Is it worth all of the effort? The work-arounds. The substitutions. The prepping. The planning. The budgeting. The economizing to make it all come together? This became a very heated topic of discussion for me--and the other poster to the thread--a while back.
A study, which I'm sure will cut a wide swathe across gf/cf circles, splashed down on an email list. It appears that a very small study of the intestinal healing in a handful of autistic children over two years showed dietary interventions to have no impact on digestive integrity and developmental outcomes. None.
The mom posting about this said she was struggling with these results. All of that effort for nothing? Why bother?
So I thought about why I bother and why it matters what I do.
It matters. It matters because it is about more than just getting from Point A with leaky gut syndrome to Point B with intestinal integrity. There is a life filled with days, experiences, and memories that are weighed in the balance. If making life as positive and successful as possible is a valid reason for medicating a child's behavior, then managing the diet toward the same end is at least as valid.
It's worth it. It's worth it to see a child, who complained about all manner of sensory input, now throw on his clothes without a whimper and manage his day with less and less scaffolding as times goes by. It's worth it to do less and less micromanaging and see a child able to complete tasks from start to finish without redirection, tasks that six months ago were impossible to surmount alone. It's worth it to watch a toddler blossom into doing all of the things that intuitively feel "right," and not be left wondering what's developmentally wrong or what's missing.
An argument could be made that all of this would have happened regardless of our choices and changes, but these advancements are too precious to me to have left to chance. And no one in our sphere can deny that any time there's an exposure to a food on The List that we have heart-breaking, soul-scalding reactions. That alone makes it worth the effort. I'll do any amount of work and make any amount of sacrifice to keep that from happening. Even if we get to Point B and find all of the other folk who chose differently waiting for us to catch up, losing just one of these episodes would make it worth it.
But fundamentally, I think it does make a difference what and how we eat, irrespective of food sensitivities. When first the issue of intestinal hyper permeability came up on my radar, I started rifling our library shelves on the subject. In addition to Food Allergies and Food Intolerances by Jonathan Brostoff and Intestinal Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski, I found Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. At first, I was daunted by the ubiquitous whey in all of her ferments--a rather nontraditional and, in my experience, often unsatisfactory solution--but what I did take away from the book was a resolution to get as basic and fundamental in our eating habits as was possible. In addition to live probiotics, another gut-healer caught my attention: bone broth.
It's amazingly cheap, since we already buy whole chickens anyway. Just save up all of the bones, carcasses, giblets and freeze until ready to use. It's almost like free food. Think of it as recycling. See? It even has a PC gravitas.
I did try it the prescribed way: slow cooker, longlonglonglong simmer, until the bones smooshed. The resulting broth was too....um....brown. Okay. It was burned. And I could make barely enough for the kids to have a half a cup a day. Which was just as well considering the effort it required to svengali them into drinking just that meager half cup.
The Glutenator first broached the subject of pressure cookers. On the NT-style list, this was met with the sound of acolytes ducking for cover from the lightening bolts. It seems that Sally just doesn't approve of pressure cookers. No explanation or citations why. Just waves vaguely in their direction and says, "They're dangerous."
Nonsense. Only if you have a mouse in your basement.
The Glutenator pointed out that pressure cookers provide for optimal mineral and gelatin extraction while preserving flavor. Guess what? She was right. Now we have a steady flow of delicious jiggly broth. Bug asks for it on cold winter days to thaw fingers and tummies after sledding.
The recipe is simple, just time-consuming....like everything else worthwhile. The proportions can be tailored to the individual need. I have a 22 qt. capacity pressure cooker that I fill three quarters up with bones, giblets, veggie scraps, and 2-3 ounces of dried seaweed. Cover with water. Place the lid and control at 15 pounds and let it cook until the control has rocked for an hour to an hour and a half. I use a long handled colander to scoop out the bones and large pieces. Then I pour the broth into a large canning bath through a cheesecloth. I dump all of the bones back in, cover with water, and do it all over again. This yields about three to four gallons of broth. A batch this size is sufficiently salted with about three tablespoons of Real Salt. Finally, I pour into quart jars and refrigerate. This lasts us about two weeks. And since the bones are soft enough to compost easily, we're able to take the recycling full circle.
Why bother? Maybe I'm old enough now to know on a gut level that there is a long run and the effort we pour forth now pays off then. And two years is a sliver of a child's life, at once too short and too long. Too short to measure what the long haul will eventually show and too long to roller coaster through, hoping for the magic day when everyone pulls up even.