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The Essential Diet for Children with Autism


By Natasha Campbell-McBride MD. Copyright eser!ed

After the publication of my article in The Autism File (issue 5, Autumn 2 ) on nutritional mana!ement of our son "icholas, # !et a lot of phone calls from parents as$in!, what diet would be most appropriate for their autistic child. There is a lot of confusin! information on this sub%ect and it can be difficult to ma$e sense out of it. After years of research and e&perimentin!, we de'eloped a diet, that # firmly belie'e, is most appropriate for our children. This is the diet that made an enormous difference to our son "icholas. A !luten and casein free diet is well $nown and has !ot a solid scientific basis behind it. (owe'er, there is much more to your child)s nutritional mana!ement, than %ust cuttin! out !luten and casein. *et us start from the 'ery be!innin!. # belie'e in "ature. "ature made us and at the same time it pro'ided us with e'ery food we need to stay healthy, acti'e and full of ener!y. (owe'er, we ha'e to eat these foods in the form "ature made them. #t is when we start tamperin! with the natural foods, we start !ettin! into trouble. Any processin!, that we sub%ect the food to, chan!es its chemical and biolo!ical structure. +ur bodies were not desi!ned to ha'e these chan!ed foods, The more food is processed, the more nutrient depleted and chemically altered it becomes. Apart from loosin! its nutritional 'alue, processed food looses most of its other properties: taste, fla'our, colour. -o, to compensate for that, 'arious chemicals are added: fla'our enhancers, colours, all those . / additi'es and preser'ati'es, / all those chemicals, that ha'e conclusi'ely been shown to contribute to learnin! disabilities, psychiatric disorders and other health problems. #f we loo$ at the supermar$et shel'es, we will see that the bul" of processed foods are carbohydrates. All those mornin! cereals, crisps, biscuits, breads, pastas, chocolates, sweets, %ams, su!ar, preser'ed fruit and 'e!etables, fro0en pre/coo$ed meals with starches and batter are hi!hly processed carbohydrates. 1e will e&amine them one at a time. 2ut first, let)s loo$ at them as a !roup. All carbohydrates in foods !et di!ested and absorbed as glucose. "ature pro'ided us with plenty of carbohydrates in the form of fruit, 'e!etables and cereals. 1hen we eat them in the natural untampered form, the carbohydrate part of them !ets absorbed slowly, producin! a !radual increase in blood !lucose, which our bodies were desi!ned to handle. 3rocessed carbohydrates !et absorbed 'ery 4uic$ly, producin! a 'ery rapid increase in blood !lucose. "ow, blood !lucose is one of those factors which our bodies !o to !reat len!ths to $eep within certain limits, because both

