The Cunningham Regimen

A Personal Autism Diet

I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or an expert on autism.  None of this is prescriptive, only sharing what’s helped me so far, everyone is different.  Never change any medication or add supplements without talking to a doctor first. Don’t die a slow and painful death because of something you read on the Internet.

Here’s where I’m at after a few years of researching diet and supplements to try to be more healthy and ease things like anxiety, irritability, depression, and nerve pain. This article is best read while listening to Tchaikovsky.

General Diet and Exercise

Intermittent Fasting – 2-3+ days a week. It has many proven benefits. Consider making “snake juice” to replace electrolytes when fasting, especially for longer term fasts. Low-carb, high healthy fats, grass-fed beef, etc… (basically keto).  Cut out most processed foods and lower sugars. Casein free/Gluten free (within reason, make sure you are getting enough calcium from other sources). I’ll still have cheat meals where I eat whatever I want. I’d like a milkshake right now actually…

Sunlight – If you aren’t able to get outside in the mornings, consider a therapy lamp 15-20 minutes to help with your circadian rhythm for a healthy mood and sleep cycle. Consider starting a small garden outside. I love growing plants from seed, it’s therapeutic and rewarding.  I have plants all over the inside and outside of my house.

Exercise – Take baby steps and be encouraged by small improvements.  This is much better than setting up a program too difficult you likely will fail.  Walking 15 minutes when it’s sunny outside is a good step from nothing. I like kettlebells when I’m inside.  Push ups are great, so is a stabilizer ball. Stretching is more beneficial than you might think. Here is a video on some good stretches for the inflexible, I use this one often.  Check out this video on fixing your posture.

Gut Health – Your gut is like your second brain. Much of my anxiety and depression was eased when I addressed these issues.  Much of the food and supplements I take are related to this.

Avoid Synthetics, Pesticides, Heavy Metals, and Parabens – I’ve done much better overall after researching the ingredients of everything I put on me and in me, avoiding environmental toxins when possible. I usually don’t even drink out of aluminum cans anymore. I realized for years as a child with ASD, I didn’t want to take a shower from anxiety. Much of that panic stopped when I switched to natural soap and shampoo.  Some of course was the sensory overload from the water drops and noise. Dr. Bronner’s hemp and peppermint castile soap I’ve enjoyed.

Natural/Organic Ingredients I use a lot of baking soda, vinegar, and coconut oil. Recipes are available for making your own natural deodorant.  Bonus Tip: Soaking your feet in hot water with half a cup of Epsom salts and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar 15-20 minutes twice a week will help your feet not smell like feet.

Water  I mostly drink water, carbonated water, or green tea.  Maybe a little 100% juice for some vitamin C or adding to my blender shake.  Avoid soft drinks. Try and avoid caffeine/coffee after noon-3pm. I have cheat days with this also, especially if I’m eating out.

Daily Blender Shake

I don’t enjoy eating vegetables so I like to blend them all up drink it in a smoothie. I start to feel tired and depressed when I go a full day without this. Many would be surprised how vital these whole food sourced nutrients and amino acids actually are.   After intermittent fasting and drinking this shake, I have most of the vitamins I need and then can eat whatever I want at night. I toss this all in, add water, blend it, then chug it down in 5 seconds. Get as many different colors (phytonutrients!) as possible.

Ingredients:

Spinach

Baby Carrots – A great source for beta-carotene (converts to Vitamin A). Regular carrots also work but not nearly as adorable!

Walnuts/Almonds – Also keep on hand for snacking, great fat/protein.

Chia or Flax Seeds – Or both.

Blueberries

Sunflower lecithinCholine source.

Organic Pea Protein powder

(Sometimes I’ll add a little coconut oil depending on my olive/MCT oil intake. Maybe a few mushrooms for selenium, tomato for lycopene, and I eat/cook with a lot of garlic.)

Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Always try and get nutrients from healthy, whole foods before looking to supplements in pill/capsule form.

