Ew. Ew. Ew.
Unfortunately, humans are animals, which means we get worms and other parasitic infestations just like dogs, cats, birds and every other creature on the planet. Because parasites reproduce during the full moon, they are believed to be one of the reasons people are restless during that time. They also can cause people to wake up around 3 a.m. each morning.
That's ridiculous, you say. We live in an industrialized nation! We have clean (well, cleanish) drinking water and good sanitation! I wash my hands several times a day! I go through so many Clorox disinfectant wipes each day, I'm probably personally responsible for at least three different kinds of antibiotic-resistant superbugs!
All of those things are probably true. Except the last one might be an exaggeration. Or maybe not.
Regardless of your privilege or hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and more scientific journals than I can link here, at least one quarter, maybe even one third, of Americans have or have had a parasite infestation.
How can that be? Well, it turns out some of our luxuries actually put us at greater risk for worms and other parasites. They include:
There's another alarming reason why the CDC devoted an entire section of its website to the five most under diagnosed parasites in America, which includes our friend the tapeworm, pictured above.
Doctors are dangerously uneducated when it comes to parasites. They don't realize they are common in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, which means they don't recognize the symptoms, don't test for them, and even when they do, sometimes they don't properly treat them. That's why the CDC launched its awareness campaign.
Don't believe me, believe the CDC.
We started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to reduce yeast overgrowth and control other "bad bacteria" that can thrive in the gut and wreck havoc on digestion and the nervous system. So far, it's been very successful! Tosh's behavior improvements are off the charts and his language continues to develop. Yesterday, he even mainstreamed without an aide, which is remarkable for kid with nonverbal, severe autism.
Last week, I took our health regimen up a notch and started a parasitic cleanse. The diet starves them out, and the cleanse carpet bombs those mufukas and also kills any other parasitic infestations, like these three included in the CDC's list of five.
Are you ready? My apologies in advance for ruining your love of carnitas tacos.
Remember when you were pregnant and your doctor warned you that you shouldn't change the litter box? Toxoplasmosis, a condition caused by the single cell parasite Toxoplasma gondii, was the reason. You can also be exposed by undercooked meat, unpeeled vegetables and contaminated food prep surfaces.
The CDC estimates 60 million Americans are chronically infected with this nasty bug.
That's nearly 20% of us, and the CDC admits its numbers might be too conservative. Other scientific journals put the estimate at 25%. If you know four people, one probably has it.
Toxoplasma gondii lies dormant in your body until your immune system is compromised, and then causes flu-like symptoms. So that flu you think you have? Maybe it's this instead.
Scientific American estimates one-third of people worldwide are chronically affected, and Toxoplasmosis could be responsible for many cases of psychotic behavior, self-harming and suicide.
That crazy cat lady? She doesn't have all those cats because she's crazy. She's crazy because she has all those cats.
When pregnant women are infected, they pass the parasite to their baby. If contracted early in the pregnancy, it usually results in miscarriage or a still born infant. If contracted later in the pregnancy, the infant appears healthy when born, but as it grows, the child develops seizures and intellectual disabilities.
That last sentence makes me cry. Maybe it causes seizures and ID in autistic children. Maybe it doesn't. The problem is, we don't know because doctors don't routinely test pregnant women, or anybody for that matter. You may have had it, you might have it now, and your child might have it. As far as I'm concerned, that's enough reason for a parasitic cleanse.
Fifteen years ago, when I did my first parasite cleanse, I found one of these nasty suckers in the toilet. These are round worms, common in pet dogs and cats.
Even if you're diligent about treating your pet for worms, your kids can still pick them up in the sandbox at the playground, in the park or even in your own front lawn. It just takes one neighbor who lets their dog do his business on your lawn to deposit eggs your child could touch or track in on their shoes ... even if your neighbor picks up after his dog.
Toxocara, as well as other round worms, can also be contracted from undercooked meat.
According to the CDC, approximately 14% of the U.S. population has Toxocara antibodies, which means they either have roundworms, or they have in the past. I had two cats in the house and two dogs in the backyard when I found mine, so the odds were stacked against me.
Those infected with roundworms usually don't show any symptoms. However, they can cause organ damage, nervous system damage and vision problems.