hi!h and low 'alues are harmful. A rapid increase in blood glucose, called hyperglycemia, puts the pancreas into a shoc$ state to pump out lots of insulin 'ery 4uic$ly to deal with the e&cessi'e !lucose. As a result, about an hour later the person has !ot a 'ery low le'el of blood !lucose, called hypoglycemia. 6id any of you notice that after eatin! a mornin! cereal for brea$fast you feel hun!ry a!ain in an hour. That is hypo!lycaemia. 1hat do people usually ha'e at that time in the mornin! to satisfy their hun!er7 A biscuit, a chocolate bar, a coffee or somethin! li$e that, and the whole cycle of hyper / hypo!lycaemia be!ins a!ain. This up and down blood !lucose roller/coaster is e&tremely harmful for anybody, let alone our autistic children. #t has been pro'en that a lot of hyperacti'ity, a!!ression and other beha'ioural abnormalities in school children are a direct result of this !lucose roller/coaster. The hyper!lycaemic phase produces a feelin! of a 8hi!h8 with hyperacti'e tendencies and self/stimulation in our children, whilst the hypo!lycaemic phase ma$es them feel unwell, often with a headache, bad mood, tantrums and !eneral fati!ue, with e&cessi'e sweatin!. 9ost foods ha'e been assi!ned what is called a 8!lycemic inde&8 / an indicator of how 4uic$ly they increase the blood !lucose after bein! in!ested. 3rocessed carbohydrates, includin! su!ar, ha'e !ot some of the hi!hest !lycemic inde&es, as well as white rice, coo$ed potatoes and coo$ed carrots and peas. #t is best to !i'e an autistic child carbohydrates with low !lycemic inde&es / raw fruit and 'e!etables, and some whole cereals that you coo$ yourself. Fructose has !ot a low !lycemic inde&. A natural form of fructose is unprocessed honey (a lot of honeys sold in the shops ha'e been heat treated, which destroys 'aluable en0ymes and other nutrients, and !i'es honey a hi!her !lycemic inde&). 1e use it as the only sweetener allowed in our house. 2ut, e'en honey is !i'en to our son rarely and in moderation. Another important point about processed carbohydrates is their detrimental effect on the gut flora. # tried to describe the crucial role of the normal !ut flora in the health of an autistic child in The Autism File (issue 5, autumn 2 ). 3rocessed carbohydrates feed patho!enic bacteria and fun!i in the !ut, promotin! their !rowth and proliferation. Apart from that they ma$e a wonderful !lue/li$e en'ironment in the !ut for 'arious worms and parasites to ta$e hold and de'elop. All these micro/creatures produce to&ic substances !oin! into the blood stream and literally 8poison8 the child. The more processed carbohydrates you !i'e your autistic child, the more 8to&ic8 he will become and the more autistic symptoms you will see. :ecent scientific e'idence su!!ests, that autism may be an autoimmune disorder. An imbalance between two ma%or arms of the immune system: the Th5 and Th2 immunity has been found in autistic children to ha'e o'eracti'e Th2 and suppressed Th5. The same picture is seen in many chronic diseases / 'iral, bacterial, parasitic, cancer, aller!ies, asthma and other autoimmune conditions. #rocessed foods$ particularly processed carbohydrates and sugar$ directly wea"en the functioning of macrophages$ natural

"iller cells and other white blood cells and undermine systemic resistance to all infections. For e&ample, an immune compromised person, (li$e an autistic child) who has soft drin$s and french fries or crisps daily, will worsen their condition by these food choices. An appropriate nutritional mana!ement is an essential part of dealin! with an immune imbalance. As # tried to describe in the 5th issue of The Autism File, the !ut flora plays a ma%or part in the normal functionin! of the immune system. A powerful probiotic, li$e 3rimal 6efense, will not only restore the normal !ut flora but rebalance the Th5 and Th2 parts of immunity. *et us ha'e a loo$ at 'arious forms of those processed carbohydrates. 1e will start with morning cereals. They are supposed to be healthy, aren)t they7 ;nfortunately, the truth is %ust the opposite. 9ornin! cereals are hi!hly processed carbohydrates, full of su!ar, salt and other substances. They ha'e a hi!h !lycemic inde& and are detrimental to the !ut flora balance. The fibre in them is full of phytates / substances which bind essential minerals and ta$e them out of the system, contributin! to the mineral deficiencies. There is nothin! healthy in them for an autistic child. Crisps and chips (and pop/corn), a bac$bone of children)s diet nowadays, are hi!hly processed carbohydrates with hi!h !lycemic inde&es. 2ut that is not all about them. They are saturated with 'e!etable oil, which has been heated to a 'ery hi!h temperature. Any oil, that has been heated, has !ot substances, called trans/fatty acids. These are unsaturated fatty acids with altered chemical structure. 1hat they do in the body is to replace the 'ital ome!a/< and ome!a/= fatty acids in cellular structure, ma$in! cells in a way disabled. >onsumin! trans/fatty acids will increase the acti'ity of Th2 and wea$en Th5 immunity. As you remember, the Th5 immunity is already suppressed in autistic children and Th2 / o'eracti'e. >ancer, heart disease, ec0ema, asthma, neurolo!ical conditions and e'en the famous cellulite ha'e been lin$ed to trans/fatty acids in the diet.

