Not too long ago, I came across a book that enriched my understanding of food as medicine. Called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet,” by Elaine Gottschall B.A., M.Sc, it provided me with new insight on a relatively little-known nutritional approach for the treatment of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, celiac, cystic fibrosis, chronic diarrhea and even ASD (autism spectrum disorders).
In her well-documented book, Gotschall advocates a method way of eating with which I was unfamiliar – the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) — which relies on the elimination of complex carbohydrates (disaccharides) to support the restoration of healthy gut flora, and reduction of chronic GI inflammation, relieving and sometimes curing chronic digestion-related diseases. But I was particularly interested in knowing more about its application for ASD, to help a friend who was having issues with his autistic son’s current treatment.
I asked wholefood nutritionist Roni Enten, a practitioner of the biomedical approach advocated by the Autism Research Institute in the US, to explain. She told me that recent studies have shown that many people with autism spectrum disorders have abnormalities in the biochemical pathways that are involved in the body’s energy production and detoxification. Those abnormalities, together with environmental toxicity and digestive dysfunction, can contribute to many of the symptoms we know as autistic.
From her clinical experience, children with developmental delays often experience relief from digestive and behavioral issues, and experience better cognitive and social development when the imbalances are treated with dietary and nutritional intervention.
“Increasing evidence suggests that about 50% of children on the spectrum are unable to break down the protein in gluten, casein and soy and ingesting them can cause changes in the mood, behavior, sleep patterns and digestion/absorption,” she added. For some, she has suggested a gluten-casein-soy-free (known as GFCFSF) diet to help ease many of these symptoms and problems. For others, she has found that the specific carbohydrate diet can provide welcome relief.
An International Conference on Autism will be taking place on August 1-2 at the Binyanai Hauma conference center in Jerusalem. Open to professionals, parents, families and caretakers, the conference will showcase over 50 speakers from 16 countries, presenting the latest data on education, behavior, biomedical research, technology and new treatments. For more information, call 02-655-8567/8 or check out icare4autism.org/israel.
In the spirit of my recent reading, here’s a delicious dessert that’s gluten-sugar-casein-and-soy free, and will knock you off your feet.
Fruit Tart with Pistachio Pastry Cream
Make sure to place thinly sliced fruit on a paper towel to absorb excess liquids before placing on the tart. Note: if you’re not allergic, cornstarch can replace tapioca flour if desired.
Makes one 20-22 cm tart, or three small, 12-cm tart pans
- 1½ cups ground blanched almond flour (available in health food stores)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin coconut oil (recommended), or other oil
- 2 tablespoons honey (or agave syrup)
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- Dash salt
- 1 cup toasted unsalted pistachio nuts
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup
- 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon tapioca flour + 1 tablespoon water
- Cherries, paper-thin slices of kiwi, peaches, melon or watermelon, fresh berries
- For the crust: Preheat the oven to 170c. Lightly grease tart pan with coconut oil.
- In a medium bowl, combine almond flour and salt, and in a second bowl, whisk together oil, honey and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed.
- Use fingers to press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the baking pan. Bake 12-15 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a rack if you have one.
- Pastry cream: Finely grind the pistachio nuts in a coffee grinder or small blender and add the water, honey or agave and vanilla. Blend 1-2 minutes until uniform, wiping down the sides with a rubber spatula, if necessary.
- In a small bowl, blend the tapioca flour and water. Pour the pistachio mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then lower heat and continue whisking for another minute or two until thickened. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature.
- Pour a layer of pastry cream onto the crust, and chill 10 minutes or until almost firm. Top with a selection of fruit, and chill for three minutes, or until the pastry cream is firm, or until serving time.