Saturday, January 15, 2011

Debugging Dante

Sooner or later they were bound to resurface. “Nasty little creatures” is actually a very proper term to describe an overgrowth of yeast, a common problem in children with autism.  That was how Dante’s first DAN!* doctor described yeast to me or better yet, how he attempted to explain why our war against the yeast lasted way longer than we ever imagined. 
Dante, Summer 2007

People Magazine, circa September 2007
Flashback to September 2007. Dante was about to turn four and I had finally come to understand that what best-described all of his issues was the “autism spectrum”.  

I did not connect the points on my own because Dante did not exhibit all the behaviors on the available autism checklists at the time.  Also, he never actually spoke (although he babbled) nor had an obvious regression after vaccines. It was a mom thousands of miles away, thanks to my cousin Sheila, who helped me connect the dots between the constant diarrhea, the bright red cheeks, the sensory issues, the lack of speech, the lack of purposeful action, etc.  She and Jenny McCarthy’s article in People magazine pretty much sealed the deal for me. 

I immediately decided to remove gluten (wheat products) and casein (milk products) from Dante’s diet.  I realized that in his past, whenever he wasn’t eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat bread, he was much more connected.  The photo below shows a more connected Dante after a couple of weeks on a better diet:

September 2007, this is what Dante
looks like on a healthier diet
Falling into the Spectrum, to a degree:
The way I explain an autism diagnosis now is first by understanding that there are numerous different traits or characteristics of “autism expression”, and they are exhibited in different levels of intensity.  In my opinion, we all know someone who displays one or two traits that fall within the autism spectrum, and yet these people are able to function well in society.  The more of these traits a person exhibits, however, the harder it is for that person to function in our “normal” society.  Worse than that, the more extreme these traits are in a person, the harder life is for them.  So to me it’s a matter of number of traits and their degree.  My conclusion was that Dante was a very “involved” case of autism, he displays several autistic traits to a High degree.  It may also be called something I don’t even like to write:  low functioning autism.

DAN! doctor measures:
So after concluding that Dante indeed was within the autism spectrum, we took him to a DAN!* doctor, who quickly confirmed my diagnosis.  One of the first steps DAN! doctors take is to test the children for the levels of yeast and toxins in their bodies. It was November 2007, Dante had just turned four, and his arabinose level (a yeast metabolite) was measured at 144.22mmol/mol.  Arabinose is basically an indicator of the level of yeast in the intestine. The yeast explained a number of symptoms Dante was experiencing:
  • Huge distended belly
  • Pain and bloating all day until he finally had a bowel movement.  He felt much better afterwards
  • Eczema on his arms and cheeks
  • Low sensitivity to pain, he would fall or scratch and wouldn’t cry or would take a bit of time to actually feel the pain

Dante on his 4th birthday, 
he had toxic diarrhea that day
Antifungal options:
After treating the yeast with antifungal medications (Nystatin and Diflucan), while doing chelation (using DMSA) to remove heavy metals at the same time, the arabinose level actually went up to 166.12mmol/mol; it was now February 2008.  The anti-fungal medications combined with chelation were way too much for Dante, so we stopped both.  This process needs to be very well supported so that children don’t lose vital nutrients and the good metals.  Dante became pale, thin, sad, and started having colds every three weeks.

I wanted to continue to detoxify, but not with medications.  Dante had been taking probiotics and we continued those.  Following the recommendations of our naturopath, we began using teeny amounts of oil of oregano to kill off the yeast. Although this did improve Dante's behavior, the arabinose stayed up there and was at 131.20mmol/mol a year later, by March 2009. 

Oh, fun! More food restrictions!
In April 2009 I decided we had to take this up a notch.  I had not seen any progress in Dante’s digestion or development for years.  I read about the Specific Carbohydrates Diet (SCD) in detail and soon after we started following it, maintaining Dante gluten and casein free as well.  By July 2009, three months into the Specific Carbohydrates diet, the arabinose level was down to 6.82mmol/mol.

So what changes were we seeing in Dante by this point (July 2009)?
  • More happy days!  He could be calm and joyful and more stable
  • Better bowel movements, they were getting solid instead of mushy
  • He was perceiving pain appropriately
  • His eczema was gone!
January 2011:
Flash-forward to 2011, a year and a half later, and we still have some pockets of insurgent yeast to worry about.  Yeast attempts to survive any way it can.  The diet eliminates the foods that feed the yeast and actually starves them out.  The ones that survive these dire conditions eventually die, but not without a fight.  It may happen once or twice a year, these insurgent yeast wage their last battle.  They actually release toxins when they die; this is called yeast “die-off”.  The symptoms are not fun because the body is actually overburdened with toxins, and that is what Dante has had these last couple of weeks.  This is what I observe when Dante is debugging:

  • Very dark eye circles
  • Lots of pain or discomfort after meals, lots of gas
  • Bowel movements are “wispy”
    • If you want details, see type 5 & 6 on the figure found here
    • Good bowel movements are types 2 & 3, not too hard, not to soft, and formed.  Thin feces actually indicate inflammation of the intestine.
  • Very uncomfortable, especially after meals, with constant head banging – Epsom baths and Motrin don’t fully work
  • Very sensitive hands, mouth, head -- resists hand-over-hand work, hair brushed, or teeth brushed
  • Higher likelihood of seizures; he began having mild seizures during a die-off period
  • Increased appetite and thirst after die-off begins
The calm:
After the suckers die though, Dante is left in a much better place.  He becomes calmer, his digestion and bowel movements improve, his eye contact improves, his ability to communicate improves, and best of all, his joy improves.  I have seen this become increasingly better as the time passes on the diet.

Today I hope we are seeing the end of this debugging period.  Our plan is to begin the CEASE homeopathic protocol later this week.  

Wish us progress!

*Defeat Autism Now!Doctors who follow the DAN! protocol which looks to help rid the body of toxins and supplement it with missing vitamins and minerals. 


The Great Plains Laboratory describes Yeast and its impact here.  

Good article on Yeast Die-Off: Dealing With Yeast Die-Off Reactions

1 comment:

Lucia Alonso said...

I wish you all the Luck in the world, CEASE therapy will help you heal your son, I am sure! It's been a tremendous journey this past 3 months for us. CEASE therapy gave us the assurance we needed, we are now 100% convinced of his recovery. God is on our side, never loose the FAITH or HOPE, it will get us to the end, and at the end of this journey RECOVERY is waiting for our children!