Diet & Nutrition
The Importance of Diet & Nutrition for Autistic Children
Children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder are at greater risk for having a poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, and feeding problems. These risks can lead to chronic diarrhea, digestive disruptions, gastroesphogeal reflux disease (GERD), gas, food regurgitation, leaky gut syndrome, fecal impaction, or constipation.
Autistic children are often placed on specific dietary programs in order to remove brain-polluting heavy metals, food additives, and maximize the intake of essential fats. These programs, or nutritional therapy, are gaining evidence to show they may help autistic children restore balance in the gut and maintain blood sugar levels. Furthermore, it may identify potential food allergies and possible nutrient deficiencies to help determine what each child should and should not be consuming.
Diet & Nutrition Guidelines for Autistic Children
Parents should remember that each child is unique and may have their own specific dietary needs, but in general the following guidelines can help ensure the appropriate nutritional balances for autistic children:
- Increase of foods which help with digestive needs due to the commonality of bowel irregularities in autistic children from use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
- Balancing blood sugar has been noted to help with hyperactivity and ADHD.
- An increase in Omega 3 fatty acids can help to regulate mood and behavior, sleep, imagination and even spontaneous speech.
- Increasing specific vitamins and minerals as suggested by a medical professional, autistic children will see a variety of improvements.
- Realizing and avoiding an autistic child’s known food allergies will help autistic children see overall improvement.
While these are all things to consider for children with autism, there are additional dietary and nutrition needs that parents explore as they continue to learn more about their child’s diagnosis.
Top Foods for Autism
Along with the general nutrition guidelines, doctors may also recommend more specific diets, such as eliminating whole food groups (like dairy or gluten), in hopes to continue to see improvement. When adopting a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet, approximately 25% of patients noticed improvements and felt relief from their usual symptoms. In order to determine if a gluten-free diet may help, children can be tested for celiac disease. Many children become more successful when they follow a diet free of yeast and sugar.
Dr. Axe has recommended below list of the best/worst foods for autism:
Additive-free, unprocessed foods – Food additives may be problematic for ADHD, it is best to eat unprocessed whole foods prepared at home.
Bone broth – Bone broth (made from scratch) provides important amino acids and minerals that can help heal leaky gut and improve mineral deficiencies.
Poultry – Tryptophan, an amino acid, helps produce serotonin a calming neurotransmitter.
Foods high in probiotics – Try to add fermented foods such as kefir, amasai, sauerkraut or kimchi. These fermented foods contain probiotics essential in helping repair a leaky gut.
Fish – A diet high in omega-3s is critical for brain health, try to eat wild-caught fish at least 2x per week.
Autism Foods to Avoid
Gluten – Some report worsening symptoms after eating gluten which may indicate sensitivity. Avoid all foods made with wheat such as bread, pasta, and wheat cereal.
Cows Dairy – The protein in cow’s dairy, called A1 casein, can trigger a similar reaction as gluten and therefore should be avoided. For calcium, increase green leafy vegetables or try goat’s milk kefir.
Sugar – Sugar can cause fluctuation in blood sugar leading to behavioral problems. Avoid any forms of concentrated sugar including candy, desserts, soda, or fruit juices.
Food coloring and dyes – Children with autism can be sensitive to a variety of food dyes and colorings, therefore all processed foods should be avoided.
Soy – Soy is a common food allergy and contains phytic acid which can irritate the intestines causing leaky gut.
Aside from the above dietary suggestions, parents may also be encouraged to try other approaches for their child. For example, bio-nutrition has known to be successful in helping balance issues found in the brain and concentrates on finding the perfect balance of nutrition for each individual child.
Additional Natural Remedies
Changing a child’s diet to provide for the nutritional needs has been noted to see a lot of success for autistic children, and will continue to be encouraged. Parents should be aware that many possibilities are available to them. However, each option considered should be discussed with the child’s primary care physician, including any of the following natural remedies.
The top natural autism remedies recommended by expert are:
Fish oil – 1000mg/day
Digestive enzymes – 1-2 capsules/meal
Vitamin D3 – 2000-5000 iu
Probiotics – 50 billion units/day
L-carnitine – 250-500 mg/day
Given each child’s unique dietary needs, the above information is solely for educational purposes and is meant as a guideline of what may or may not assist and alleviate the common symptoms associated with an ASD diagnosis.
Food For The Brain. (2012). About Autism.
Autism Speaks. (2013). Nutrition and Autism.
Dr. Axe, Food Is Medicine. (2015). Autism Natural Treatment.
Brain Balance Achievement Centers. (2015). Bio-Nutrition.