81 Experiencing Food Reactions with Sofi Ghassaei (Autistic Voices)

81 Experiencing Food Reactions with Sofi Ghassaei (Autistic Voices)

Synsthete and Writer Sofi Ghassaei is a minimally speaking Autistic teen with a very fierce voice.

In this podcast, Sofi shares her world view, her experience with food, reactions, sensitivities, friendship and joy.

She ends with “We are here to make you learn and find love, so pay attention.”

Please do pay attention to this SHORT but RICH podcast – heavy with experience, rich with meaning, and loaded with wisdom for you!



Audio Transcription: 

Hi and welcome to the 81st episode of functional nutrition and learning for kids. It is my honor to interview Sophie Ghassaei. Today, Sophie, as I mentioned soon is minimally speaking and use a spelling to communicate. It’s been really interesting to talk with Sophie because Sophie has been on a restricted diet for a while, due to allergies and histamine sensitivity issues. Now, in the functional medicine community this insight, that is water minimally speaking, and non speaking, Autistics really think about dietary restriction. This insight is rare. What do they think about the different models described by society whether that be a medical model of autism, social model, and so on? This insight is really only obtained when you speak to people with disability.

Now, we live in a world where many kids and adults with disability who were previously thought to be incapable of communication or thought to be cognitively delayed, have started expressing the beautifully complex intervals through spelling and other alternative means of communication. They really want to encourage more practitioners parents to check out alternative communication methods and also to speak to autistic speak to people with Down syndrome speak to people with disability when you can onto surfing.

I’m really excited to be interviewing Sophie today’s Sophie CASA is a minimally speaking young woman in Washington state who loves crushing her goals. Her favorite cuisines are Persian and Thai. And her comfort foods or lamb still with rice and blueberries not mixed. Obviously. She says one food she would never try is meat from a bear. Today’s Sophie voice is going to be her sister Alia. Welcome Alia as well, can Sophie Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Sophie really nice to be here today. I’m 18 and love reading music, writing poetry and writing my tandem bike like Ethan and said I use a letter board to communicate. My five year speller bursary is coming up in November. My mom was my primary CRP, but my sister Leah is my voice today because she understands food issues. Wonderful to talking about food what role does diet or food play in your life? I have a love hate relationship with food. I love to try new foods. Most of my friends mine textures, tastes and smells which makes them picky guys regarding food. I like most textures. I have no problem trying new flavors or ethnic food.

I have had issues with allergies since I was very young. Mine are wheat milk and nuts. I’m sad about my new mango allergy. I really miss mango but it gives me a painful burn on my face and inside my mouth. Microsoft was toxic. My allergies keep me from enjoying food like I would wish meals made by mom and dad or home cooked love meals outside are dicey chances and sometimes I lose. I haven’t eaten milk or wheat for 17 years. So gastrous symptoms are long out of my notice. I don’t perceive major effects after having sugar. I know that it’s not all that healthy and I don’t eat that much junk or candy.

Some do well with meat. Others thrive on lots of fish. under ideal circumstances, all people learn which are the foods that suit them and have access to those healthy foods. Socially, I only have concerns with allergies, not if my diet is cool. I can’t imagine happiness with friends who would make a big deal about my food. Dating someone also on a special diet make some things easier, but it’s not a good reason to fall in love. Having values in common seems more important than the kinds of snacks you like. I love that. I love that. Thank you, Sophie. And since you’re talking about I liked what you said about mango I’m also sad because I love mangoes too. And I’m sorry that you have a mango allergy. So this might be a really good time to talk about histamine. I know you’ve spoken about pots before which is a new term for most of our listeners. So can you tell us about your experience with histamine and pots?

It took me years to get a diagnosis of pots, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. I can’t quite explain pots. It really makes one dizzy when standing. It happens more to women. So doctors say it’s all on their heads. I can speak and spell. However, I couldn’t do either one very well back then. The doctors were dismissive because I didn’t have the ability to say my symptoms and feelings. We had so many doctors. I also have history and problems. It started when I was 13. I would fall asleep and feel faint after most meals. Really I lost the ability to move but I could still hear everything around me. I happily make an effort spelling now, but it was tricky to learn when I always felt awful. Elizabeth understood that I couldn’t spell being passed out on the table. I’m glad that doesn’t happen now.

