Meat Heals Autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and despite the condition being recognised for about a century it is still clouded in mystery. The exact cause is unknown and researchers are only beginning to understand what makes an autistic brain unique. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 19, though it was strongly suspected for years before that. As an adult I have been an advocate for neurodiversity, this has included volunteering for the Human Libraries project, participating in diversity panels at conventions, and hosting a podcast called St.Elsewhere. I never believed in a cure and I didn’t see a need for one, we should accept people for their differences and limitations. Who would I even be without autism? I wouldn’t be the same person would I?

As I write this I have been on a strict carnivore diet for roughly eight months, and to say it has changed my life would be an understatement. For those new to my blog, I began this journey into nutrition when I got ME/CFS back in November 2017.  I used to be very active and my diet was your basic bodybuilding diet, lots of protein and carbs, not a lot of fat, very bland. It was broccoli and rice and chicken every day. I have no idea how I lived like that. I was always eating and always hungry. When I got sick I quickly realised this way of eating was doing me no favours, surely there was a way to preserve muscle and burn fat despite not exercising. That’s when I discovered keto. It blew my mind, fat doesn’t make you fat? Carbs cause most chronic illnesses? It took me awhile to undo the brainwashing of mainstream dietary advice, but the results spoke for themselves. I ate less, I lost fat and I remained surprisingly strong for someone who spent 80% of their day in bed.

Despite my chronic illness, all seemed to be going well in terms of diet, until about a year later when I stopped being able to digest food almost entirely. Food would pass right through me, I was constantly dealing with cramps, bloating, reflux, and nausea. I felt like I was dying. I consulted my doctors and they didn’t seem that concerned, I’d already had every test under the sun and they all came out clear. They just prescribed me more and more medications to deal with the symptoms. Why could they not see something was seriously wrong? I’ve written about this aspect of my journey in more detail here. Long story short, I found the carnivore diet, and at first it seemed absolutely insane, once more I faced having my understanding of nutrition completely contradicted. We need plants, and we need fibre, right? But I wasn’t in any position to argue, at that point I was so debilitated I needed a wheelchair, I was in constant pain, I was barely conscious most days. I had nothing left to lose so I jumped right into carnivore. I immediately felt better, my digestion was the best it’s ever been and within a few weeks I was going out doing my own grocery shopping on my own two legs.

I  have always suffered from mild IBS, I was told I simply had a sensitive stomach which is common with autism and that’s all there was to it. Once more, my doctors were completely wrong. I had heard for years that autistic people should avoid gluten, I had seen headlines proclaiming “I cured my child’s autism with diet”. I ignored it all, there is no cure and I don’t need one.

ME is considered a neuroimmune disorder, basically an autoimmune disease, which explains why I suddenly became intolerant to all food except for meat and dairy. I only ever expected the carnivore diet to help with my digestion, I didn’t expect that it would also improved my fatigue, cognitive function, sleep, skin and hair. It was fixing problems I didn’t even know I had. But I was slow to realise my autistic symptoms were going away too. You see, for most of my life I have had to mask my autism, I have consciously learned to act normal. Despite the act, underneath I always struggled to make eye contact or physical contact, and I had a lot of sensory issues. But recently I found at social gatherings I was extroverted, I really wanted to connect with people, I wasn’t bothered by noise, the conversation flowed naturally, I didn’t get stuck on one topic obsessively. But with ME, I am housebound I don’t get out in the world much, and I am still sensitive to light and sound and touch, but it’s not the same as autistic sensory overload. It doesn’t cause anxiety, just physical pain. I didn’t immediately notice a change because I was isolated. But it hit me at one particular gathering that I wasn’t autistic any more, I wasn’t wearing a mask, this was my real face, so to speak.

So what happened? Well we have to go back to where it all began. I was once a very outgoing, active, funny, social kid. I have clear memories of my 11th birthday, it was a pool party/sleep over, most of my class was there, I was very popular. There were only a couple of kids I clashed with. The next morning I remember waking up and feeling a bit weird. Mum made me some pancakes which I ate, but moments later I brought it back up again. I was trapped in the toilet for a good long while. I remember spending the rest of the day in bed, and later my friends came in one by one to say goodbye as their parents picked them up.  It just seemed like I had gastro, but despite the worst of it passing after a couple of days, I never fully recovered. From that moment forward I had a sensitive stomach, I was never a fussy eater but I suddenly stuck to bland foods. Bread, crackers, rice, pasta. In hindsight probably the absolute worst things to put in my body. My personality radically shifted too, I became this introverted, angsty, goth pre-teen. But hey, that’s just puberty right? Well no, because it came with a lot of other symptoms, sensory issues, stimming and obsessive thoughts. I hated odd numbers and asymmetry, I obsessively avoided the sun because I had read it caused DNA damage. Worst of all, I turned violent. I scratched my poor cousin’s face, I pulled a knife on the neighbour’s son. I got into fights at school, not great when I was one of the tallest in my class. I almost got arrested once. In short, I lost my goddamn mind.

