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Shining a Light on Healthy Eating

This guest post is by Peak Health Coach, Natural Foods Cooking Instructor and Public Speaker Suzie Carpenter who founded Clean, Lean & Savvy, a gluten-free all-natural line of products.

When our daughter Kelly was diagnosed with autism, there was no internet and unfortunately, no Autism Speaks.  Understanding her behaviors, connecting with others, getting support, and exploring treatment options were all extremely difficult. 

It took five doctors to get a diagnosis, four different school placements to find a good fit, and we were constantly being questioned by people all around us because of the lack of awareness or acceptance of Autism.  Looking back, the journey is one I never would or could have imagined.

No doubt there were and still are, many challenges, but one that changed my life more than any other was finding out Kelly had Celiac disease in addition to over twenty five other food sensitivities. We had a behavior specialist, therapeutic support staff, an occupational therapist and speech therapist, but there was no one to help us with dietary changes. 

Like many kids on the spectrum, almost immediately following her autism diagnosis the tummy troubles started, first with the rotovirus which then snowballed into more severe gastrointestinal problems.  After exhausting the traditional medicine route (which I have the utmost respect for but in this case came up with very few explanations or solutions), we were blessed to connect with Dr. Sidney Baker, a Defeat Autism Now doctor who helped us pinpoint Kelly’s food sensitivities. 

At first, it was hard to believe certain foods could be triggers for her symptoms, and revamping her diet took a lot of adjusting and experimentation.  But after eliminating the foods, then reluctantly reintroducing them at weak moments only to discover the obvious adverse reactions, it became crystal clear that what she ate or drank was without a doubt affecting her.  With this profound realization, I became fiercely committed.

Surprisingly, food had the power to give us some control in a world where everything felt completely out of control, and that was a welcome change agent.  People ask me all the time, “how did you know changing your daughter’s diet affected her?,”  as if doubting the reality just as I did before our journey began.  Removing those foods she was sensitive to made an unmistakably huge difference in her sleep, behaviors, tantrums, sensory issues, tummy troubles, and ultimately her and our happiness.  

Watching the dramatic transformation in her, it suddenly dawned on me - if food was that powerful, she couldn’t be the only one affected by it.  So, I began applying the same principles to my own diet to see if I could find relief from my acid reflux, constipation and chronic pain.   Willingly, I became her partner in the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  This is no easy task, and a few weeks into it, I realized that we were supporting each other without knowing it.  There’s no question, I couldn’t have stuck to it without her - and on the flip side, my commitment comforted her.  Something was driving me to stay the course.  My gut instinct I guess, and no matter how badly I felt or how hard it was, there was no turning back.

It got easier as we fell into a groove with our new lifestyle, even if it was different than most people’s routines.  Discovering the food connection, becoming educated on reading labels, and creating recipes with only the ingredients her tiny belly could tolerate, were the keys to healing and empowering us all.  Prior to this, food was just something that had to taste good while satisfying hunger and a sweet tooth.  Food was a reward, a celebration, an unappreciated privilege.  It never occurred to me that eating was more than a pleasurable experience. 

That is why my husband and I have teamed up to create a food line with ingredients that are not only acceptable to Kelly and me, but that also taste good and are healthy for so many others.  In my nutrition coaching practice, I have a hard time finding products that are gluten free but also free of processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, soy, or other inflammatory agents. 

Our brand - Clean Lean and Savvy - promises to be a think proof line of healthy snacks.  We will always keep it as pure and natural as possible with no processed sugars, soy or gluten.  

We are proud to partner with Autism Speaks for the Light it up Blue campaign with ten percent of proceeds from our products going to Autism Speaks. 

Kelly has taught me so many things, chief among them is to proudly focus on what matters most - health, happiness and unconditional love.  She makes me stronger every day.  Knowing she can speak to me, share her emotions and count on me is a blessing to be cherished.  I love being her best friend and can’t wait to see her fly....

Visit Clean, Lean & Savvy and enter the discount code "Blue" when purchasing through their website and save 10% on your order. In addition, Clean, Lean & Savvy will donate 10% to Autism Speaks. Donations run though April 30th but you can still save 10% on all orders throughout the rest of the year by entering discount code "Blue." 

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.