I craved high histamine foods like a drug. Even though I felt bad after tomatoes, strawberries, shrimp, fish, pickles, chocolate bacon, our chai, till CTU really helps mitigate most histamine. When enough low histamine stuff has lowered the bucket that month. Vice can tell about lowering the histamine bucket. I will do that I will definitely mention more about histamine packet later. Besides making me pass out histamine gives me headaches and makes my heart race leading to anxiety. That makes me very dysregulated and also craving more vicious cycle. Anxiety affects me every day. I feel like my body doesn’t really settle.

Food always plays a part but it’s never the only factor. Realizing my future will not be easy also makes me anxious. Not sure if low histamine diet or salt helps my anxiety in pots most or both together. Pink Himalayan salt rocks. I even gave it to someone for his birthday. But I don’t know if you realize that looking at is like heaven. Thank you for sharing about your health journey. I have a question for you. How has your health journey parallel your communication journey. They’re both fraught with extreme problems and missteps. But we never lose hope and never give up. I love that. And I really want to learn more about your journey. So my next question will be what is your biggest learning in your journey so far?

My motto is try till you die. It’s never too late to learn. I love that also. Now, when we talk about autism or related motor, other motor conditions, whether that be Down syndrome or society, we’re always trying to figure out especially for autism, whether to describe it with a medical model, or a social model. How would you like this to happen? Some might not like this, but I think it’s mostly medical, at least for me. I remember my life before I got sick. I also acquired skills then as my body failed me. Last skill stayed in my mind only. I still deserve a community respect, education and love. You absolutely do. What is your message to functional medicine practitioners or other medical practitioners?

Please treat all of us respectfully. Listen to others if the patient is not speaking. They’re not giving up on their children. Absolutely. And how about a message now I want to hear all your messages. What is your message to families of autistic kids? Start spelling when they’re young, even if they have some spoken language. And remember to laugh every day. Finally, Sophie, thank you for taking all of this time to share your medical journey in so much detail. Like a lot of it was very illuminating for me. What is your message to the world. We are here to make you learn and find love. So pay attention.

I’m sure everybody’s paying keen attention to you. Thank you again, for everything you’ve said and chaired. By Sophie, I’m sure it’s as illuminating to you as it is to me to talk to an autistic person. I checked with Sophie and she identifies as a synesthete. And a writer. Sophie is asked if I could expand on the idea of histamine packet. Now, unlike food allergies, where intake of a certain food can cause immediate immune reactions

Sometimes severe reactions or even food sensitivities. Were a minor exposure, for example, to say gluten can cause delayed but severe reactions like headaches, dysregulation, neurological issues, and so on. So unlike these two cases, histamine builds up when your body’s unable to process it for any reason. So we’re not looking at an immediate allergic reaction or even a delayed sensitivity reaction. In that sense, we’re looking at something that we might call a bucket. Now this buildup of histamine can come from the food that you eat.

If it’s high in histamine, it can come from lack of histamine breakdown in your body due to various reasons, from immune response to food allergens, or environmental allergens that produce histamine and even from microbial activity in your gut. Now, think of this histamine as filling a bucket and your many detoxification reactions break down reactions within your body as emptying that bucket.

Often managing histamine sensitivity for people is simply managing the bucket. In other words, making sure that it doesn’t fill faster than it empties. And the thought I have been thinking about this was that if you’ve done related rates and calculus, based if you’re doing a P fit kid is doing AP, this could be AP Calc A, B, or just calc one, you’ve done problems like this rate of filling rate of emptying, what is the net rate? And so on, right? Anyway, coming back, when the bucket overflows, when this bucket overflows is when symptoms like rashes behaviors headaches, flushing difficulty breathing anxiety, you know, really severe reactions in some people, these can show up.

In this podcast Sophie is talking about managing this pocket. A lot of people know that gut health is really important to various things downstream. And this includes immune reactions and therefore, can manage symptoms of histamine sensitivities to mean overload. But most people aren’t very clear what gut health means. For a lot of people. This means taking a probiotic once in a while. And if that is confusing to you, as well, what is gut health? How do you deal with it? Check out my free ebook describing in detail what gut health is and how to treat it at functional nutrition for kids.com/gut health. Again, that’s www dot functional nutrition for kids.com/gut health. Such a pleasure this podcast. Until next time, bye.

A 3-step plan to optimize your Child’s health

A 3-step plan to optimize your Child’s health

This is how you can support symptoms of Autism, Focus issues, Hyperactivity or Behavior.

If you are reading this, you are likely a parent or a practitioner working in deep muddy waters to heal and support your child’s autism related symptoms, cure her eczema, heal his digestive issues, address her aggression, or modulate his hyperactivity.

Regardless of your journey, perhaps you are frustrated with different approaches, diametrically opposite schools of thought, and simply of the relentless work it seems to take to achieve just normal health.