AM

Vitamin D3/K2 – Many are deficient, always take K2 with D3.

Vitamin C – I’m taking 1g 3x a day now and about to move that to 4g. The mood boost reminds me of the feeling after being out in the sun. I was surprised at the sense of happiness I started to feel after a few weeks of higher dose C. 43% saw improvements who were on the spectrum in one study.

CBD OilSuccessful in helping 80% of autistic children.  Always look for 3rd party lab reports when buying CBD oil.  Many “CBD” products on the market aren’t what they say they are since the FDA isn’t regulating this yet.  I use Lazarus Naturals, they have great discounts for the Disabled and Veterans. 10mg under the tongue is a good starter dose; after tolerance I take around 30mg, 3x a day.  It’s been the most beneficial thing I’ve ever taken and wrote more about endocannabinoid deficiencies and the plant in general here. I also find Flowerchild’s CBG oil helpful for social anxiety.

NACAn amino acid that helps with many mental and physical issues. This is one of my most important things to take each morning, it calms my mind in a very specific way.

MCT oil, 1Tbsp – (I replace this with extra virgin olive oil on day’s I’m not intermittent fasting). This is also helping with absorption of the other supplements.

Collagen Peptides – Most people aren’t getting enough of these in their diets from not eating as much cartilage/tendons as we used to since we no longer eat the whole animal. I take the peptides earlier in the day, but extra glycine before bed.

PM

Omega 3 – (I look for high DHA) from fish/krill oil.  Some with autism do well with fish oil, others may not.  Only try one new supplement at a time so if something doesn’t work, so you know which one is helping or causing an issue.

NAC – Often take this a bit earlier in the afternoon when the AM one stops working.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – 1Tbsp. I also cook with this rather than vegetable oils.

Zinc/B6 – Some use Mag/Zinc/B6 all together in a supplement called ZMA for sleep and muscle growth. I was already taking magnesium so I simply added a zinc/b6 supplement. I’d lean towards a lower dose like 15mg rather than the 50mg options and get most of the zinc in food (again, not a doctor).

MagnesiumCalming, good for muscle cramps. It’s difficult to get enough magnesium, even with a healthy diet. Studies have shown 68%-80% of American’s are magnesium deficient. Much of this is due to deficiencies in our soil. Parents have reported up to 46% of children improve with B6 and Magnesium added to their diets.

3g glycineSleep.

Lemon Balm – Helps you stay asleep.  Passion flower, valerian, and chamomile also can help.  If you take melatonin, look for a small dose like .3mg (300mcg); I wouldn’t go above 1mg to avoid daytime drowsiness.  Less is more with melatonin (also see black seed oil below).

Miscellaneous

Turmeric Tea – I drink Turmeric “Golden milk” tea most evenings.  It has many health benefits like reducing inflammation, so I can use it over ibuprofen in most cases.  If I’m lazy I’ll just quickly mix the turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper together in water and drink it quick; maybe along a little olive or MCT oil for better absorption.  If I have more time I’ll heat it up in almond milk and add a little honey.

Kombucha – I got a brewing kit online and just brewed my first batch and it’s helping a lot with gut health issues and I notice a boost in mental well-being. Definitely worth trying and a fun hobby. (edit 8/8/20 – Kefir might be even better)

Sulforaphane – This is found in broccoli and many are growing broccoli sprouts to raise glutathione and reduce symptoms with autism by reducing oxidative stress. See more in this podcast by Dr. Rhonda Patrick. I’ve had best results from sprouting with the Kitchen Crop sprouter tower, and “Broccoli and Friends” seeds (Todd’s seeds). As of 2021, I’m eating way more sprouts and not using my blender shake as much.

Psyllium Husk – A great fiber.  Saves you a fortune on toilet paper and prevents mud-butt.

Probiotic – I take the probiotic saccharomyces boulardii.

