My colleague Loren Edelson, Functional Nutrition Pracitioner, mother and Canoe Instructor (I love her multi-passionate life) has unique expertise on navigating the challenges of an anti-inflammatory diet socially.
Here she shares her story – her struggles, and the tools she uses to navigate stressful social situations.
Loren blogs about her experiences – you can follow her HERE.
.In other news, if you are interested in learning more about how sugar can be part of your child’s diet, even if they struggle with attention, join my new FREE workshop next week.
Roadmap to Attention and Regulation – my signature 5 week course – also launches in two weeks.
Now today’s guest Lauren Adelson is an expert at navigating special diets and juggling many diverse interests. This is a really fun conversation for those of us that still struggle in social situations. Lauren, and I fully believe in the idea of food as medicine. And it is with this thought that I’m also sharing a free workshop on sugar and kids in the next week. To register for this workshop to understand how sugar can be part of a diet. Even for a kid with low attention. Please visit functionalnutritionforkids.com/workshop. Again, that’s functionalnutritionforkids.com/workshop. This is a free workshop and there are three days October 5 sixth and 12 for which you can register on this website.
Onward my friend. I’m really excited to have my friend and fellow functional nutrition practitioner Lauren edelson here today, before becoming functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner, mother, and co-instructor in that not necessarily in that order. Lauren was in a different track. After graduating from college, she worked for the Japan Times in Tokyo, where she wrote articles on theater, food and lifestyle. While living in Japan. She’s also written a guide to restaurants in Tokyo for photos travel guide and contributed stories for NHK. Radio Lauren, I did not know this that is super awesome. After receiving her doctorate, she published several scholarly articles on theater and taught at City College cu NY. When her son was diagnosed with autism in 2009. She began investigating nutritional interventions that could help her family thrive, a mission that led her to the functional nutrition Alliance from Chelsea to certification in 2019.
Hi everyone, today we explore how to navigate a least restrictive diet. I invite a chemistry and functional nutrition consultant and science educator as well to avoid Down syndrome and autism was also nonspeaking. That was just a few years ago that I felt helpless at SIDS dysregulation, severe gut issues, difficulty with communication, extreme lethargy, and disinterest sit and I have since traveled through 1000s of lessons learned about the gut, the brain, and the super-duper importance of assuming intelligence. As I said, he is now a happy point filled with what he calls gory ambition. Now these lessons that we learned have spilled over outside my podcast and as many requested me to formalize this information about addressing focus and regulation, in other words, emotional stability in their kids. Now, this is now formalized into a course called roadmap to attention and regulation. And you can find it at www.functionalnutritionforkids.com/roadmap. enrollment is open for another 14 days only.
Prior to the pandemic, she founded her coaching practice walk the talk in which she offered free weekly walks in New York city parks that focused on bite-sized health related topics. While building community. She has now moved to Rockland County, New York to be closer to the mountains and the lakes where she loves to paddle. She is available for one on one or small group coaching while she continues to write about health, the outdoors and parenting on a blog that is titled given the givens. So that’s g i v n given the givens. Welcome Lauren, I’m so excited to have you here. Especially because you’re one of the few people that I know that has successfully navigated a gluten free diet and anti-inflammatory diet for such a long time with both yourself and your son as I know it. So welcome to this podcast.
Thank you. Bye. It’s great to be here. And let me just say work in progress. Yes, it always is. And as we get started navigating both the challenges and the not so challenges of any restrictive diet, can you just give us a brief insight into what made you take on a diet especially for a long term?
Sure. So well, a couple things. It was first my son who was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. It was actually my husband who came to me and said, You know what, I think we need to start this thing called a gluten-free casein-free diet. And in my postpartum Hayes, I just given birth to my to my second child who is now 12 and a half. I said sure because I was always the one in the family who was eager to cook and experiment with more healthful cooking. So I was kind of surprised when my husband offered this up as a suggestion, and I took it and ran with it. And we actually saw incredibly positive changes in just a few weeks.
Now, let me add that we did a number of things in those first few weeks, months, years after Julian was diagnosed. So it wasn’t just changed in his diet and as a result, our diet, but it was also a lot of intensive therapy as well. You know, this worked and I’ve written about this for you else. But a number of years later, we ended up re-introducing a lot of foods including whole grains. And we can talk about what that did for my social health and well being because there was a time when it felt that not only was our diet incredibly restrictive, but that socializing had become a thing of the past because the diet really inhibited us being more social, I felt like we were sort of living in a, in a bubble.
