How a Sensory Processing Disorder Diet Drastically Reduced Our Son’s Symptoms

 Our journey to discovering a sensory processing disorder diet that helped us manage our son’s sensory processing disorder…

Sensory Processing Disorder Diet

Disclosure: My husband is a psychologist. I, however, am not a doctor nor a dietitian. I am merely sharing with you what I have learned and what has worked for our particular child.

It was the screaming that first tipped me off. Sometime during his 4th year of life, my sometimes sullen, but mostly mild-mannered, calm, compliant child morphed into a tantrum-crazed meltdown machine. It was almost always right when we were supposed to go somewhere.  Thus, we were late everywhere.

Who’d have thought that one simple thing, not liking one’s clothes, could put an entire family on edge? If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. All of a sudden, his clothes all “felt stupid”–the only way his three year old vocabulary could express his discomfort. He couldn’t handle the ends of the clothes; the ends of sleeves, the necklines, and the bottom of pant legs were agonizing to him. And forget about socks and shoes! Those were the worst battles of all.

[One of these things is not like the other…Our little blondie is the only child wearing shorts at this cool weather, early Spring Easter egg hunt. This was the year he wore shorts all winter.]

Sensory Processing Disorder, Sensory Avoidant, Clothes

The season changes from summer wardrobe to winter wardrobe are times best not remembered. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about.

My husband is a psychologist. I’m a semi-professional Googler. With our powers combined we were both pretty sure we were dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder (not an actual diagnosis in the DSM…yet), Sensory Avoidant subtype. *Note: He had/has SEVERAL other Sensory Processing Disorder – Sensory Avoidant symptoms, the ones talked about in this article are just the symptoms that impaired his daily functioning.

We made an appointment with another psychologist who specializes in children. He confirmed our suspicions and gave us some advice for some things we already knew or had already tried. *sigh


Sensory Processing Disorder and more…

[Our sweet, mild-mannered, little sensory avoidant blondie. Yay for pants and a long sleeved shirt! You can bet getting dressed that day was not an easy task!]

Brothers Sitting in Camp Chairs

Unfortunately, sensory issues were only the beginning of our little blondie’s issues.

Next came the sniffing.

The sniffing was driving our whole house mad. If he sniffed one more time in the next 15 seconds! I was quietly losing my sanity to my son’s relentless sniffing.

I counted his sniffs one time as we drove to the Commissary to go grocery shopping. 17 sniffs in one minute! And. It. Never. Stopped. …Except when he slept.

Like nails on a chalkboard, the sniffing was wearing down Mom and Dad’s nerves. Finally, I got an appointment with an ENT. It was an appointment that I’ll never forget. My gentle child (who also now threw incredible meltdown tantrums–see above) had to be put into a body lock by me as he sat on my lap trying to hit and kick the doctor who was attempting put a scope up his nose and down his throat.

Here’s a picture taken right before the mayhem…

Seeing an ENT before finding out our son's sniffs were Tourettes tics

In the end, I was sweating and exhausted, perturbed at my child and at the doctor who apparently had very little empathy for the sensitive little boy getting a scope shoved up his nose and down his throat. The doctor was obviously perturbed, but gave us the wonderful news (a little sarcasm here) that there was no reason my son should be sniffing all the time.

Great.

Thankfully (is it weird to say “thankfully” about this?), this was about the same time the blinking started. At first we thought there was something wrong with his eyes. “Maybe we should get his eyes checked.” My husband wondered, and then clued in shortly after that our son’s blinking seemed more like a “stim”– Self Stimulatory Behavior – a term used to describe the repetitive behaviors common with autism–than an eyesight issue.

Turns out, it wasn’t a stim, it was a tic–a repetitive and involuntary movement.

Sniffing and blinking. Hates his clothes and doesn’t like to be touched (other than cuddles with mom–he loved cuddles).

What was going on with our child!?


Discovery of a Sensory Processing Disorder Diet

I mentioned before that I’m a semi-professional Googler, right?

I wasn’t satisfied with the psychologist and occupational therapist answers of brushing his skin (you can’t even touch my child without him flinching and almost melting to the floor), more exercise, etc. I wanted to do more than just manage symptoms. I wanted to, if possible, get to the root cause.

I Googled, and I Googled, and I Googled.

One thing kept popping up on alternative and holistic health websites. Candida.

Candida is a yeast that is normally present in people. When/if there is an overgrowth of candida, there are a host of symptoms including, but not limited to, some of the things I mentioned above.

Candida feeds on sugars. It loves sugars of all kinds.

Give it breads and cereals. It loves those! Our son’s sensory processing disorder and gluten don’t seem to play nicely together.

What about fruit? Unfortunately, candida doesn’t discern between those sugars and candies.

We decided to take him off sugars and off of gluten. We created our sensory processing disorder diet based on Candida diet protocol.