Apple Cider Vinegar – 1tsp to 1tbsp.  This helps my heartburn, got me off the prilosec.  Mix it in water to avoid throat irritation.

Black Seed OilPhytochemicals are pretty cool. Helps with pain, relaxation, and mood. Really starting to like this one. Many use it for sleep.

Alpha-GPC – As needed if you want more choline crossing the blood/brain barrier for exercise or greater focus when studying.

I also supplement plenty of Vivaldi.


Christians and Cannabis

I believe cannabis to be one of the most beneficial plants for the human race, designed by God for us to consume for our health and well-being.  Each one of us has an endocannabinoid system that researchers believe can get deficient, which could lead to health problems. One way to produce endocannabinoids naturally is to exercise for the “runner’s high,” but many don’t produce enough for optimal health. Cannabinoids are even in breast milk.  (Hopefully they won’t ban jogging and breast milk!) It’s even tripling survival rates of mice with cancer. The cannabinoid CBD significantly reduces cravings from opioids and could be a major breakthrough for addiction and even used in rehabs. It’s also shown to reduce aggression induced by isolation. Researchers have found that CBG and CBC kill gastrointestinal and bone cancer cells.

“The discovery of the endocannabinoid system is the single most important medical scientific discovery ever and will save more lives than the discovery and application of sterile surgical technique.”
— Dr. David Allen, Cardiovascular Surgeon

These effects produced by the body are closer to what CBD oil or hemp would give rather than some of the high THC/low CBD strains many are familiar with. Some breeders over time have focused heavily on the THC content alone, neglecting the CBD and other cannabinoid levels which have led to many recreational users having anxiety.  There’s over 400 compounds in cannabis including terpenes and cannabinoids that work together synergistically to produce the “Entourage Effect”. So there’s a lot more going on than just CBD and THC. A medicinal balance for optimal synergistic effect is crucial to target each specific issue. Terpenes found in cannabis like linalool are also found in other plants such as lavender. Flavanoids are also exciting compounds in cannabis that are proving to have 30 times more powerful of an anti-inflammatory effect than aspirin. It’s when all these come together it makes a medicine that no man could possibly create in a lab. It’s all quite beautiful.

Cannabis in the Bible

According to the Bible, all seed bearing plants were made for human beings for food, cannabis being one of them as it is a seed-bearing plant.

“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
Genesis 1:29

Many consume cannabis raw. It’s packed with essential amino acids and antioxidants. You can mix it in a smoothie, juice it, or blend it into cooking oils; all those forms producing zero elevation (“high”) in raw form.  It’s only when you decarboxylate the THCA into THC by heating it in an oven or smoking/vaping it does it then have the potential to have any noticeable psychoactive effect.  I often use it as an herb or spice in my food with zero elevation. CBD oil alone works for some, but we absolutely need full plant access for most medical patients. You can use cannabis and never get high, never be associated with any “cannabis culture.” It’s not much different than eating spinach for vitamins, our bodies require cannabinoids to function properly. I honestly believe this is a gift from God to us, primarily for to consume for sustenance.

Some also argue that Exodus 30:22-33 talks about cannabis in a holy anointing oil recipe based on the Hebrew term “Q’aneh-Bosm.” This issue is a tough one to figure out, I’m not convinced either way at this point. My bias towards cannabis wants it to be true, but my desire to know what the text actually is saying is greater, we want exegesis, not eisegesis.  We must seek truth over confirmation bias, retain coherent thought, and consider all possibilities without taking a strong stance until we find enough evidence weighed on all sides to provide a clear answer. Maybe there is one, but I don’t have it yet.

(6/3/20 Edit: with the new archaeological evidence showing cannabis was used in temple worship by the ancient Hebrews, this is now much more likely to be the case).

Correlation to Mental Illness?

