Austism, Diet & Nutrition

Our grandparents always say that a healthy mind resides in healthy body. Recent researches in the field of medical science reveal that the community of bacterias living in our gut also called Gut microbiome, are one of the prime reason for our health. The gut microbiome has huge impact on the metabolic activities and the immune modulation (the efforts of the immune system to ensure its response is proportionate to a threat) in the human body.

Medical experts have varied opinion regarding the role of Gut microbiome in ASD. While one faction of experts believe that gut microbiome has potential connection to ASD symptoms the other contend that microbiome can’t cause ASD. But the researches reveal that even though the gut microbiome doesn’t play a causative role, its abnormalities can challenge an individual with toxic metabolites and keep the person from synthesising the metabolites required to produce neurotransmitters involved in cognition, behaviour, mood, and sleep. In simple terms, symptoms such as irritability and a decreased ability to concentrate are caused by discomfort because of digestive issues, such as constipation and/or diarrhoea.

Also, it has been found that children who have received repeated or prolonged courses of antibiotic drugs, these antibiotics kill good as well as bad bacteria in the gut, and this may be why autistic individuals commonly have bowel irregularities.  

Thus, it brings us back to the opinion that nutrition and lifestyle interventions can be supportive to individuals with autism. The following are also important nutritional and lifestyle factors for consideration:

  • balancing blood sugar
  • identifying food allergies, such as gluten and dairy
  • addressing nutrient deficiencies
  • ensuring an optimal intake of essential fats, most notably omega 3 fatty acids

There are evidences that gluten-free and casein-free diets can help children with ASD because some of these children are found to lack the bacteria that helps break down casein and gluten into metabolites. Also it has been found that the role of diet, prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics (which combine the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics)is encouraging for the efficient management of ASD.

Changing Food habits for improving digestion:

Increase Probiotics

Increasing consumption of fermented foods considerably increases probiotics through food. It can also be beneficial to supplement probiotics to increase the presence of beneficial gut bacteria.

Balance Blood Sugar

There is an overlap between ADHD/hyperactivity and autism, the autistic children who show signs of hyperactivity, improving their blood sugar balance can help them considerably. The hyperactive children take more sugar than other individuals. Regularly snacking on junk food slows the glucose/sugar absorption, and the levels of glucose in blood will seesaw continually. This causes fluctuations in levels of activity, concentration, focus and behavior, and impact on brain function and development. Thus, it is advised to reduce consumption of sugary and processed foods and drinks, and limit caffeine consumption. On the other hand, consume more whole foods, such as vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, fish, lean meats, such as chicken and turkey, nuts, seeds and pulses to support blood sugar levels.

Increase Omega 3 Fats

Deficiency of essential fats is common in children with autism, some autistic individuals have an enzymatic defect that removes essential fats from brain cell membranes more quickly than it should otherwise. Thus, autistic individuals are likely to need a higher intake of essential fats. It is found that supplementing EPA, which can slow the activity of the defective enzyme, has clinically improved behavior, mood, imagination, spontaneous speech, sleep patterns and focus in autistic individuals. There have been clinical trials testing omega-3 supplements, in which it is found that individuals with autism when given omega-3 supplements have resulted in improvement in symptoms such as hyperactivity, social ability, concentration, irritability and aggression. Eating oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, at least twice a week, and seeds, such as flaxseeds (also called linseeds) and chia seeds, on most days can provide ample amount of Omega 3.

Increase Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Magnesium: Researches have shown that vitamin B6, C and magnesium supplements significantly improve symptoms in autistic individuals. Dark, leafy green vegetables, chickpeas and salmon are great sources of B6. Peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli and cauliflower are good sources of Vitamin C. Green vegetables, nuts, seeds, cacao and wholegrains are all foods which are good sources of magnesium. It is always advisable to obtain these nutrients from food instead of supplements.

Vitamin D: Research and clinical trials have indicated a possible link between Autism and Vitamin D levels. Individuals with autism have significantly lower vitamin D levels and supplementing them significantly improves symptoms such as attention span, eye contact, and behavior. Vitamin D is present in foods, such as milk and mushrooms. However, the most advisable way to obtains Vitamin D naturally via exposure to sunlight.

Avoid food Allergies

The strongest direct evidence of foods linked to autism involves wheat and dairy, and the specific proteins they contain – namely, gluten and casein. These are difficult to digest and, especially if introduced too early in life, may result in an allergy. Fragments of these proteins, called peptides, can have a major impact on the brain. Thus it is advised to refrain from these foods.

Will diet changes really reduce autism symptoms?

Not always, it depends, making any of these dietary changes alone does not guarantee that autism symptoms will lessen. In some cases, it may even make things worse. Cutting out food groups that are high in nutritional value like dairy and gluten could negatively the child with autism (ASD). But, if the child does have GI symptoms (bloating, nausea, diarrhoea), a food allergy diagnosis or if he has a true food sensitivity, cutting out the culprit food may lead to improvement in typical autism symptoms. If you suspect your child has these issues and could benefit from an elimination diet, consider the following:

  • Keep a log of the child’s food intake, moods, behaviours (look and analyse for patterns)
  • Find a qualified medical professional to make sure that child stays healthy
  • Complete allergy food testing
  • Reintroduce foods and track any effects
  • Strictly always stick to the diet to see best results (if the diet is determined necessary) 

Work with a behavior specialist to overcome severe eating behavior issues due to sensory reasons.

Leave a comment