By Bruce Fife, N.D., Vol. 21, No. 5.
Homer Rosales is an honor student, sings in the church choir, and speaks two languages fluently. Last year he won the “Most Behaved” award at his elementary school. In all respects Homer is a model student and a delight to his parents. He wasn’t always this way, however. A few years ago he was a terror, hyperactive, uncontrollable, and noncommunicative. You see, Homer was autistic.
Homer was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder one week before his fourth birthday. “My primary concern at that time was his speech delay,” says his mother, Rosemarie. “Imagine, he was almost four years old, but I had yet to hear him call me Mama—the sweetest word a mother hears from her child.”
His hyperactivity was a constant annoyance to his parents, other children, and the neighbors. He was so hyperactive that as soon as he stepped out of the house, he would run off and get lost. He would wander into neighbors’ homes unnoticed and destroy things. The owners would open the door and be shocked to find him all alone in their homes.
Homer had no fear of danger. He never indicated if or when he was hungry. He never played with other kids and often harmed them by throwing stones at them or hitting them. “He was so destructive in church, restaurants, and stores that we rarely took him to public places,” says Rosemarie. “Oh my, what kind of a child I had!”
Despite behavioral therapy, Homer showed little progress. Rosemarie learned that some autistic children show improvement when put on a gluten-free and casein-free (GFCG) diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains.1 Casein is a protein found in dairy products. She also learned that autistic children often have gastrointestinal problems characterized by abnormal microbial populations. Candida often flourishes, damaging the intestinal wall, leading to leaky gut syndrome. Nystatin, an antifungal drug used to fight candida, is often given to autistic children to control the candida.
At the age of six, Homer began his new diet and antifungual therapy. “We eliminated all foods containing gluten and casein,” says Rosemarie. “Many of my son’s favorite foods such as spaghetti, oatmeal, and milk were now off limits. Nystatin was given to him to control candida and aid in building a healthy digestive tract.
After following this program for about 10 months, Homer was showing some improvement. His behavior improved, he became more manageable, he began to socialize with other kids, and he could read and write a little and talk a little. He was far from cured, but things were beginning to look up.
“To our dismay,” says Rosemarie, “we got another blow when Homer came down with pneumonia. He was confined at the hospital and advised to rest. He was absent from his therapy for a full month. During his stay at the hospital, the nurses and doctors had a hard time putting in his IV. He was very strong. It literally took hours to attach the IV. When he felt the pain, instead of calling ‘Mama,’ he shouted, ‘Help, Barney! Mickey Mouse, help! Superman, Batman!’ He wouldn’t take his medicines orally because he didn’t like the taste. It was a struggle for me at the hospital taking care of him. He got his medicines, mostly antibiotics, through his IV.”
When Homer finally went back to his school, the staff was disappointed and frustrated with his behavior. “He was back to zero,” Rosemarie says. “His autism was so prevalent again! He was very hyperactive again. We had to start all over…I was so depressed with this development, I don’t remember how many times I cried. But still, I didn’t lose hope. I prayed.”
Rosemarie’s prayers were answered and the answer came from an unlikely source—virgin coconut oil. “I had heard how coconut oil could be used to strengthen the immune system, prevent illness, and improve health,” she says. “I began to take it daily by the spoonful as a dietary supplement. I observed that my overall health improved, including my asthma. I thought perhaps it could help Homer by building up his immune system.” She began to give it to him every day and sometimes three times a day. “After two months, I noticed a dramatic improvement in his behavior and especially in his speech.”
By the time Homer was seven years old his echolalia (unconscious habit of repeating words or phrases spoken by others) and his ritualistic behaviors were gone. He was beginning to read well and write clearly. He could tell stories and express his feelings and ideas, and was developing friendships with other children. His behavior improved dramatically. He would ask permission before going into the neighbors’ houses and could find his way back home. He improved more in two months taking coconut oil than he had in ten months with his special diet.
Homer’s progress was so astounding that the following school year he was enrolled in regular classes at a private school. In the five years since Homer was integrated into regular classes at school, he has shown remarkable progress. In that time he has become a model student with many friends. He no longer eats a special diet, but still consumes coconut oil. His mother uses it in all her cooking. “I tell people that Homer was once autistic, but they don’t believe me,” says Rosemarie. “What a miracle!”
Why does coconut oil have these beneficial effects? There are several reasons. Unlike other dietary oils, coconut oil is composed predominately of a special group of fats known as medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These fatty acids possess potent antimicrobial properties capable of killing harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi/yeasts. MCFAs kill candida and other microorganisms that can disrupt normal microbial populations in the intestines and cause digestive problems—a common symptom among autistic children. While MCFAs are potent germ fighters, they are harmless to friendly gut bacteria, which are necessary for good digestive health. Therefore, MCFAs rebalance and normalize the microbial populations in the digestive tract bringing about better digestive function.
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