We're back to our friend the tapeworm. It's possible to have an actual tapeworm in your intestines, and we certainly eat enough in the U.S. to sustain one. But an even bigger danger is cysticercosis, which occurs when tapeworm eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into your muscle, organ or brain tissue, where they form cysts. The photo above is of a very bad case of cysticercosis of the brain.
You can't usually feel them in your muscles, although sometimes they form cysts under the skin that you can feel. But if they burrow into your brain, they cause adult onset seizures and masses in the brain as illustrated above.
Tapeworms and tapeworm eggs spread through contaminated food (especially undercooked pork), water or surfaces.
It's highly infectious among families, so if someone in your household is infected, the rest of the family can easily be infected if they don't scrub their hands immediately after using the toilet, or if you don't wash your underwear in boiling water. (And who does that?)
Feeling sick yet?
These are just three of hundreds of parasites that can wreck havoc on your body and cause or make worse your child's physical symptoms and autism behaviors. If you have a progressive pediatrician, they might test for them. But too often, if you ask for testing, your doctor will roll their eyes and jot down "hysterical mother" in your child's medical charts.
Thankfully, it's pretty easy to wipe out many of them. I've always used a tincture of cloves, wormwood and black walnut, and it's worked well. Those three ingredients have been used around the world for centuries to control parasites in times and places with inferior sanitation systems. And it sure beats choking down castor oil, which is another effective remedy.
We use Intestinal Edge, which I like because unlike most tinctures, it doesn't have an alcohol base. That makes it safer for kids and easier to hide in their juice. You can get it at the link above through my Amazon Affiliate account, or from whatever source you'd like. You can try other brands, too. Just make sure they have the three important ingredients: wormwood, black walnut and cloves.
The directions say to take 1/2 teaspoon two to three times daily on an empty stomach for three weeks, then take a week off and repeat.
I do it a little differently. I take 10-12 drops in water, before or after meals, three times a day for two weeks. Then I take two weeks off. Then I repeat that twice.
Supposedly, this is safe for children of all ages, but being the kind of mama who takes all medicines very seriously, I waited until Tosh weighed 50 lbs before giving it to him. So, this is his first cleanse.
The dosage is based on a 150-lb person, so I reduce my dose by one-third for Tosh. He gets 3-4 drops in apple or orange juice three times a day. We started our second week of our first round today.
The first week, Tosh had super stinky farts, which is a sign it's working. He also had some minor shart accidents in his undies - that's also very common, as is full-blown diarrhea. He's also been scratching his butt, which like a dog scooting across the carpet, is a sign of parasites.
NOTE: Any poop that comes out during a cleanse is infected, which means you should throw out undies after an accident and clean your bathroom with bleach. Also make sure your kids wash their hands after using the bathroom and/or scratching their butts. And bleach the bathtub and their bath toys, too.
Flu like symptoms, headache and other symptoms are also possible. If you experience headaches or any other intolerable symptoms, cut the dose in half and gradually work your way up to a full dose.
If you have any other questions, please leave a comment below.
I've posted quite a bit on social media about how Tosh uses his iPad for communication, and even published this blog post on Proloquo2Go hacks we've learned.
But what I haven't written about is how getting an iPad for Tosh was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I couldn't care less about people who have judged me regarding his screen time.
Around 18 months, Tosh began to regress. By the time he was two, he was really struggling. He couldn't focus on anything for more than a second. He didn't play with many toys, couldn't sit still to read a book for more than a few pages and he didn't show any sign that he could learn.
Then, I got an iPad mini to use while on business trips. I downloaded a couple of apps for Tosh and it quickly became his iPad.
I was stunned and how easily he learned apps. At just two years old he could master them within a few hours.
It was the first time he was able to show me he was smart.
Some parents have asked me if I think they should get their autistic child an iPad. The answer is always yes.
Yes because it might be a platform they can use to communicate their intelligence when other platforms like books or toys fail. Yes because it can function as a sensory regulator when in public, so they can go out into the world like everyone else. Yes because it can be used to communicate.
And yes, because it can buy you a few minutes of peace. Anybody who judges you for that can step in and babysit your autistic child for a few hours. Then we'll see what they have to say.
The next question I get from parents is which apps should they download. All kids are different, but here are the ones Tosh likes best.