I have something to say to you, something that is a learning that I have assimilated over years.

Healing is multi-modal and takes approaching from many directions.

Healing is NOT linear. We don’t go step by step to a path to health.

We converge upon it from many directions, and find our equilibrium.

This process of Healing that leads to Optimal Performance is in my mental model, a pyramid (I am wondering if it should be a cone since I said circular, but we will address geometry later).

The 3 layers of this pyramid are:

  1. Functional Health [Nutrition and optimal System Function]
  2. Movement
  3. Respect
3-Step Pyramid for Optimal Health


  1. Functional Health means that you have organ systems functioning optimally and in cohesion. It means that your immune system is not attacking itself (most childhood epidemics including eczema [1], autism related neurological symptoms [2], allergies are either autoimmune in nature or include immune dysfunction).
  2. Functional Health is dependent on a fully competent digestive system. This means that:
    • Your child can digest and fully breakdown everything they eat
    • They can absorb these nutrients
    • They can metabolize these nutrients for different processes including energy generation.
  3. This means that you have corrected nutrient deficiencies. For example, a lack in the group of B-Vitamins can cause your neurotransmitters to be off-balance, liver detox pathways to be sluggish, fatigue, lack of focus, impaired fat and carbohydrate metabolism and your sleep to be disrupted!
  4. It means a diverse but balanced microbiome, which is one of the most complex challenges in helping an Autistic child. [3]
  5. It means mitochondria (energy producing organelles) that are not in emergency mode or fatigued. [4]
  6. It means both a brain and a gut without inflammation. [5]


Movement based interventions such as Feldenkrais, Anat Baniel Method, Reflex Integration, Rhythmic Movement and Yoga all use small or large precise movements to effect changes in neural pathways.

There is anecdotal and published information that these small changes can result in children developing skills from depth perception to vision, from a more regulated behavior to a better coordination between brain and body. [6]

Movement therapies are unique in that they have a direct line to the brain in forming different ways of moving and thinking. Nutrition/biomedical interventions help heal the gut, reduce inflammation, balance hormones and neurotransmitters, thus reducing neuroinflammation and helping focus/anxiety/seizures/allergies etc.

What Movement does is provide rich information to the healing brain.

To heal without providing new information to affect change is often not enough.





All the nutrition and movement in the world is useless if the child isn’t treated with respect.

What is Respect?

  • Acknowledging that behavior is most often communication
  • Equal opportunities of education
  • Enabling the child to have a complete communication system
  • Remembering that Not Speaking is NOT the same as Not Thinking!
  • ASSUMING COMPETENCE regardless of external manifestation.

This is often not an intuitive context, and for those who would like a little nudge, I would refer you to my TEDx talk. [7]

For the non-speaking Autistic child (or a child with other disabilities), some techniques that I have found to be both respectful and deeply impactful are RPM, S2C and some AAC. Remember that a child’s access to alternative communication often depends on 3 factors (at least):

  1. Vision
  2. Motor Skills
  3. Regulation of the Body

If your child is deficient in any of the above 3, do not let any practitioner tell you that your child is not ready for AAC. It may be that AAC is not ready for your child.

If your child has impaired motor skills, it is the role of the AAC device to be able to be adapted to your child, not the other way around.

That is the equilateral triangle for children. This is the triangular (3-faced) pyramid. The 3-step model for Optimal Health.

Do remember that Optimal does not mean Neurotypical.

  • Functional Health without Movement is a beautiful classroom without a teacher.
  • Movement without Assuming Competence and Respect is inhumane.
  • Respect without Nutritional intervention (Functional Health) is setting the child up for failure. An inflamed brain or body is often not in the optimal state to receive and implement.


  1. The Multimodal Immune Pathogenesis of Atopic Eczema: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1471490615002513
  2. The Role of Immune Dysfunction in the pathophysiology of Autism: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159111004922
  3. Autism and the Microbiome
  4. https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2018-09-07-chronic-diseases-driven-by-metabolic-dysfunction.aspx
  5. Inflammation in Children
  6. The Autism Revolution by Martha Herbert
  7. TEDx talk
Anxiety in children: A Functional Nutrition Approach

Anxiety in children: A Functional Nutrition Approach

We live in a world where an anxious mind is no longer an outlier. It is not that weird anymore to say “My child is anxious” or even “I suffer from anxiety”. It is expected or understood at least.

There are, of course needless to say, NUMEROUS benefits to acceptance and non-judgement, and it would really be my DREAM to see a society free from prejudice without narrow restrictions of behavioral parameters.