What Remember, we’re just coming out of yet another bubble COVID. So we’ve had 14 months of really sheltering in place not socializing. For my son’s school, he was going with a packed lunch every day, and not particularly interested in the cafeteria food. Like, my, my youngest daughter was very excited to have a school lunch. So um, you know, I’ve had to look at each case and each child very, very differently. But I will say, for me, I am I was diagnosed with hashimotos thyroiditis in 2013. And it was at a time when we had really eased up on Julian’s restrictions and had gone back to eating I think, some gluten, let me also just back up and say that what’s most important when I think about, say, quote, a family diet, that it’s nutrient-dense, I prefer to think about it, you know, I don’t even think of us as being on a diet. I just think of us having Whole Foods and really nutrient-dense.
Let me pause there for a minute because I think you said something really important because a lot of the, you know, as we’re talking and the audience is probably not primarily but sufficiently of parents of children that are not yet on diets and that are trying to find ways perhaps that will help them that do not involve food restrictions. So I think this is important to see what is the why what are the benefits that you get from simple food restrictions, why you might sometimes want to go all the way but you don’t always have to go all the way you were on a more restrictive diet and then East out of the restrictions, but also that we’re not looking at restrictions for the sake of restrictions, a lot of times restrictions bring with them nutrient density, and it’s hard to bring that nutrient density is when we end up eating foods like wheat and dairy would that is that your experience too?
Absolutely. I you know, it was interesting. I was part of a conversation last week, where there were a group of us all parents of special needs children. And the question was posed, do we need anything beyond ordinary good nutrition for in raising a child with special needs? And I found that to be such a loaded question because when you think about first of all what is ordinary good these days, you know, we’re talking about most you know, most people out there are still on a sad Standard American Diet where processed foods comprise so much of the diet and in some ways it’s almost like we need a system a template, I think more than a diet I like to think of it as a template for eating well because if it’s just sort of ordinary anything goes then I think very quickly, things can get out of whack. And so it’s nice, I think it’s very helpful in some ways to have some restrictions in some ways that makes things a little bit easier knowing that in my in my family’s case, animal protein is on the table, not all animal protein because we have further restrictions in that regard.
We keep kosher home, so there’s no pork, but beef, chicken, lamb, as well as eggs, and as well as fish, all different kinds of fish and then vegetables and this is the first year that we have grown a garden and now we are dining on eggplant, fresh tomatoes from the garden peppers as well. Not to mention basil so every week it’s a new pesto nine thanks to one of our colleagues. I’m using dandelion in the pesto. So again, really trying to make things extra tasty, but also really powerful as far as the niche grants. So um so that’s really the, the starting point. And I think when we talk about restriction, let’s begin with really good clean Whole Foods and then see what else you know where is there some some some wiggle room. Because I think the key that sometimes we forget is that we want a very diet, we want to expand the dietary repertoire as much as possible and not stay in that rather myopic place of restriction.
I know for myself, there was a time that I could not eat and nuts. They were just so constipating. And as soon as I figured that out, but I could not eat almonds. And this was after going nuts over almonds because there was a time that we were on something called the specific carbohydrate diet and goes crazy about well, everything is almond flour, and it’s delicious. And I was substituting flour I was using almond flour and all my baked goods. And interestingly, Julian never gravitated towards this, I was the one and everybody in my family, everybody else enjoyed those. But it just became very clear to me like could no longer eat an almond to this. And to this day, I will eat other nuts, but I still will avoid almonds and almond milk, and almond flour as well. But I have successfully reintroduced other kinds of nuts. But this was after years of avoiding them.
So, I think we want to be really careful when we talk about what is ordinary nutrition and really get quite granular as to what that is. And then see how can we expand the diet? Um, are we never eating from a bag of chips? No, there’s some times where we’re eating chips, and we’re eating other, you know, other store bought foods, but we’re being really careful to read labels. And that is something I think it’s a skill that all my kids are capable of. And you’re talking about reading ingredient labels and making sure that there’s care that we know what’s going into the foods.