This was all so new for us, and we knew it was going to be a torturous few weeks, so, for the sanity’s sake we decided to allow our son to continue to have one piece of fruit a day.

In addition to the sensory processing disorder diet changes, we gave him a few drops of grapefruit seed extract (a powerful anti-fungal) in water each morning. In my research I found that probiotics seem to have a positive impact on sensory processing disorder, so at night we’d give him homemade kefir to replenish healthy gut bacteria.

I’ll be honest with you. The first two weeks of the sensory processing disorder diet were sheer torture.

Screaming fits like I’d never experienced before. This was my calm, gentle child. He was my snuggler. He was my intuitive, emotionally astute, incredibly smart little boy. Unless connected to his sensory issues, he had never been a child to have temper tantrums.

But now his body was angry.

He’d ask for a sugary snack: fruit snacks, granola bar, cereal, bread (I’m including grains here because his gut bacteria wanted the sugars in whatever form). I’d explain to him that his body was trying to heal and he couldn’t have those things right now.

Zero to sixty tantrum. Screaming and hitting his walls.

At around the two week mark of our sensory processing disorder diet he began to calm down. We had all made it through the most trying time. His gut was sending signals to his brain that it needed more sugar to keep the current gut bacteria going (Kris Kresser explains this very well) causing his over the top outrage when his sugar cravings weren’t satisfied.

As we starved the overgrowth of bad bacteria (diet and grapefruit seed extract) and repopulated his gut with good bacteria (kefir, lots of veggies) we began to see a revolution in our son’s behavior.

We did our sensory processing disorder diet with grapefruit seed extract for about 4 weeks. After that, we kept refined sugar out and added in fruit, continuing with kefir every night.

Slowly, but surely, over the course of about two months, his tics went away. Thank the Maker, I could think without being interrupted by *snif*.

As we had hoped and suspected, on our sensory processing disorder diet, his sensory issues also greatly decreased. He now only complained about clothes at the change of seasons–from shorts to pants, short sleeves to long sleeves. We established a “5 minute rule”. “If your clothes are still bothering you in 5 minutes you can change.” Almost invariably, after 5 minutes, he no longer noticed the things about his clothes that had been bothering him.

And [with Halleujah Chorus sung in background by choir of angels] he would put his shoes on without a fight.

Our son was once again his mild-mannered self. He was generally happy and much less irritated by everything in his environment. Our lives calmed down and mom’s stress level dropped from chronically critical to normal levels.


Current Sensory Processing Disorder and Other Struggles

We are now about 4 years removed from that time in our lives.

In our sugar worshiping society it is extremely difficult to keep his sugar intake low. School, church, EVERY SINGLE DARN HOLIDAY includes, or even centers around sugary treats. You don’t have to look farther than a Pinterest homepage to understand how we as a society have come to worship dessert. (Yay for the new Pinterest smart feed! Am I right? Now my feed is mostly educational pins! LOL)

It seems odd to admit it, but sugar and its pervasiveness is perhaps the number one stressor in my life. It’s true.

Every holiday, every time my husband’s family comes into town (they love their sweets!), my son’s tics flare up. Then we have to detox.

[My boys being silly on the train on the way back from Salt Lake City over Christmas break. My sensory guy, almost 8 in this picture is the one wearing his hood and glasses.]

It’s wearing on a mom.

Last month his tics became out of control again (following a long holiday season, go figure). I couldn’t handle listening to his new verbal tic–“Eh, eh” almost like throat clearing–anymore. He was also doing what he calls “stretching his eyes” (looking hard to one side) constantly.

Thankfully, we haven’t dealt with the level of sensory issues we did before. He has found ways of coping with his sensory issues that are functional for all of us. For instance, he wears the same clothes to school for 3-5 days, and I’m okay with that. And more to the point, with a continued (mostly healthful) diet–aside from the occasional holiday flare-ups like we’re talking about–his sensory issues have remained relatively low.

To help with the tics, on January 29th we started the strictest Candida diet we’ve ever done. To support my son, who is now almost 8 and can really realize the injustice of having to be on such a diet–like the line from the comedian Brian Regan about the diet his doctor recommended “And NO MORE HAPPINESS!”–we decided that the whole family would do the diet together. Surely we could all benefit from cutting out sugar and increasing our vegetable intake.

I’m not going to lie. It is hard.

I’m tired and I’m hungry.

I’ll keep you updated on our progress. I’m sure I can’t be the only one desperately trying a sensory processing disorder diet and searching for answers for my child.

 

 

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About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Peaceful Parenting, and Family Travel.

Comments

  1. Wow, Amy. What a journey! Your family is surely an inspiration to better living through wise food choices. You must truly have the patience of a saint. Much love and many hugs going out to all of you. Love seeing pics of the boys as they grow....especially my little X. <3

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