But sometimes, acceptance can result in a lack of inquiry. In fact, passive acceptance is the very antithesis of a scientific mind. The value of asking a question is beyond words! It is the very gateway to understanding your child’s body. This is what Functional Medicine does.

Why is my child anxious (or aggressive)?

If you asked this question, with wonder, without blame, then Welcome to the world of Functional Medicine.

While we aren’t doing the whole Scientific Inquiry process here, mostly because it has already been done for you, Let us look at the 5-basic checkpoints.

  1. What does she eat? This can be your clue to understanding and examining the following:
    • Allergies
    • Sensitivities (different from Allergies)
    • Chemical Intolerances
    • Picky Eating
  2. Is he deficient in Vitamins/Minerals/Omega-3s, also known as micronutrients?
  3. Is he getting enough GOOD FAT in his diet?
    • Good Fat looks like Virgin Coconut Oil, Ghee, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Cold Pressed Nut/Seed Oils, etc.
    • Bad fat (to be entirely avoided) is any refined vegetable or nut/seed oil (Canola, Corn Oil, “Vegetable” Oil, etc.)
  4. How is her immune function?
    • Consider Autoimmunity
    • Consider low Immunity
    • Consider Inflammation.
  5. Finally, how is his Microbiome?
    • Different tests including Stool and Urine OAT can tell you some information about the presence of pathogenic (bad) organisms in your child’s gut.
    • They can also tell you about the diversity of good beneficial bacteria in the same gut.

We know that all issues relating to brain or mental health (including aggression and anxiety) tie back to inflammation, which is an immune dysfunction.

And while diet-based interventions can be complex, they should always start with the questions listed here. You do want to visit a functional nutrition practitioner, but these questions will give you a framework of where to start.

Superfood challenge for anxiety (Lions Mane)

Have you heard of medicinal mushrooms? There are now numerous studies that talk about the benefit of mushrooms, particularly my favorite, Lions Mane, with respect to Anxiety and Depression, for example, this one.

It is even known to help with Nerve Regeneration and with Amyloid Plaque. My son has Down Syndrome, and has high risk of developing Alzheimer’s with age. Lions Mane is my go to on a very regular basis.

We drink it straight up in 6 oz of water. Try it and let me know.

Quick Fixes

When you need something to work in the next 10 minutes, and getting to the root cause of anxiety isn’t high on your list, here are my favorite go-tos:

  1. Rescue Remedy : A flower essence
  2. Herb Pharm’s Relaxing Sleep : A western herbal tincture

Part 2 of Anxiety in Children is coming up this month: More detail and other ways to handle anxiety.

Magical Hot Cocoa Recipe (2 versions)

Magical Hot Cocoa Recipe (2 versions)

With a lot of iterations and failures and eventual success (with my kids as judges of course), I present to you two recipes to easily ramp up the anti-inflammatory quotient in your child.

In my previous blog, we talked about chronic inflammation being the root cause of widespread disease and dysfunction in our children, including conditions like ADHD, Eczema, and Asthma. IF you haven’t read that, do take a quick detour here.

Among the simplest interventions I have tried, in my quest to amp down inflammation is a superfood-filled night time drink. It is tasty, kids love it, and I usually dose just 2 superfoods at a time.

Recipe 1: Skin and Gut friendly Hot Cocoa

This recipe is great for healing your child’s skin and gut. It uses cacao (which is the raw unprocessed form of cocoa, and very rich in antioxidants). Cacao, a rich source of tryptophan is also great to help your child’s anxiety and sleep.

The other two superfoods are 1) Rice Tocotrienols, a great natural food source of vitamins, minerals and the skin-healing Vitamin E; and 2) Marine Collagen Protein: an excellent source of amino acids that help heal the gut lining (and skin lining).

Marine Collagen is an animal food, sourced from fish, but tasteless and odorless. Feel free to drop it if you are strictly vegetarian.


  • 1 cup almond or macadamia milk
  • (Note: I soak 5 -6 almonds the previous night of morning and make my own almond milk with 1 cup of water)
  • 1 date
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder, now available in Costco!
  • 1/2 tbsp rice bran tocotrienols
  • 1/2 tbsp Marine Collagen
  • Challenge: Try introducing 1″ Cinnamon / 1″ piece off Star Anise
  • Pinch Sea Salt

Heat the Almond Milk to your desired temperature. Blend in a high-speed blender preferably, but really any blender will be fine (you may need to soak the dates with a weaker blender).

