Stimming and gut issues

Shortly after we suspected our son might have autism, I started keeping a daily record of his symptoms to see if I could find clues into what might be causing them. One thing I  noticed right off the bat was how connected many of his repetitive behaviors were to his diet.  When Bean’s stomach was in distress, so was the rest of him. Stimming generally occurred or got worse right before a painful bowel movement, and would stop whenever he was able to eliminate his bowels (which was no easy feat in the beginning because he was constantly constipated). By stimming I mean (at least for our son) obsessive tracking of the wheels on his toy cars, back and forth and back and forth over and over again. Repetitive bouncing on the couch while knocking his head back on the couch cushions, over and over again. Repeating certain vowels or squealing for no reason. I mentioned the connection to  my husband, but we weren’t completely sure until we observed the pattern for a few weeks in a row. Getting my son off gluten and dairy was the first thing that helped reduce the stimming. And it made sense. Less stomach agitation meant less of a need for my son to soothe himself with repetitive behaviors. I also noticed how much it helped him concentrate during his therapy sessions. Which also made sense. How can anyone learn if they are in physical distress?

I now truly believe diet is an essential component to look at in many of our children’s behavior. Is your child often hyper and acting out? Do they sometimes go into a fog or start waking in the middle of the night for no reason? Take a look at what they’re eating and especially what they are craving most. That might be the one thing that is actually irritating them. Now that my son is verbal, he can tell me when his stomach hurts and how certain foods make him feel. It helps me to keep on top of his own personal irritants and it also helps validate what I felt from the beginning – that what goes into his body is so important in helping him to feel good. One hope for my son is that in the future he will be able to “cheat” here and there as his stomach heals, and will be able to handle some of the foods that have irritated him in the past. I intend to keep us eating well at home, because now that we are on this path we all feel so much better. I can’t imagine going back to our old ways and honestly wouldn’t want to. But it would be nice for him to attend a birthday party and partake in what the other kids are eating if he should so choose. I am already noticing his tolerance improve (he has recently had a little bit of dairy and starch here and there), and I think it’s from having a good two years of really healthy eating under our belt. In the meantime, it’s still clean eating for us, and that’s ok. Great even :)

So, that being said, smoothies anyone?


  1. Judy says:

    My son is 10 years old and was diagnosed with Asperger’s several years ago and the pediatric neurologist suggested his movements were caused by Stereotypic Movement Disorder. Recently, I’ve discovered what stimming is and that it’s apart of having Asperger’s. So I’m know convinced his movements are really due to stimming. My son always stims right before having bowel movement. He will stiffen his legs and start pacing back and forth on his tippy toes. Then his arms start clenching and flapping uncontrollably at a extremely fast pace and will rock his torso back and forth out of control. All these movements happening at the same time. He will also laugh quietly while doing this and whisper things that make no sense. It’s almost like he’s in the library and someone told him a joke and he’s doing his best not to get caught laughing. Anyway, once the stimming stops he can then proceed to use the bathroom and his heartbeat will just be racing. He use to do these movements a lot as a toddler thru 1st grade. Now he has some control over it and can hide it from others by using the bathroom. But we still notice small movements here and there. And usually he will indicate to us that he has a stomach ache. He’s also lactose intolerant – so I’m wondering if I put him on a gluten free diet if it will help him. Thank you for your blog, I feel less alone now and it’s given us some hope.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Judy, I am so, so happy that you are able to feel some hope from this blog. That was my reason for starting it. There is totally hope! Autism is still such a mystery and there is so much that the medical community doesn’t know about it (or hasn’t done “official studies” on). So, realistically, I feel like parents are left to figure a lot of things out on their own. I highly recommend a gluten and dairy free diet, just to see how it can help change your son’s general comfort level and the stomachaches that surround his bowel movements. You can try it for a few months and see if there are changes in your son’s behaviors. Even people that don’t test specifically for celiac’s can often have food intolerances that simply show up through behavior or mental fog. This often happens with children on the spectrum due to leaky guts (more on that in the future). You can start trying by getting your son on a good probiotic (I recommend CocoKefir), which will help improve his gut health. Then you can start switching out foods until he is gluten and dairy free. Go slowly since he is older and probably has foods he likes and might not want to give up. Our children now primarily eat organic meats, vegetables, and low-sugar fruits and it’s really helped maintain their gut health. Also, the laughing your son does when about to have a bowel movement usually has to do with candida (yeast) that is stirred up in the gut. It’s common to have a lot of yeast build up in a stomach that doesn’t have the right balanced environment due to food intolerances, leaky gut, etc. Please note, this is info we’ve gotten after a few years of working with holistic nutritionists and homeopaths. I’m not a doctor. Just a mom :) But it’s working and we are all feeling the positives of cleaner living. p.s. We did also do homeopathy to get my son’s stomach in a better place. This helped heal his whole body. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at

  2. Fabio PEREIRA says:

    Hi Andrea,

    I’m struggling to figure out a examples of daily meals to prepare for my son.

    Would you mind giving us an ordinary example of yours (breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner)?

    Many thanks,

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Fabio, Currently we try and keep things very simple around here. I used to make lots of complicated recipes, but found that my kids in particular would sometimes reject them and I would be frustrated after all the time and money spent on them. Since we currently follow a very Paleo-type diet for our children, a typical day can look like this:
      Breakfast: Scrambled or hardboiled egg with cut up peppers or carrots on the side.
      Snack: Apple slices
      Lunch: Chicken breast with strawberries on the side.
      Snack: Celery with almond butter
      Dinner: Salmon or steak with green beans on the side.
      Snack: Pears
      We use to keep fruits away from mealtime and only eaten on their own, but for us it didn’t seem to make much of a difference so I added it back in as a side option with meals. Let me know if this answers your questions!

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