TinyHands were the very first apps we downloaded for Tosh and I was stunned at how quickly he learned them. We bought several of them individually, including all of the ones in this bundle. His favorite "Tower 1" game is only available on iPhone now, but it's in this bundle. With these apps he learned how to use a touchscreen and basic concepts like stacking by size, sorting and matching. The bonus was that autistic kiddos are usually pretty good at sorting and stacking, so these apps also built his self-confidence.
Tosh has never met an alphabet game or toy he didn't like, so this one was a slam dunk. Plus he had the Fisher-Price Puppy so this was a nice bridge between an app and a real toy.
This app can be pretty stimulating and might be too much for your child. Sometimes it overstimulated Tosh but he really loved it (as you can see by the open button it's still on his device and mine). Plus, the driving game taught him great hand-eye coordination.
You can't go wrong with Elmo. Tosh loved this app and a similar one, Elmo Loves ABCs. He still has that one on his iPad and plays with it sometimes. The educational benefits are obvious - learning to count, identify numbers and trace to build beginning writing skills.
This app is great for learning about weather and appropriate clothes and activities for each weather type. But Tosh loves it because it's so silly. Things blow away when it's really windy and the characters shiver or sweat if they're wearing the wrong clothing. Having grown up in Kansas, I giggle at the tornado siren and how the characters go underground until the tornado has passed.
Tosh still loves this app and plays with it several times a week. It really is adorable, using Claymation to teach the alphabet. And the animal they use for Y is Yeti, which is pretty cool.
Sago Mini apps are fun and adorable and Tosh still plays with them all frequently. Most of them require creativity and decision making to build something. This time of year, try the Monsters app for Halloween fun that isn't scary.
Sigh. My baby is growing up and now he's playing with a full-on video game. Smashy City is exactly what it sounds like - giant characters smashing urban landscapes while being chased and shot at by police and the military. Awesome. At least it is teaching him strategy because the larger the building, the more points and power the smasher earns. He still hasn't mastered this one, but I love that it's an age appropriate game. Proof he's developing along with his neurotypical peers!
I've been a baking fool since I learned how to work with almond and coconut flours. It's quick and easy to whip up a batch of muffins in the morning while I drink my coffee, and the bonus is the muffins double as lunchbox and ABA therapy snacks.
This morning I made these delicious banana bread muffins. The recipe is actually a banana bread recipe, but I adjusted baking time for muffins. I'll include both directions below.
From Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Erica Kerwien
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons of oil (I use almond oil)
2 very ripe, mashed bananas
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grease a 5X8 or smaller loaf pan or line muffin tins.
Using a whisk or fork, blend the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix oil, eggs, mashed bananas and honey. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan or muffin tins. Bake the loaf for 40 minutes or until the sides and top are browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If making muffins, baking should take 18-20 minutes.
Cool and enjoy! Store in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
These cinnamon muffins have been a huge help in getting Tosh to adhere to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. He's always been a cinnamon lover, and these muffins are delicious and moist but don't have an overly eggy texture. They include a separate cinnamon sugar topping that you can swirl through the batter so they come out like real cinnamon buns. You can play around with this, leaving some extra to spread on the top or filling the cups only part of the way and layering cinnamon sugar in between two batter layers.
Sure, they don't taste exactly like Cinnabon, but they also don't bloat the tummy, cause aggressive behavior or spike your blood sugar. Autism is a long game, and the momentary joy that comes from gluteny, artificially flavored foods is an easy sacrifice to make when your severely autistic, nonverbal child can function in public and in school, and starts to speak. (And yes, he is starting to speak!!!!!)
Here's the recipe, taken from my new best friend, Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
Cinnamon Bun Muffins
For the muffins
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup yogurt or dairy-free milk
1/2 cup honey (I use about 1/3 cup or less and it's still plenty sweet)
For the cinnamon topping
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee or coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350F or 175C. Place muffin liners in your muffin tins.
Combine the coconut flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and blend well. Add the eggs, yogurt/milk and honey, and mix with a whisk or electric mixer to remove any lumps. (A whisk works fine for me.)
Fill the muffin liners about 3/4 full with batter.
In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon topping ingredients. Drip a spoonful of topping over each muffin. Use a toothpick to swirl the topping into the batter if you wish.