Yes, yes. And I think that’s where we can really empower our kids. So they’re, aware,
let’s back up to the you know, to the why because we’re still talking to probably people that haven’t aren’t necessarily convinced that this dietary regime is going to work for them. So what did you see when you change your diet when you was the first time you went into a specific carbohydrate diet or were you already on a gluten-free diet before that, so it was first eliminating the gluten, the gluten, the protein found in wheat and as well as casing the protein found in in in milk and dairy products.
So um, yeah, that was our starting point. And we saw Julian just totally shift be attentive, real much more focused and engaged. And again, that was with a lot of work with therapists as well. So that was very exciting to see. Then we went I about a year later another step further and removed grains. And frankly, that was maybe not as successful we saw him really become quite tired, depleted and energetic. And so we then began to at that point, also, I mean, we definitely did it for perhaps too long, a couple months, and at that and the specific carbohydrate diet does permit certain dairy to remember at that point, I was making all of our yogurt in our dehydrator. It’s a 24 hour fermentation process. And there just became a point where I was exhausted and I like you know, other parents who do these diets I you know, I just felt burnt out and I felt socially isolated as well.
This was the diagnosis of hashimotos. Correct? Yes. It wasn’t. So it was at that point that I made the decision to go gluten-free for myself. And then a couple of months later, I thought this a couple months later, you know what, Julian at that point, I had taken him for some allergy testing. He tested positive for gluten. And at that point, I decided, you know what, I’m the one who does the cooking in this family primarily, and we’re going to eat the way I eat. And slowly because I’m more of a questioner to use Gretchen Reubens terminology, I’m you know, at that point, I very slowly had cut out dairy from my diet, I, I decided that that was how everybody in the family was going to eat, it was super easy to do them because at that point, my son Julian, let’s see he was seven at the time. And my other daughter was was five so I could still really micromanage their diets at home, so I didn’t get any pushback, then.
Frankly, I felt so much better. Um, you know, fast forwarding joint, you know, and he was, Julian, as long as he has say in what he wants to eat, he is really happy to to get the food that that I that I prepared. So not a lot of pushback from him either. Early on, as I’ve written in my blog, that has not been the case these days, there’s been some pushback at home as you know, I think of it as quite developmentally appropriate, I think you know, that he’s noticing what other kids eat and he wants some of that too. So I welcome that.
And that is normal at some stage during your diet, it’s either going to be before early or it’s going to be after the the opposition or the rebellion against the diet is, like you said could be very developmentally appropriate. And if it happens really early, I mean that that’s also pretty normal because most people don’t want to go off gluten. There’s a whole list of reasons that we’ve discussed earlier in this podcast. But I just I just want to back up to some of the points you mentioned. And then we’ll talk about how you navigate What are your tips for navigating a will just stick with a gluten free and a casein free diet?
One of the things I want to mention is that Lauren like many people started with a gfcf diet but then went to more restrictive diet which for some people may be necessary but for some people is not so more restriction isn’t more of anything isn’t always better right? So I think sometimes when we get onto the and that this has been true for me too when I’ve gotten onto the diet bandwagon I felt like let’s remove this let’s remove this and see what happens and that is is not always the answer.
We actually jumped into a gap style the our very first type was a gap style. And obviously because it gaps died does remove a lot of inflammatory foods, there was initial improvement, but there was a late reply to and it was obvious that be six months in the gaps diet was definitely for too long for sale. And then we came back to a baseline what we call a baseline anti inflammatory diet, which is removing the three foods that he that show up in his blood testing for food sensitivities, not allergies, gluten, dairy and eggs. And he’s as long as we don’t eat those foods sit is pretty stable. So I have not felt the need for further restrictions. I just want to make that make that point once more that we’re not trying to restrict restrict and restrict. We’re trying to find one baseline that works the best for your child that may be sad for for you. But for more for a lot of people. It’s usually at least a gluten free casein free diet when you’re dealing with autoimmunity when you’re dealing with neuro inflammatory symptoms associated with autism pan’s pandas and so on.
Sure, and then it’s all about re introducing and watching very carefully and tracking, tracking and assessing and going from from there. And that’s, that can be tricky, because, you know, again, something else that I’ve written about we want, we want to make our reintroductions intentional and plan for them. And yes, you know, that hasn’t always gone so smoothly for for my household so I just, you know, I want to I want to raise that as well, you know, as, as a functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner, we know what to do, again, when you’re in the trenches.
