When our youngest joined our family at the age 11-months, he was developmentally the equivalent of a 2-month-old baby.
We spent months teaching basic skills – rolling over, holding food, chewing food, crawling, sitting up, pulling himself to his feet, and eventually walking – made more difficult because he hated being touched.
He didn’t speak – not until the age of four – but instead, screamed his way through life at ear-splitting, decibel-defying levels, at anything, everything and nothing. Numerous tests and doctors confirmed he experienced auditory and visual hallucinations.
The most challenging hurdles involved chewing and swallowing food, tasks that seemed to terrify and frustrate him.
Our once quiet, peaceful dinners became a battleground, reminiscent of scenes from the 1962 version of The Miracle Worker.
Helen had meltdowns. My son had meltdowns.
Helen threw food and raged. My son swiped plates and bowls off the dinner table, sending them crashing to the floor.
While we were distracted, cleaning the mess, he’d often catapult his body across the table, grabbing handfuls of food from the surviving dishes, stuffing his mouth to the point of choking. Other times, he “pocketed” food in his cheeks, staring defiantly into the air, avoiding eye contact, ignoring all requests to “please swallow or spit it out.”
Looking for Clues
I felt more detective than mother, spending my time reading clues, studying patterns of which foods he accepted or rejected. He clearly communicated food preferences, jumping up and down in front of the food-pantry, air-grabbing the out-of-reach cereal labeled, ““Healthy! Organic! Made From Whole Grains!”
Increasingly, he developed “self-limiting” eating behavior, fairly common to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Only those foods that were “brown” – bread, cereal, pasta, crackers – were acceptable to him. He threw everything else to the floor, or ignored its presence.
Simple carbs! He was a sugarholic!
During one of his food-stuffing suffocating, choking sprees, he’d packed his face, to-the-max, with bread. Digging it out of his mouth, a few wayward crumbs fell onto his clothing and chair. As I bent down to collect them, he let loose with a record-breaking scream, directly into my ear.
Blinded and deafened, lightning bolts of pain searing through my brain, I bowed down over the kitchen table, planting my hands on its hard surface for support. I gradually realized my right hand was grasping strange, bumpy objects. A platter of whole dill pickles! I’d fished them out of a large wooden-barrel, just a few hours earlier, while visiting a local meat market. “Old-fashioned, cured, just like Grandma made”, the sign over the barrel read.
Glancing at my son, I impulsively, grabbed one of the pickles, plugging his gaping mouth a split-second before he let loose with another ear-shattering scream.
The tears immediately stopped flowing (so did his). Wide-eyed, he quietly removed the pickle, examined it, then returned it to his mouth, chomping off a large chunk, alligator-style. An angelic expression descended over his face – a sweet face – a face I was seeing for the very first time.
The rest of the family watched, too exhausted to eat, while he happily polished off the pickle – without raging, projectile vomiting, over-stuffing his mouth, gagging or choking. To everyone’s amazement, he made happy-smacking noises, then scooped up and finished off every speck of food from his plate.
We had witnessed a miracle.
I knew, intuitively, the bitter flavor of the pickle had somehow rebooted or satisfied his cravings. How, or why, was a mystery, but from that point on, every meal began with bites of bitter flavors – blue cheese bits, salads with grapefruit segments and lemon-oil dressing, olives, and home-made half-sour pickles.
And he ate! Without fuss! Two months of consistently providing him with a wide-range of bitter, as well as lacto-fermented foods, he took my hand, leading me to the food-pantry. Pointing at the top shelf, where I’d hidden the last remaining box of “healthy” cereal, he said, “Bad!”
“Would you like me to throw them out?”, I asked. He nodded, watching as I purged it from the shelf. Several years later, he articulated strong memories of how the processed food made him feel “crazy – like bugs were crawling in his brain”, but the pickles made him feel “at peace and happy.”
Lactic Acid Bacteria and Gut Health – You can take a pill, or make your own probiotics whenever you make a batch of lacto-fermented veggies!
|by Kathleen in Research | Permalink|
Did you know...
In the thirteenth century, pickles were served as a main dish at the famous Feast of King John.
Thanks for the clear instructions, Kathleen! I mustered the discipline to let the fermentation work undisturbed, leaving it alone! I’m not used to that! Used to skimming off mold! I’m amazed how good my first attempt with it – khimchee – has come out. You made it so easy.
—Jamie - Massachusettes