According to Harvard Medical School, cannabis does not cause mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Correlation is not causation. People with various mental illnesses do sometimes use cannabis more often, which makes sense because cannabis greatly helps ease mental issues like depression and anxiety.  It’s the same logic of saying Ibuprofen must cause headaches because more people with headaches use Ibuprofen. That being said, someone at risk of psychosis or schizophrenia should avoid the higher THC strains including edibles because that can aggravate issues that are already there.  But it’s not something that’s causing any permanent health disorders. It does not lower IQ. This plant has a remarkable safety profile, no one has ever overdosed or died from any form of cannabis. Anti-Cannabis Propaganda like “Reefer Madness” films have done a great deal of harm to society on many levels and much of it is embedded in racism. I believe it’s time this is all turned around, the stigma is put to rest, and this plant is seen and used as God intended.

Legality Does Not Determine Morality

God alone defines morality and what is sin. “Drugs are bad” is a blanket statement with no consideration of the variety of uses of countless substances for the human body, weighing out the risks and benefits.  Some substances may be beneficial for some people in small doses while harmful in high doses. Others are highly beneficial but with risks. Some build tolerance if taken too often. Substances like poison shouldn’t be put in the body altogether. Regardless, no substance or drug is inherently immoral or evil, it matters what you are doing with it. Context is king with substance/drug/medicinal use (as with Bible interpretation!).

Many law abiding citizens end up addicted to legal opioids every day. Often those who are prescribed pain pills end up on heroin when they realize it’s not that big of a step over, both are derived from the opium poppy. Heroin is often cheaper and the person realizes there’s no difference in morality except that it’s prohibited by law; but in essence, there’s not much of a difference.   Many people wouldn’t touch a legal pain pill if they knew how similar they were to illegal opioids.  Just because a doctor prescribes you a pill, doesn’t mean it’s in all cases moral to take, especially if it’s causing you to sin or doing your body undue harm. With any medicinal substance, many different factors determine if the use is justified or not.

However, as Christians we are commanded to submit to governing authorities as they have been established by God (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14; Titus 3:1-3). Does this override God’s provision of all seed-bearing plants in Genesis 1:29? To what degree do we obey the law when it begins to harm us and goes against God’s provision? At what point do we risk losing our freedom to seek what helps a child who’s disabled and there are no other options to alleviate their suffering? I personally don’t have all the answers. These are the tough questions those suffering and those whose children are suffering shouldn’t have to face. I in no way advise or suggest anyone to break any laws for any reason, I’m only pointing out all the caveats in this situation many must unfortunately deal with. Many people are suffering over this issue right now who shouldn’t be.

Always consult a licensed medical professional first before changing the dosage of any prescription you are already on because you can die from even a quick reduction in something like a benzo like xanax or klonopin (I had a seizure from forgetting a single klonopin dose one night).  Thankfully with CBD/cannabis oil I was able to consult my doctor and slowly wean off all the old prescriptions including the antidepressant and benzo slowly over time, according to the monthly reduction schedule that was given to me. Never listen to anyone who tells you to change your prescription medicine who isn’t an actual doctor, people have died over this.  This is why I urge people to exhaust all natural options prior to going to synthetic chemicals. It was a mental and physical nightmare being on those pills for 20 years and getting off them was very difficult. Cannabis oil is actually helping me without causing any problems or side effects, and like many other parents and individuals with autism, we have been saying this is the only thing that helps many of us for a long time, and studies have proven our claims.

Recreational Use

Recreational use can also be done without intoxication or without depending on multiple factors. The mental “high” is only a side effect of some strains used by some routes of administration. Either way I believe the recreational use of cannabis falls under Christian freedom (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23-31), being careful not to cause your brother to stumble who may find it offensive (Romans 14:21). If used responsibly and in moderation I believe many Christians can use cannabis in a way that gives glory to God. I really believe this, and it’s not because I want to justify “getting high,” it’s because I’ve seen the medicinal power of this plant and I think all the hysteria over the past 80+ years over this plant is false and was made up so hemp/cannabis wouldn’t take over multiple industries like logging, medical, fuel, building materials (see this house made from hempcrete), animal feed, etc…   Pharmaceutical companies have been trying for years to patent this plant for medical use and the US government already has.