%heat. The !luten free diet is widely recommended and a lot of families with autistic
children found it 'ery helpful. 2ut, let us ha'e a loo$ at wheat as a whole with !luten or without it. ?irtually nobody buys wheat as a !rain and coo$s it at home. 1e buy foods made of wheat flour. The flour arri'es to ba$eries in pre/pac$a!ed mi&es for different $inds of breads, biscuits and pastries. These mi&tures are already processed with the best nutrients lost. Then they are 8enriched8 with preser'ati'es, pesticides to $eep the insects away, chemical substances to pre'ent it absorbin! moisture, colour and fla'our impro'ers, softeners, %ust to mention a few. Then the ba$ery ma$es breads, pastries, ca$es, biscuits, etc. out of these chemical coc$tails for us to eat. The producer is 4uite happy to ta$e the !luten out of these mi&tures and ma$e !luten free products. -o, you will !et all the processed carbohydrate with all the chemical additi'es in it , but this time without !luten. +nce swallowed, a piece of white bread turns into a !lue/li$e mass, which feeds parasites and patho!enic bacteria and fun!i in the !ut, contributin! to the

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!eneral to&ic o'erload, your child already has !ot. # stron!ly belie'e, that autistic children should not ha'e wheat in any shape or form. 2ein! a staple in the western world, wheat is also a number one cause of food aller!ies and intolerances.

&ugar and anything made with it. &ugar was once called a 'white death'. #t deser'es 5 @ of this title. The consumption of su!ar in the world has
!rown to enormous proportions in the last century. #t is estimated that an a'era!e western person consumes about 5= / 2 pounds of this unnatural substance per year. -u!ar is e'erywhere and it is hard to find any processed food without it. Apart from causin! the blood !lucose roller/coaster and ha'in! a detrimental effect on the !ut flora, it has been shown to ha'e a direct dama!in! effect on the immune system (which is already compromised in our children). +n top of that, to deal with the su!ar onslau!ht, the body has to use a'ailable minerals, 'itamins and en0ymes at an alarmin! rate, finishin! up bein! depleted of these 'ital substances. An autistic child should not ha'e su!ar in any form. >a$es, sweets, and other confectioneries are made with su!ar and wheat, as the main in!redients, plus lots of chemicals li$e colours, preser'ati'es, fla'ourin!s, etc.. #t !oes without sayin! that they should be out of your child)s diet (with or without !luten). For birthdays and other rare occasions home made ca$es with honey instead of su!ar and !round almonds (or other !round nuts) can be made. # would hi!hly recommend a boo$ by .laine Aottschall 82rea$in! The ?icious >ycle8, #-2" /B=B2C=D/5/D. #t has !ot some wonderful recipes as well as a !ood insi!ht into nutrition. -oft drin$s are a ma%or source of su!ar in children)s diets, not to mention all the chemical additi'es. Fruit %uices are full of processed fruit su!ars and moulds. ;nless freshly pressed, they should not be in your child)s diet either. Aspartame, a su!ar replacement in many drin$s, was found to be carcino!enic and should be a'oided. #t turns into methanol and its deri'ati'es in the body. 9ethanol is a well $nown poison. Bottled mineral or filtered water with a slice of fresh lemon is the best drin" for our children. 6rin$in! chlorinated tap water will further dama!e your child)s !ut flora, since the chlorine is there to $ill bacteria in the first place. To summarise, an autistic child should ha'e no processed foods at all in his/her diet. All foods should be as close to the way "ature made them as possible. Fresh fish, crayfish, fresh meats (not preser'ed), e!!s, fresh 'e!etables and fruit, nuts and seeds, !arlic and cold pressed 'ir!in oli'e oil, buc$wheat, millet, 4uinoa should be prepared at home from fresh supplies. # ha'e deliberately repeated the word fresh four times. Fruit and 'e!etables should be eaten raw as much as possible in the form of salads, 8stic$s8, slices, etc.. Fresh fruit and 'e!etables are not %ust a !ood source of 'arious 'itamins, minerals, antio&idants and other nutrients, but they are an e&cellent source of 'ital en0ymes, which autistic children are lac$in!. Those en0ymes are essential in the deto&ification of the body. .atin! raw 'e!etables with meals will assist in the di!estion
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of meats and cereals. >oo$ed 'e!etables and fruit loose a lot of their nutritional 'alue: en0ymes and 'itamins !et destroyed, carbohydrates chan!e their structure. >arrots, cucumber, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, celery are delicious in a form of stic$s or rosettes with a dip (mayonnaiseF a'ocado, mashed with plenty of cold pressed 'ir!in oli'e oil and a dash of lemon %uice, with a choice of fish and onions or !arlic and tomato). A'ocado is a wonderfully nutritious fruit and should be a re!ular part of your child)s diet. (alf an a'ocado with prawns and mayonnaise or any meat or fish ma$es a 4uic$ and delicious meal.