Bake for about 20 minutes (my oven takes 25 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Serve warm or cover and store at room temperature for a couple of days or for up to a week in the refrigerator. Lunch box friendly!
You might also like: Yummy Keto Pancakes recipe
I think Tosh might be a shaman.
No, seriously. Hear me out. Your kid might be one, too.
Even if you aren't into that kind of thing, you’ll look at their autism “symptoms” a little differently.
While flying home from our Labor Day vacay, I read a pretty convincing article in Autism Digest written by a shaman who is also autistic. Gonzalo Benard, a Tibetan Bonpo Shaman also known by his shaman name Gon.Sal, was nonverbal until age seven and even as an adult, rarely speaks.
If you’re unfamiliar with shamans, they were prevalent in many ancient tribal cultures around the world, including the native cultures of North America. They’re kind of a mix between a doctor and a priest, using both spiritual and medicinal healing. The internet and social media, along with a renewed interest in metaphysical phenomena and natural health, have raised the profiles of modern day shamans.
Some, like Shaman Durek (who I follow on Instagram and who did a short, remote reading on Tosh) are receiving mainstream media coverage.
Gon.Sal wrote that in many ancient cultures, children with autism were considered sacred and many became shamans. He explained that many of autism’s symptoms, which are considered problematic issues that must be addressed, are qualities that shamans, monks and other holy leaders use to practice spiritual rituals and heal people.
Take, for example, autism’s nonverbal symptom. Think of all the world religions that require their holy leaders to take vows of silence to strengthen their ability to communicate with their god. When you find your silence, you find your answers, he said. He added that speaking creates vibrations that drain energy from the speaker, and for autistic people, who have more sensitive nervous systems, that energy is instead needed to recharge their bodies in today’s over stimulating world.
Also consider how many autistic people hum and rock back and forth. Now think about all the religions that use rocking, humming and chanting to evoke a spiritual connection. Almost all of them, right? Gon.Sal said rocking, humming and even stimming are tools holy leaders use to calm, focus and connect to spirit.
Autistic people are also highly empathic. I know Tosh certainly is. He’s extremely sensitive to the moods and emotions of people around him, and he becomes concerned or upset if anyone is sad, hurt or angry. He becomes distressed if someone exhibits road rage while he’s in the car, and he hates political debate.
And he doesn't just exhibit empathy. Tosh wants to make it all better. He's a hugger (when he initiates it). He hugs people he loves and those who are upset. He also rubs, kisses and blows on any and all ouchies without prompting.
This ability to feel others in a deeper way is a gift shamans and other holy leaders possess. It provides a better way to heal and mindfully spread peace.
Gon.Sal also explained that this empathy also prevents autistic people from understanding today’s social structure, which is based on emotions, not empathy or even logic. That’s why our kids don’t understand emotional concepts like jealousy, greed, envy or justice.
For example, to someone with autism (and, I suspect, many parents reading this blog), why bother with jealousy? If not having something affects you so much, why not focus on improving yourself so you can have or feel the same? I must admit, that sure resonates with me. In fact, it's the underlying philosophy of Autism Oasis.
Our modern society is structured by neurotypical people who impose social behaviors connected to their emotions, rather than the pursuit of a higher consciousness. Neurotypical people are driven by ego. Autistic people are driven by spiritual alignment.
Perhaps the rate of autism is increasing because the world needs to change. After all, our world’s problems – war, poverty, climate change and the demise of our natural system – is all the result of ego-driven policies that use emotional manipulation to convince the masses to support destructive agendas that aren't in their best interests.
Perhaps the neurotypical population needs to start listening to autistic people, rather than change them. Perhaps our autistic children are here to open our eyes to our ego-driven follies, and to ultimately heal the world?
It’s pretty heady stuff, isn’t it? Very mystic and supernatural; and yet, there’s a lot of logical reasoning to support it.
What do you think? Might your child be a shaman? Might they be inter-dimensional protesters and healers, sent here to save humanity from ourselves? Please share your thoughts.
Heather Anderson is a natural health educator, writer, blissfully happy autism mom, fintech marketer and lover of life in Southern California.
Please join me on this autism journey. Let’s create a positive, supportive community in which we can learn, grow and prosper. Where the focus isn’t just on your autistic child, but on your own personal growth as well.