By Martha Herbert, Ph.D., M.D.

Pediatric Neurologist and Neuroscientist, Massachusetts General Hospital
Author, The Autism Revolution: Whole Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can

Our understanding of how people get and stay sick is undergoing a revolution. Even the very idea of what "being sick" means is profoundly changing. In fact, the whole idea that our illnesses are our genetic destiny is crumbling. Decades of genetic research have not found the root causes or led to treatments for any of the major, common chronic diseases. This research has only found the causes for rare conditions like Huntington's disease and various genetic and metabolic syndromes that affect small numbers of people. Even for those rare conditions, the way we live our lives - what we eat, what we are exposed to, how much we get stressed-can affect both how much we suffer and how well we function.

We're learning that sickness is not the inevitable, unchangeable playing out of some inborn program. Instead, sickness is the manifestation of our inner systems not working right. Some nasty things are interfering with good function, while other helpful things are in short supply and can't do repair work. The increasing number of children with autism reflects this.

We need to change things around to have less interference and more support in order for our inner systems to work better, so that all the squeaks and groans for autism and ADHD-difficult behaviors, attention problems, sleep problems, allergies and more -will die down, so we can have more functional and happier children. The trick is, how do we reorganize our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, and particularly those who depend on us, to get the best shot at being all we can be?

In the past few years, the gut - the belly - has rapidly risen from obscurity to front and center in our understanding of health issues in body and brain. Far from simply being a pipe through which our foods pass and nutrients are absorbed, our gastrointestinal tracts are hugely complex ecosystems, with literally trillions of tiny organisms (okay let's just call them "bugs") from thousands of species that are all interacting with each other as a complicated team. It's called the gut microbiome.

If that team has all the right members, it will work for you. If the team is missing important players, or if opportunists (bad bugs) with different agendas get in, all bets are off and you are at risk for problems - even big problems. Many find it hard to believe that something as basic and everyday as what food you ingest - can make a real difference. Diet seems, well, trivial.

Well, think again.

It turns out that the bad bug opportunists in your gut love the processed foods loaded up with carbohydrates and sugars that are so easy to consume. In many of us, our delicate gut microbiome has probably already been compromised from a variety of exposures, such as oral anitbiotics. When the bad bugs get all pumped up, they hit and crowd out the good bugs in your microbiome-the ones that want to help you. Science is starting to show that some gut flora bounces back after taking hits-but others don't-and can just plain disappear.

But, before I get you more depressed, let me get back to the good news. Firstly, diet does matter - and you have more power than you ever knew to improve your diet. Secondly, diet can fix a huge amount of this damage. Thirdly, the particular diet advocated in this book, the Specific Carbohydrate Dietâ„¢ - Dairy Free (SCD-DF), is targeted precisely at repairing the kinds of damage I've been telling you about. Finally, this wonderful book does an amazing job of explaining the SCD-DF - not only what this diet is, but all the little and big speed bumps you may hit, and how to solve these problems and succeed.

This book is written by two people who know what it means to learn to use this diet. They know it from personal experience and experience with their loved ones. They know it from walking many people through the process.

So, read this book. Do what it takes to make this diet work. Do it for real, do it seriously. Then watch the changes-sometimes they are dramatic; often they are subtle and build. Sometimes, after a few months, things seem to get worse (almost like the body's system is doing a reset) and then they get even better than before. Have compassion for the struggling gut microbiome of your child with autism or ADHD.

Read it, do it, stick with it. It's important for your child, and for you. Join the growing number of people who are getting their lives back to what really matters.