The next fifteen years of my life would be a real struggle, I always got into trouble at school, I developed selective mutism, barely spoke to anyone. Had only a few friends. I mostly spent all my time alone in my bedroom indulging in whatever I was obsessed with at the time, usually some comic or cartoon. I know way too much about Batman to this day. Back then I was fixated on his rogue’s gallery, I think I wanted to be like those villains, I too was misunderstood and I wanted to get my revenge. Thank god I don’t know how to make fear toxin or elaborate traps and riddles.

Things only got more difficult as I got older, I was slow to gain confidence and independence, this was exacerbated by parents who did everything for me. I’ve never been able to graduate, not from secondary or tertiary education, I’ve never been able to hold down a job for more than a few months. For some reason I kept failing, I kept pissing people off and I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Then at 21 I got ME for the first time and that’s pretty much taken me out of the game since then. I’m not physically capable of studying or working any more. Just maintaining this website is hard enough.

My mother always claimed I was a perfectly normal child, but I just dismissed her, so many autism parents want to believe the same thing. But now I look back on it, she was right, even looking back at my school work from around the age of 11 onward I would talk about how I wished things could go back to the way they were before. How I would describe those years as being the “dark times”. Even in my limited child mind I could tell something had gone very wrong. But from my perception I hadn’t changed, it was the world that was suddenly giving me grief. Suddenly everyone else was more hostile, suddenly everything was too loud and and too bright, it wasn’t me.

Examining my childhood before this time I can see only a few minor signs of autism, my teachers would often write in my report cards that I needed to socialise more. I was perfectly happy playing by myself, I liked playing with other kids, but I lacked that craving for social contact. I was a smart, imaginative kid, I’ve always been good at entertaining myself. I’d get so busy with my own little projects that I’d lose all sense of other people or the passage of time. I sometimes freaked out about noise being too loud, and there was a particularly nasty synthetic fabric in the 90’s that I couldn’t stand against my skin. Other than that, barely enough to qualify for an autism diagnosis.

What I am realising now is that when I got sick at 11, something drastic changed in my body, perhaps some upset in my gut microbiome, an inflammatory response, or an epigenetic change. Perhaps I was born with a genetic predisposition towards autism, but it only emerged under certain circumstances. I had a SAD diet throughout my childhood, but at a certain age my body stopped being able to handle it. Hard to say why, I guess little kids are way more resistant to crap food, something we lose as we get older. Can you imagine eating the amount of candy now that you did as a child? Nauseating, right?

Another factor to consider is that the autistic brain has an overcrowding of synapses, it’s not good at clearing out these unwanted structures. However fasting promotes autophagy, the body’s way of clearing out dead and unwanted cells. While doing keto I was doing intermittent fasting, eating during an eight hour window. I found I still ate a lot though, and I didn’t notice many benefits, but it was a more convenient way to live. When I got really sick I unintentionally started doing one meal a day, I was just not hungry most of the time. Ever since then I’ve stuck to OMAD. Meat and dairy are super satisfying, I’ll eat a plate or two which comes to about 2000-3000 calories and I am done for the day, I will not think about food again until the next day. And what this must have been doing was giving my body the opportunity to do proper deep cleansing for the first time in its life. Let me tell you, it saves a lot of time, energy and money too.

These changes have given me a lot to think about, I now wonder if I was ever really autistic to begin with. The kind of violent outbursts I used to have are not typical for autism, I’m wondering if my food intolerances merely caused a chronic condition that simply presented itself with many of the same symptoms. This leads me to wonder if those out there who have also cured autism with diet are actually dealing with a similar but different condition. There’s simply too little research to make any definitive claim. Some studies indicate a change in diet can help manage some symptoms of autism, reducing anxiety for instance. But a complete cure? That’s mostly anecdotal, based on reports by parents.

How do I feel now? Honestly, I don’t know. Am I happy to be neurotypical? It’s too early to say, I’m still adjusting. I don’t recognise myself, I’m a new person and that’s a bit scary. It’s kind of a Flowers for Algernon situation here. It is wonderful to be able to look my friends in the eye and really connect with them. I feel so much more calm and present. But it’s also easy to become overwhelmed with all these non-verbal cues and all the body language I was oblivious to before. I’m overthinking these things. Interestingly enough, my friends and family don’t notice a dramatic difference in me. I hadn’t realised until now how good I was at hiding autism. I was the proverbial duck madly paddling beneath the still surface of the water. Losing autism also has its pros and cons when it comes to dealing with ME. I find the isolation harder to deal with, I suddenly don’t like being alone for days at a time, I crave social interaction and I am energised by it. But on the plus side I’m not being tortured twice over by sensory pain. Just once over! I am able to think more clearly, though I still have to fight through brain fog, I am not getting as distracted as I once did. It’s hard to see this as a good thing because I never saw autism as a bad thing. I’m just different now and this is going to take me a long time to adjust to. I look back on the last fifteen years of my life and I don’t know how to feel about it, was I robbed of the life I was meant to have? Was it really me? 

