and the impact they have on our bodies, I became extremely concerned with how Ethan’s body (which contained a compromised immune system due to his autoimmune issues) was able to handle all of these harsh chemicals and toxic assaults in his everyday life. From the fruit and veggies he ate daily (which we believed to be super healthy), to the furniture and carpet in his bedroom, to the plastic he drank water out of, to his own damn shampoo — BPA, phthalates, and pesticides, oh my!
With much more research (and phone calls and emails with many doctors and experts), I came to find this simple, but extremely helpful protocol that I now live by (almost religiously). Seriously, I’m probably one of the biggest green-freaks/granola nerds ever.
I mean, I use a rock for deodorant. That’s pretty hardcore, right?
CUT THE CRAP: Eliminating the Toxins
In Ethan’s bedroom alone, there was off-gassing from the carpet and his mattress. In the bathroom, his shampoo and bath wash were filled with parabens, SLS, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance. The kitchen was wiped down with cleaners with harsh chemicals in them that practically begged to wreak havoc on your body.
The first thing we had to do was get rid of it. All of it. We had the carpet pulled and his room painted in no-VOC paint. His bed was swapped out with a new non-toxic mattress from a company called intelli-BED and organic cotton bedding. His personal products were switched to all-natural ones, free of all the nasty ingredients. I even made my mom start switching over to better cleaning products for her house. Immediately, Ethan’s allergies started clearing up. My first week switching over, my eyes stopped watering as I got ready every morning. They weren’t even puffy when I’d wake up!
You may struggle parting ways with your beloved Windex or that shampoo that finally gets your hair so silky smooth, but trust me. It is NOT worth it. Many of these products do much more damage than good. Your family is worth it. You are worth. Your hair will understand. I promise.
DETOX AND REBOOST: Cleaning Out the Body
Our next approach was a nice clean up. Ethan’s body especially had been through so much. With his digestive issues, his trouble in school, his immune issues, it’s no wonder this poor kid had trouble focusing. We ordered a far infrared sauna from a company called Sunlighten. It was top-of-the-line and ensured that his body would be safely releasing toxins through a deep, healthy sweat to help get rid of the day-to-day junk that made it’s way into his body (like those pesky pesticides that feel inevitable to avoid). After heavy metal testing, we also got him started on some great supplements to gently remove them from his body. We started using products from BIORAY’s line of natural detox supplements (their NDF rocks!).
I’ve found that many people find the word “detox” as a scary thing. They immediately think of extreme juice cleanses or crazy crash diets. Our bodies are made to naturally detoxify environmental assaults and toxins (like the dreadful sugar) in our food. The issue though (like with Ethan) is compromised methylation pathways, which make filtering these toxin out extremely difficult, resulting in the issues many individuals with autism tend to have.
The last piece was to work on rebuilding his immune system with some good ol’ vitamins, supplements, and whole, healthy foods. We have Ethan on a good quality multi-vitamin, some digestive enzymes and probiotics, some high-quality omega-3s, and (most importantly for immune boosting) Vitamin D. We also try to eat as organic as possible. We did a round of food allergy testing to help eliminate any other foods that may be problematic for him. He now enjoys eating delicious whole foods and his vitamin protocol has now just become a part of his daily routine.
Two of my favorite books, which were pivotal in developing this approach, are Healthy Child, Healthy World and Healing and Preventing Autism. My top go-to resource for biomedical treatment and non-toxic living for autism is definitely Generation Rescue. It was the first resource we turned to when seeking medical treatment for Ethan, and we are proud to continue support GR today. We also worked very closely with Dr. Jerry Kartzinel (Ethan’s primary doctor), who I still believe to be one of the best in the field.
With the combination of these three (cutting the crap, detoxing, and replenishing his body with whole quality nutrition), Ethan’s allergies lessened, he became much calmer, started sleeping through the night, and became much more focused and engaged.
His comprehension is through the roof, which has been incredible to watch. It felt like connecting with him was a huge mission and one we weren’t sure we were able to accomplish.
Now, we know he’s in there and we are happy to see him continue to come alive each day.
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- How Green Living Is Helping My Autistic Brother Thrive - April 11, 2016