Tal"ing about fruit, there is a lot of confusion in this area. # always ta$e a 'ery
cautious 'iew of any scientific laboratory findin!s, done on chemically isolated nutrients, when the researches say somethin! li$e this: 8This nutrient is found in apples and oran!es, so do not eat apples and oran!es8. Apples and oran!es are not made from a laboratory purified substance in 4uestion, +n the contrary, they are natural products with a 'ery comple& biolo!ical structure. 1ithin that structure the chemical in 4uestion mi!ht beha'e completely differently to the way it beha'ed in the laboratory. Gou cannot transfer scientific laboratory findin!s, done on an isolated nutrient to a piece of food, made by "ature. #n a piece of food, for e&ample a piece of fruit, that nutrient is in a comple& chemical structure of another bi! molecule, incorporated into a cell structure of the whole fruit. There are plenty of e&amples to illustrate this point. For instance, we all $now that cyanide is a poison. (owe'er, it is an important part of the 'itamin 252 molecule and we all $now, that we cannot li'e without 'itamin 252. Another !ood e&ample is breast mil$. 2reast mil$ has !ot a 'ery hi!h content of casein. (owe'er, it is one of the best foods for autistic children. All parents recall how normally their child was de'elopin!, while e&clusi'ely breast fed. #n fact, in the 5th issue of The Autism File there is an article 82reast Feedin! 9iracle8, where a mother brou!ht a lot of impro'ement in her autistic boy by !i'in! him breast mil$ (luc$ily, she was breast/feedin! her ne&t baby at the time). # do not belie'e in limitin! fruit in children)s diet. An important thin! to remember, howe'er, is to pro'ide as bi! a 'ariety of fruit as possible and not to fall into a trap of eatin! bananas e'ery day. -ome fruits are particularly beneficial for our children. Fresh and fro0en berries are number one and should be eaten as often as possible (:emember, no su!ar, A bit of cream will do no harm.). Amon!st many other beneficial substances berries contain nitrilosides, essential in deto&ification in the body. 3aw/paw and pineapple will pro'ide proteolitic en0ymes, which our children are lac$in!. Fruits should be eaten on their own, not with meals, as they ha'e a 'ery different di!estion pattern and can ma$e the wor$ harder for the stomach. -er'e fruit as a snac$ between meals with their s$ins and seeds (s$ins and seeds ha'e a lot of 'ery 'aluable nutrients).

Ne!er coo" fruit(

Meats$ fish$ poultry$ organ meats and eggs should be a large part of your child)s diet. They need to be bou!ht fresh, not preser'ed, and coo$ed at home. 9eats,
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fish and e!!s are the best source of most nutrients for us, human bein!s. >ontrary to popular beliefs, most 'itamins, minerals, amino/acids and essential fats come from meats, fish and e!!s. The plant foods, li$e cereals and !reen leafy 'e!etables are full of 'itamins and minerals, but their bio/a'ailability to us, humans, is much lower, than from animal sources. 1e are not ruminants, who ha'e !ot special bacteria in their stomachs to di!est plants. +ur di!esti'e tracts ha'e been desi!ned to li'e lar!ely on meats. -ome northern people, li$e the .s$imos, li'e almost entirely on fish, meat and fat. They were found to be one of the healthiest people on .arth. Fresh e!!s deser'e a special mention. Accordin! to its ability to be di!ested and absorbed by the human !ut, e!!s are the only food that is placed close to breast mil$. :aw e!! yol$s are one of the best sources of all essential amino/acids, 'itamins, minerals and fatty acids in the most assimilable form. #t is best to buy free ran!e e!!s from a source you trust. The e!! white should always be coo$ed as in the raw form it may impair the syntheses of biotin in the !ut. 2ut the yol$ is best uncoo$ed, The 4uestion of salmonella in e!!s needs to be addressed. The li$elihood of salmonella poisonin! is 'ery low in the ;H, particularly if you buy your e!!s from a reliable source. (owe'er, if you feel uncomfortable with eatin! uncoo$ed yol$s, then coo$ them to your li$in!. #t is better to eat coo$ed e!!s than no e!!s at all. Two e!!s for brea$fast will pro'ide your child with daily amounts of many 'itamins, includin! some 'it.2, 'it.A, 'it.. and 'it.6, as well as all those amino/acids, our children are deficient in. .1hen my children want a snac$, # often !i'e them 2 /< raw e!! yol$s / delicious and e&tremely nourishin!. They lo'e it, #nstead of mornin! cereals for brea$fast !i'e your child two e!!s (soft boiled, fried with runny yol$s or coo$ed any other way) with pure meat sausa!es (or any other meat), stir/fried onion and raw 'e!etables in any form. 3our a liberal amount of cold pressed 'ir!in oli'e oil on the ser'ed meal. *t is important to use plenty of onion and garlic in your coo"ing. +nion has !ot wonderful immune/stimulatin! properties, coo$ed or raw. Aarlic is $nown to ha'e anti/ fun!al, anti/parasitic and anti/'iral properties as well as Th5 stimulatin! ability. (owe'er, it !ets destroyed by coo$in! 'ery easily. That)s why it is important to add it into your dishes at the end of coo$in! (</E min before turnin! the heat off). Add raw !arlic in minute 4uantities into salads or ready meals. To start with, you can %ust rub some !arlic onto your child)s plate before puttin! the food on it. As your child will !et used to the taste of raw !arlic, slowly increase the amount. .atin! !arlic coo$ed and raw on a re!ular basis will do a lot of !ood to him/her.