I would never advocate for a cure for autism and I find it unlikely that every autistic person is going to have the same “success” I did. But I do think my story is important to share. I’m not some desperate parent trying to rid this evil thing stealing my child away from me. I’m not some anti-vaxxer. I am an autism advocate who accidentally cured the wrong disability. Damn it, I wanted to get rid of ME!

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Jamie says:

    Hello, you’ve used acronyms, but in your text you haven’t actually indicated what they are.
    ME, IBS, et cetera…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. traviandesigns says:

      Hi, thanks for reading. I figured they were well known enough, but yes, maybe I should just add them to my article. IBS is irritable bowel syndrome and ME/CFS is myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.


  2. Adam Bray says:

    Hey man, great post and super inspirational. I’m in similar situation to you.. Asperger’s Syndrome which seemed to develop around the age of 7. In terms of what you eat, do you still consume coffee and do you eat eggs or is it just purely beef? Thanks, Adam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. traviandesigns says:

      I’m glad to hear from people with similar experiences. My diet is quite varied, I eat all meats, including sea food, eggs and most dairy products. I don’t have too much milk because of the sugar content. I know many autistic people have issues with dairy, but for whatever reason it’s not the case for me. I do drink coffee and green tea or ginger tea, all decaf, otherwise I get acid reflux.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Adam Bray says:

    Thanks for this mate and apologies for the late reply. I’ve just been doing keto but I’m going to go back onto the Carnivore diet, to also include mature cheese like Camembert for Calories and extra nutrients.. I might try the strict elimination protocol at some point but it just feels too mentally demanding at this stage to do with the job etc. Out of interest, have you tried tuning up your mitochondrial function and methylation cycle? I’ve just started a supplement called mitoq, which is a targeted antioxidant which delivers a molecule similar to CoQ10 directly to the mitochondria. I think our type of autism is a “regression” which can be triggered by illness resulting in autoimmunity and other problems. Theoretically, fixing the autoimmune element through antioxidants and dampening down the immune system with supplements such as Pregnenolone could help the problem further than the diet and modifications to the microbiome, however this could be taken further by augmenting residual complex 1 activity. It is believed infection can push genetically compromised individuals with weak mitochondria past the threshold for proper function, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction and ultimately autism and CFS. This can also have a direct impact on the ability of the digestive system to function correctly, resulting in IBS.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. traviandesigns says:

      Oh yes, I have been meaning to look further into mitochondrial treatment but what I read online was complicated and I couldn’t work it out. So thanks for that.


      1. Adam Bray says:

        Here’s the article by Sarah Myhill. She’s the authority on treating CFS/ME. Thanks again for writing the article.. hopefully between enough of us we can hack these conditions and share our experiences on what works.
        It does seem that CFS and Autism have many similarities.. in fact some believe the adults who just get CFS when they’re older escaped injury as a child and hence didn’t develop Asperger’s or autism and the developmental delays.. social or otherwise. https s://

        Liked by 2 people

      2. traviandesigns says:

        Thanks. This is why I created this website, there are so many people suffering with these illnesses and our doctors aren’t very helpful, even when they have the best of intentions. It’s up to us to do our own research and together we can at least make these conditions more manageable.


  4. Adam Bray says:

    Exactly. I definitely think your residual issue is dysfunctional mitochondria and potentially neuroinflammation; the way I know is I feel immediately better after taking Ibuprofen.. like my sinuses instantly become clearer and I feel more “alert”. Definitely get on the MitoQ.. it’s a game changer with regards to energy levels. You might need to take more than the recommended dose to start with (that’s what I’m doing) but I’m just about to combine with the other supplements:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. traviandesigns says:

      My only problem is that I can’t find any mitochondrial supplements that don’t contain plants. It’s all rice flour and cellulose, among other things. I can’t even take fish oil because the capsules make me very sick and even the oil on its own has lemon or orange flavouring. I can’t win.


  5. Adam Bray says:

    Hmm sounds like you’re way more intolerant than I am. Some of them can be injections of antioxidants like Glutathione and also methylcobalamin B12 which aids methylation and mitochondrial function; dr myhill has a package of treatment targeting ineffective methylation and mitochondrial dysfunction (they can go hand in hand). Maybe as your health improves from a couple of supplements you may be able to try more. Also have you tried an antihistamine and mast cell stabiliser? I’ve found good results from just a combination of ketotifen eye drops and loratadine tablets, combined with ibuprofen to tackle infammation.. although ibruprofen isn’t really safe for long term, which is why I’m going to get started on Pregnenolone. A lot of these may help with the intestinal inflammation you’re experiencing (and also an inflamed gut-brain axis). An important point to note is that IBS and intestinal problems can be mast cell issues (from autoimmunity) or mitochondrial dysfunction.. or both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. traviandesigns says:

      Yeah that’s what I’m thinking, if the supplements do work I might just adapt to them. I didn’t find antihistamines did anything for me.


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