You know, as a mom, things don’t always go so smoothly, and that’s okay, too. So we backup and we start over for the long haul and it’s not always going to be the smooth and we can always and we’re going to do too much at times and too little at other times and it’s fine Let’s talk about what you wrote in your, in your latest blog, which is navigating social situations. Of all the things that people get scared about when we mentioned the built in free diet to parents, there are a few reasons that it’s scary.
The first thing is what will my child eat. And we won’t get into that here because there’s actually a ton of stuff a lot of it has to do with the addiction brought about by gluten, so that there’s a certain you know, you can either go cold turkey or change it gradually. But the second big objection is social situations, especially if the child is older, social situations for the child social situations, but with the parents, friends, potlucks, your friends, kids, friends, General potlucks of other groups that you belong to, I can’t think of anything else cool.
Maybe I think sporting events is a good deal, especially when your child is on a team. There’s all sorts Oh, yeah, functions. So basically, we are parts of teams, because we want to belong to society. We want to be part of a community, but then we’re on this diet that is excluding us from that very community. So we’re being pulled in two directions. How do you deal with that, Lauren?
And now it’s super tough. I mean, that’s why I wrote the article, because I wanted to write advice, you know, advice, yes, advice to no clients, but advice to myself. So as I wrote, I want to accept that invitation. I’m a fairly outgoing person. And when I get the invitation, I get really excited. My first instinct is usually Yes, I want to go and then my second thought is, Oh, no, what what, you know, what are we going to eat. And again, for me, that’s not a big deal. Because I can feed myself beforehand, I’ll make a dish that will work for me, especially with friends, I’ll coordinate in advance and plan the menu. But you know, the case that I was thinking of is at our canoe camp, and it turns out that the organizer is a friend of mine.
But um, you know, there’s going to be a lot of dishes there that my kids might want to eat, that I would prefer that they avoid. So how am I going to do this? We’re actually having our first potluck at our paddling camp next, next Sunday. So thanks to the article, thanks to you know, you inviting me here. I’ve put a lot of thought into this. And I’d say more than in past years, I’ve actually turned to my kids and really asked, what is it that they want? You know, how can we brainstorm and you know, work together so that they’re going to be preparing at least one dish that they’re going to be excited about? Because in the past, I think I’ve thought more along the lines of, you know, what’s a typical potluck dish that I could bring. So this is this, for example, is for brunch. So immediately, what comes to mind is, say, bringing a frittata, and a fruit salad, that would just work beautifully.
For me. Not the case for Julian. That’s just not of interest. So it’s beyond the food restriction. Now it’s what kind of foods like, just because we’re food-restricted, doesn’t mean we’re ready to eat anything. Right? So we still have our food interests. Yes. Well, he might, and he might want, you know, to eat foods there. And I hope that there will be other, you know, other dishes that he can eat, because it’s not just about, you know, my cooking all the time. I mean, he is kind of particular. I mean, I, you know, I maybe I should take it as a compliment. But, yeah, look, it’s like, you want your child not only to enjoy what’s available at home, but elsewhere.
So you prepare meals, and then you ask your children for choices and for their preferences. And then but you’re still going to be in a position where you’re there and there is a predominant amount of food that you cannot eat. Possibly, sure, yeah. So you know, I look I mean, they know, you know, to certain, to some extent, they really know what the parameters are. They know what the rules are, and in some ways, you know, they’ve embraced them and I’ve heard from other parents even I’m, you know, about my daughter, say, of, you know, what, tomorrow actually told me that she doesn’t eat this. And even their teacher at school for the parent-teacher conference called me and said, you know, your girl told me that she doesn’t eat refined sugar. So in some ways, they are eager to share. Um, so I think I think there’s just been a lot of conversations at home that they do take with them when they leave the home.
That doesn’t always mean that they’re happy about it. With my daughters, there was a lot of pushback at some point at one point and I’ve because their situation is different from Julian’s and I should say for joining, it’s not just the autism he, his bioroid antibodies are elevated, which is just one sign, a possible sign of, of thyroid dysfunction. So again, it’s not a full on diagnosed condition, but we know as functionally trained nutrition practitioners, we know that that is a sign of possible and it’s and we know that there is a high, high probability of gluten You know, they’re in what is called molecular mimicry that in an immune attack to gluten if you’re sensitive to gluten, other tissues can be attacked to in autoimmunity.