+li!e oil has !ot lots of properties similar to !arlic as well as bein! an e&cellent source
of oleic acid / an essential monounsaturated fatty acid, which will stren!then the Th5 arm of your child)s immune system. 9a$e sure it is cold pressed and 'ir!in and use it liberally on ser'ed dishes. #t is not a !ood idea to coo$ with it, as it has !ot lots of unsaturated fatty acids which will be turned into harmful trans/fatty acids by heatin!. #t is best to
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coo$ with fully saturated fats, li$e !hee, coconut oil, por$ drippin! and lard, because they do not alter their structure, when heated. They e'en can be reused. -aturated fats ha'e been out of fa'our in the last decades due to some ill founded research and misconceptions. 1e need about as much of saturated fats in our diets as unsaturated. The important point here is that we should consume natural fats. For e&ample, butter is much healthier than any so called 8healthy8 synthetic substitutes. All coo$in! and 'e!etable oils ha'e been heated to e&treme temperatures in the production process and are full of trans/ fatty acids. .at fats, that "ature pro'ided us with, and you will not !o wron!. # would li$e to emphasise, that autistic children need plenty of natural fats. *et them eat the fat on the meats, the s$in of the chic$en, pour plenty of oli'e oil on their ser'ed meals, !i'e them !ood cod li'er oil or other source of ome!a/< fatty acids (6(A/.3A) on a daily basis. +me!a /< fatty acids, found in cold water fish, reduce #*/= (Th2 cyto$in) and stren!then Th5 immunity. >ontrary to popular belie'es, fat is a preferred source of ener!y in the human body. The brain and the rest of the ner'ous system are lar!ely made of fats.

%hat about cereals7 >ereals !enerally are hard wor$ for the di!esti'e system,
particularly for an unhealthy one. Autistic children do not ha'e a healthy di!esti'e tract, so wheat, oats, rye, rice ,corn, particularly processed, are better out of their diet. (owe'er, there are some cereals, which, eaten once or twice a wee$, can be beneficial. These are buc$wheat, millet and 4uinoa. They ha'e a relati'ely hi!h percent of protein in them and are not processed to the same de!ree as other cereals. 2uc$wheat and millet, in particular, ha'e !ot substances in them, called nitrilosides, which are essential in the deto&ification processes in the body. There are some 55 foods that contain nitrilosides. The main ones are: apricot $ernels, peach $ernels, !rape seeds, apple seeds, blac$berries, blueberries, strawberries, bean sprouts, lima beans, macadamia nuts. To coo$ a cup of buc$wheat, millet or 4uinoa, brin! to boil two cups of water with some sea salt, rinse the cereal under cold water and put it into the boilin! water. >o'er and simmer on a 'ery low heat until all the water disappears and the cereal is soft. -er'e with a handful of pump$in seeds (or sunflower seeds) and oli'e oil poured on it liberally. 6o not for!et that cereals are lar!ely made of starch, which will feed the >andida colony in your child)s !ut and possibly other patho!ens. That)s why e'en buc$wheat and millet should be limited until your child)s !ut flora impro'es.