I’ve taken many prescriptions over the years to try and manage my health issues and cannabis is one of the most beneficial ones to my health I’ve ever taken with the fewest side effects, which are often none given I’m taking the strain that’s working best for each issue. For me, I can’t take high THC edibles because it gives me too much elevation, but I can use low to medium THC strains with high CBD in oil form under the tongue, or in a dry herb vaporizer. I recommend sincerely praying before God and seeking Him first (Matthew 6:33), and if cannabis causes you to sin from recreational use, don’t use any more than you need for general health or medication.

My desire is for responsible adults to have a much safer options for recreation, medicine, and even for those who are in desperation to escape from mental or physical pain. It’s not right for alcohol to be the only legal option at every gas station, the only escape. Cannabis is not a gateway drug. If anything it makes helps make sure those who are suffering won’t need to seek out other substances to use as band-aids because it’s likely addressing a endocannabinoid deficiency that’s causing them anxiety or depression in the first place.  CBD and cannabis oil are currently being tested for treating many other addictions, including alcohol and meth. I know for me, all other substance cravings ceased when I started CBD oil alone; and I haven’t touched alcohol since and didn’t need 5 different prescriptions any longer. Cannabis is more of a safeguard to prevent someone from harmful addictions from my own and many others experience. Studies have also proven cannabis isn’t making people lazy, but in fact it’s motivating people to exercise more.

Use discretion and common sense as with anything.  Don’t use a strain or high level of THC that may impair your ability to function before operating machinery or going to work.  Always test new strains or oils at home where you have no important things to do for the day to see how your mind and body react.

Remember, Christians are to remain sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8) and not to get drunk with wine as it leads to debauchery, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). I personally keep the elevation as low as possible, raising it according to the specific medical need. But even still, cannabis isn’t causing intoxication where people are making aggressive and horrible decisions (including debauchery) as with alcohol or cocaine; so I’d argue it’s difficult to be Biblically intoxicated from cannabis maybe apart from extremely high THC concentrates or decarbed edibles. But I also don’t believe anyone should to go prison or lose their jobs who wants to use any amount of THC in the privacy of their own homes who isn’t harming anyone (same with alcohol). Pray for wisdom, and as with any substance always use responsibly and in moderation. If it causes you to sin in any way, throw it out, stay away from it (Matthew 5:29).

“If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.”
Proverbs 25:16

Hemp Flower

Many recreationally enjoy vaporizing hemp flower with under .03% THC that has no mental elevation, only body relaxation like with CBD oil. I believe it will largely replace tobacco in the near future (Marlboro has already invested 2.4 Billion). Dry herb vaporizers are wonderful; you don’t have to deal with any fluids as with e-cigs, and you are only heating the flower just enough to evaporate the cannabinoids and terpenes off. There is no tar inhaled and the THC levels are far too low to cause any mental effects. This is all very exciting for so many different reasons; it’s actually good for us, not addictive like tobacco, and it doesn’t cause intoxication. It’s a great substance for health and recreation in my opinion. .03% THC is the limit for hemp but I personally find 1-2% THC in medical strains the best for helping my issues with autism, which is confirmed by the studies out of Israel. So we do need the entire cannabis genus legalized, but hemp flower and CBD oil so far are helping millions of people in major ways.

““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”
1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Drug Testing

THC drug tests are testing for minuscule levels of THC where you could test positive for using cannabis 30+ days prior. Theoretically you could even fail from second hand smoke. I think this is ridiculous and this form of testing should be abandoned. People can go to the store and buy a half gallon of 95% grain alcohol and drink all they want on their days off and no one cares. In my opinion no one should be bothered if someone uses cannabis on the weekend on their days off either. Honestly it’s really no one’s business.