Recipe 2: Calming and Anxiety Reducing Hot Cocoa

We continue to use anxiety-lowering and kid-favorite raw cacao here. But the super foods are different: Maca, an ancient Peruvian superfood used for energy and stamina (both mental and physical), and Ashwagandha, a similar adaptogen, used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic Tradition.


  • 1 cup almond or macadamia milk
  • (Note: I soak 5 -6 almonds the previous night of morning and make my own almond milk with 1 cup of water)
  • 1-2 tsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp Maca Powder
  • 1 Capsule Ashwagandha, opened up

Heat the Almond Milk to your desired temperature. Blend and serve.

Alright! Good luck in your cocoa, sorry cacao travels! Did your kids like it? Let me know.

Inflammation in children: 4 power tactics to calm and heal!

Inflammation in children: 4 power tactics to calm and heal!

What is Inflammation and why is it important for your child?

You have heard about it, everybody is talking of it, it is almost a catch-all, one of those words that enters the mind and dissolves into meaningless fluff. Years ago, I caught myself wondering if people that said “inflammation” actually were hiding behind this word to say that they didn’t really know.

Well, this blog is to tell you that Inflammation is now considered the root cause of ALL CHRONIC ILLNESS: by this, we mean – from Eczema to Crohn’s to Asthma to your child’s volatile behavior.

What does this word bring your your mind? If you said swelling or redness or pain, you would be absolutely right! Pain, swelling, redness and heat are the classical definition of inflammation (in Latin, they are called Dolor, Tumor, Rubor and Calor).

Now, Inflammation, for all its bad press is a completely natural and essential process. It is the result of your body trying to repair some real or perceived attack or damage. It is how your body fights off bacteria and viruses, which are real insults to your body.

Almost ALL chronic inflammation 
is thought to begin in the gut.

But when the insult isn’t real, and when your immune system is confused, inflammation becomes chronic or unending, and that’s when you experience arthritis, or eczema, or autoimmune issues, or behavioral symptoms like aggression, or brain fog etc.

If you consider the number of children around us who have Type 1 
diabetes, or Allergies or Eczema or Asthma, it becomes clear that an 
overwhelming majority of kids are chronically inflamed!

What low-effort/high-impact steps can you take to reduce inflammation in your child?

A beautiful golden anti-inflammatory cup of turmeric “milk”
  1. Turmeric: You know it, everyone knows it. Get into the habit of daily dosing. Try 1/2 tsp with black pepper and ginger in non-dairy milk like almond or macadamia or coconut. Add raw honey to taste. .
  2. Fish Oil: Our next anti-inflammatory comes naturally in fish, of course, but supplements can give you a therepeutic dose when dealing with a disorder. Therepeutic doses are at least 1000 mg per day and often higher.
  3. Probiotics: If you are still new to the world of ferments and probiotics, I would strongly recommend you check out my earlier blog first. Start what I call the Kimchi Project (get your child to enjoy Kimchi). Dose consistently, daily, and vary the foods that you ferment.
  4. Avoid or minimize the top 3 inflammatory foods: Sugar, Wheat and Dairy.

Note: This is a maintenance regimen (but a powerful one).
It is entirely possible that you need more intensive support, or one of these ingredients don’t work for you. In that case, be sure to work with your functional medicine practitioner.

If you suspect that Inflammation is at the root of your child’s discomfort, do 
drop a note to let us know what you have tried, and what has helped.

Dairy-free (Vegan) Chai Recipe

Dairy-free (Vegan) Chai Recipe

Vegan Chai (with Nut milk)

I have scoured the world of vegan “milks” to try and make a chai that I could tolerate. I didn’t even dare hope for a chai that I would LOVE! There are two “milks” that have brought me hope again: Macadamia nut milk and Almond Milk (but only from Thrive Market, and only the Thrive Market brand, likely because it doesn’t have fillers or gums or added vitamins).

  • ½ tsp grated ginger
  • ½ of a cardamom (crushed in a mortar and pestle or anywhere)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup macadamia nut milk (Thrive Market Almond Milk works in this too)
  • Organic CTC Assam tea (I always use Organic CTC tea)
    • -Don’t use whole leaf tea, that is not for chai.
    • -Tea is one of the plants that is cultivated with tons of pesticides, so organic is a good idea.


Boil the water with the ginger and cardamom.

Add 1.5 tsp of the CTC Assam tea and lower to a simmer for 2-3 minutes.

*Real Chai drinkers don’t add cinnamon. Cloves: mayyyy be, not cinnamon. Don’t get me wrong, I love cinnamon, it is pretty close to a super spice! But just not in chai.*