Nuts and seeds are a wonderful source of 'ery !ood nutrients. They are the best source
of ma!nesium, 0inc, selenium and other 'ital minerals in their most bio/a'ailable form, which our children all lac$in!. A'oid peanuts, unless you buy them in their shells, $nown as !round nuts. All nuts are at their best if you buy them in their shells and crac$ them %ust before eatin!. This way they are an e&cellent source of essential fatty acids and are free of moulds. Around almonds you can use for ma$in! your own bread, panca$es and e'en ca$es at home (for the recipes loo$ in the boo$ by .laine Aottschall 82rea$in! The ?icious >ycle8) . "uts and seeds should be a re!ular part of your child)s diet.

All autistic children ha'e !ot faulty di!estion. To ma$e your child)s meals easier to di!est try not to ser'e protein and starch at the same time as they interfere in each other)s di!estion. #t means that, if he/she is ha'in! meat, fish, e!!s or other protein foods, ser'e them with 'e!etables only (salad or coo$ed) without potatoes, cereals or any other starchy foods. #f you coo$ed potatoes, !rains or any other starchy foods, ser'e them without meats, fish, e!!s, cheese or any other protein foods. #nstead ser'e them with salads or other 'e!etables. The proportion of protein/'e!etables on the plate should be 5:< (5 part of fish for e&ample, < parts of 'e!etables). The same is for starchy meals: 5 part of starchy food, < parts of 'e!etables. #f you are spending your day out ta$e a pac$ed lunch with you (a choice of meats, 'e!etables, a'ocado, fruit, nuts, water to drin$). .atin! out should not be a problem. >hoose from the menu foods that are allowed. 9ost restaurants will ser'e meats/fish with fresh salad instead of chips.

%hat about lunch bo,es- This is a common 4uestion. 1e order pure meat sausa!es at
our local butcher. 9y children ha'e two or three of these sausa!es, tomato, cucumber, carrot stic$s, celery stic$s, pepper stic$s and a fruit in their lunch bo&es, as well as a bottle of mineral water to drin$. -ometimes # would put nuts, panca$es made with !round nuts and e!!, any meat left from the ni!ht before, salad, prawns with mayonnaise and chopped onion. +f course, my children !et some unfa'ourable comments from other children at school, who eat chocolate bars, crisps and ca$es. 1e ha'e to reassure them and e&plain why they ha'e lunches, different to other children. .ducatin! our son "icholas about foods is an essential part of his upbrin!in!. (e has to ha'e a lifetime of a diet ,'ery different to the one , people are commonly ha'in!. As he sees his friends, eatin! sweets and crisps all day lon!, of course he wants to do the same. This education process doesn)t always !o smoothly. +nce, after e&plainin! to "icholas why he can)t ha'e sweets and ca$es, we wal$ed into our local corner shop. After a few minutes "icholas loudly announced: 89ummy, is there anythin! in this shop without bad chemicals78.

#t is not always easy to persuade our children to ha'e healthy foods. # found that the easiest way to introduce new foods into my son)s diet is to 4uietly put them in front of him, when he is watchin! tele'ision. Anythin! !ets munched up when he is absorbed by a T? pro!ramme. 2eha'iour modification (A2A or *o'aas) also has !ot !ood ways to introduce new foods. .'erythin! # said here may loo$ completely o'erwhelmin!. # would a!ree with you 5 @, #t too$ us years to establish the ri!ht diet for our son. *t is not easy( 2ut, what is easy with our children7, -o, please, don)t !et disappointed by early failures, perse'ere. After all you are ma$in! a chan!e for life. -o, ta$e it at your own stride as slowly as you and your child need to. Throwin! yourself into the deep end is the best way to fail the
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whole thin!. #ntroduce foods one at a time, de'elopin! your own way of coo$in! and ser'in! them. :emember the rule number one: coo" e!erything as little as possible, do not coo" anything that can be eaten raw. An efficient probiotic, li$e 2io/Hult, will help your child to di!est and absorb the !ood meals, you coo$ed for him/her. # belie'e that this diet will pro'ide the nourishment, your child both needs and deser'es.

.ood luc"(
"atasha >ampbell/9c2ride 96. 6ecember 2 2ac$