So, and often in situations with autoimmunity, we at least gluten usually tends to be eliminated So, so I think that I wonder A lot of you know, from a recipe perspective there, there are tons of recipes out there, it’s completely possible to go into potlucks with I mean there’s not that many foods that cannot be recreated I think that how if you’ve not been gluten-free it might seem daunting, but I don’t know if a single thing that you can’t make without gluten right? I mean I don’t think that is a barrier is it?
No of course not. Of course not. And I mean Julian is very excited to bring a sushi dish Yeah, not necessarily sushi rolls, but more of say a chirashi sushi and in a bowl, sort of a deconstructed sushi roll. He actually makes sushi rolls and he’s excited to share that so that is what he would like to bring um but then I do think for a potluck yeah there might be you know if you know that spaghetti is going to be served and that your child likes spaghetti it might g well to bring spaghetti I remember for years attending the camp potluck and never bringing always bringing something like roast chicken and then there’d be spaghetti their pasta there and my kids wanted the pasta and I finally figured out oh I should bring some gluten-free pasta.
Yeah, just to have it It wouldn’t it didn’t occur to me as you know something that I want to eat. But then I saw that that was served and that my kids wanted it so a potluck is really good especially if you can talk to the organizer ahead of time and find out what’s going to be there that is a good time to bring if you know if you are say gluten-free to bring a gluten-free pasta.
I mean I also just want to say that after writing column one reader responded I as a mother of three kids I think all of them were on a gluten-free diet all you know all of them had celiac disease, one of them had a nut allergy, so gluten-free and not free recipes. And she said they were so delicious that everybody wants to eat them. So you know, not just her kids. So the thing is, you know, some of these recipes, you can bring something that is going to be delicious, not just for your own family, but that other people are going to.
Yes, absolutely. And we’ve come a long way in the world of gluten-free cooking it’s very different from what it used to be 10 or 15 years ago even and it’s a sad ingest in terms of the number of recipes available online and in terms of the complexity of them and of course our entire cuisines that are gluten-free so that’s another thing either you’re recreating a pasta dish but it also really helps for me so I’m from South India and almost 90 or more percent of South Indian cooking is almost entirely gluten-free and that’s true for a lot of East Asian cooking as well.
So a decent amount maybe not all of it but a decent amount of East Asian cooking but so we will there obviously some there are some challenges in socialization I think this idea of personalities is really good to explore in another podcast because there are some people that simply don’t care like me but you know that it’s not important to me what the social perception or my acceptance in different communities is so because I eat what I eat and for other people it makes a lot of difference so that definitely is a variable but there are also I feel like the challenges of a gluten free diet are sometimes hyped up beyond what they should be like removing one food shouldn’t be such a big deal in our society and yet it is so what are what are the nice things about a gluten-free diet or the other way to ask this question would be that what are the things that you think are overblown in in popular perception?
I mean you know all the gluten-free processed food on the market for sure. You know I excuse me um, you know foods now that are labeled organic, you got to look beyond the label because there’s so much junk I mean all of the processed foods by saying you don’t need to go to that section of the market in order to be gluten-free. You don’t need to go by that gluten-free pancake mix with rice starch and fat don’t do that.
I’d say I think Don’t you know don’t do all of my mistakes. I started wanting to trying to be A lot and go for the cookies and you know and the gluten free cookies and cakes I think I spent that first year of joines diagnosis learning from all the amazing therapists who were in our life and baking trying to come up with all of these baked goods and I was never much of a baker before but all of a sudden there I was with with different gluten free ingredients and Julian was never never interested and I remember at the time he was at a therapeutic nursery school and I’d often bring in all of my rejected dishes for everybody else to enjoy but I think that is not a good starting starting point.
The great starting point is it with a bowl of chicken soup or if you’re I and I do believe in the healing powers of some meat protein but you know are a part of vegetable soup I you know start there with the nutrient-rich dishes that’s where the real foods and start with Whole Foods and start with foods that don’t you don’t have to engineer into being gluten free?