The issue is how do we prove if a person is intoxicated with high levels of THC on the job or while driving and that’s something we haven’t figured out yet, but the current form of testing is only harming law abiding citizens and discriminating against the disabled.  This type of testing I strongly believe needs to be abandoned in all 50 states immediately; it’s putting people who use CBD oil at risk for losing their jobs, losing their families, or even going to prison from a failed probation drug test. Surveys have found almost 7% of the Americans are using CBD oil; THC urinalysis at 15-50 ng/ml would cause many of these people to fail one of these tests. There’s simply no known way to tell what amount of THC was introduced in body and when. It’s so sensitive, I would advise not to even use CBD isolate just in case a little THC was left over in the isolation process that could cause a false positive (even hemp seed oil and Vitamin B2/riboflavin can do this).

As a Christian, please consider the countless lives that have been destroyed over cannabis prohibition. Many people need to be let out of jail who should have never been put in there. Millions of disabled people need this medicine and shouldn’t have to be labeled drug addicts or criminals to get it after they have already spent years trying pharmaceuticals that never worked for them. Parents shouldn’t have to watch their kids suffer, or risk losing them and then going to prison over the one thing that has scientifically proven to work for them. We need full plant access and the right to grow this in our own homes for our own needs, whatever that may be; it’s no ones business but ours before God.

How to Talk to Friends and Family

Pray for wisdom (James 1:5), be open and honest, showing your heart on the matter.  Be kind, gentle, and loving (1 Corinthians 13), not forceful or demanding. You are only going to push a person away if you try and force them to believe something they have been told is wrong all their lives, please respect their dignity. Provide evidence from good sources. Show them those who have already been helped in dramatic ways.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:1

I see CBD oil and hemp as major bridge to all this.  It’s opening many eyes to the medicinal properties and safety profile of this plant.  Ignorance breeds fear, so understanding the endocannabinoid system and how these are natural, God-designed processes in the human body can help alleviate the fears many may have. Once CBD is understood, it helps open a door to the rest of the plant.

Do all to the Glory of God!

Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.  If you can’t do it to God’s glory or it will cause your brother to stumble then don’t do it (1 Cor 10:23-31; Romans 14:21). Also keep in mind self-control being one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), keeping irregular appetites of the flesh in check (Romans 13:13-14). These verses alone might prevent you from using cannabis in a recreational sense, but please keep in mind many have no other medical option but to use medicinal cannabis. And others really do need a safe outlet for recreational use that isn’t endangering their lives and the lives of others as many other substances can. It’s one of the few recreational substances that is actually beneficial to the body by encouraging homeostasis.

There’s a lot of good we can do as Christians to help with this situation and do it in the name of Christ Jesus, all to His glory. I think it starts with education and loving those who are hurting all around us, always pointing to the Cross; because it’s the soul that will live for all eternity and that’s in the most desperate need of healing. Physical health will always be secondary to spiritual. All the good health in the world is all meaningless if we then lose our souls (Mark 8:36). Christ alone is the remedy for the soul, He’s the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Only by faith in His sacrifice on the Cross atoning for our sin can we ever have hope of salvation. The Gospel always comes first, but I believe we can take the Gospel with us as we go out and help millions of hurting people with medical cannabis and other natural medicine, all in His name; bringing healing to mind, body, and soul.

Soli Deo gloria!

Resources:

Project CBD: Beginners Guide

Project CBD: Entourage Effect

What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Is Its Role?

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Bioavailability of CBD: Comparing Methods of CBD Administration

Reddit’s CBD Discussion Sub (great place to ask questions anonymously).

Facebook: “Christians and Cannabis” discussion group

Facebook: “Whole Plant Access for Autism” (over 14k members).

Study: Cannabis oil 80% successful in helping autistic children

Study: CBD From Marijuana Plus Chemotherapy Tripled Cancer Survival Rates In Mice