Yes, yeah so start with the garden I see my kids get so excited about that going out and picking a cucumber and then the instant gratification of eating it with a little bit of sea salt. That’s you know, that’s where you know that I think is a great starting point or going to the farmers market and of course even at the farmers market there’s a lot I mean, at least last time I went to the farmers market there’s a lot of things you can buy there that are that are processed, so yeah, like on the label.
Absolutely. I think you brought a really good point and also in popular perception I think gluten is where tofu used to be 10 years ago I remember these ads about tofu you know tofurkey and tofu burgers and tofu being considered this such, you know, such a bland, horrible food and yet today once we’re actually integrating real East Asian cooking that actually uses tofu, it can be the most phenomenal for just not understanding the, the cuisine or the cooking because there’s so many there are many cuisines in the world that are predominantly gluten free. So I find that one of the things that is overblown, in the gluten-free world is this idea that this huge deprivation and I have never experienced it myself. Yes, there’s temptation, there’s a lot of food, but 10 resisting temptation, or going into an anti-inflammatory diet does not equal deprivation to me. So it just it’s this idea of over torturing our kids, which is just completely nonsense to me.
Agreed agreed. And I think it’s great if you do have the opportunity to go out and eat in a Japanese restaurant or an Indian restaurant and see all of the out Indian restaurant or South Indian restaurant thing. North Indian foods diet, which is what you predominantly get tends to be very, it doesn’t have to be but it it ends up being heavy in the wheat a little bit. So yeah, interesting. Yeah, I think that’s that could be a great starting point. And with that said, to realize that the way tofu is used, and the Japanese cuisine is just a little bit and never processed to the point of a tofu burger. So yeah, that is, you know, a uniquely American creation and yeah, not something I’m gonna promote. So there’s, you know, also fermented soy, all soy is not created equal. Yeah, there’s a big dip.
I think it’s a great I mean, and you have so much experience probably with Japanese food as well. I think it just like looking into traditional cuisines that have lived a certain way. Is it a is much more superior way of, of living an anti-inflammatory diet, then trying to reverse engineer pancakes and waffles. Yes. As we come to the end of this podcast, is there one parting advice that you’d like to give moms and dads, or just deep breaths, deep breaths and just keeping perspective, we want our kids out socializing. I know, I want mine out socializing, I want to socialize. And so trying to figure out how to make those opportunities happen. I think it’s so important post pandemic for ourselves and our kids, and realizing that people really do want to help.
I think, by and large, I actually when I wrote this column, navigating the potluck on a special diet, I later saw my friend who’s organizing this potluck, and she had read the article and her response was I felt so badly. And I said, Why? And she said, you know, because I didn’t tell people that it should be a gluten free and I said, No, no, you know, why? And you know, it’s just, it’s I appreciate I appreciate the invitation.
I appreciated the time that goes into planning these events. And, you know, as a result of our conversation, she went back and said, you know, if everybody could just label the ingredients, so I do think there’s so much awareness and when we’re upfront with people And tell people what our needs his needs are, chances are that people are going to want to help.
Yes. And there is I think to add to that, I would say don’t be apologetic about your needs. I mean, living an anti inflammatory diet should be like, do it with pride, you know, open chest, this, this is how I live. People don’t have to make our dishes for us. And we don’t have to be offended if people bring gluten in, that’s a different thing. We’re fine. You do what you do, I do what I do, but I think to doing it with pride as because this, this is your life. This is how you’ve chosen to live it. There’s no need to reach come to every potluck, feeling apologetic about your choices.
Yeah, I think On the contrary, we see that people actually their response also was, I think that’s great, and some excitement and I want some of that too. Because if you’re there you’re full of energy and excited and regulated and, and calm and focused and so many things that you might not have been without. Yeah, Thank you for being here, Lauren. I know you do such, you know, such a fantastic job with, with just with, with navigating this diet. I’ve heard so many stories from you on other occasions in which we’ve met, so thank you for sharing some of those. And we’ll be linking to Lauren’s blog in the show notes.
So make sure to follow her blog because she shares a lot about her journey both, you know, both as a mom and also as as somebody who was constantly working and reworking these diets. And now friend, if you want to know more about how sugar can be part of a diet in a child with low attention, make sure you register for my upcoming free workshop at functionalnutritionforkids.com/workshop. See you soon