What is the "autism diet"?
What is the "autism diet"?
First, I have to say that there is no one size fits all approach to holistic dietary strategies. That being said a vast majority of people on the spectrum suffer from reported gastrointestinal disturbances. So it is suggested that people on the spectrum have higher occurrence of food sensitivities and allergies and the neurotypical population. Autism is a multi-systemic condition affecting individual’s immune system, neurological system, mitochondrial function, metabolism, gut microbiome, endocrine and hormonal system. Therefore, a holistic “whole body” approach to the autism diet is the only way to approach wellness and health unique to autism.
Reduced level of gut fermenters has been found in the intestinal tract of the autism population. Fermenters are naturally occurring bacteria in the gut that help digest food and process certain nutrients from the food you eat. These gut fermenter bacteria live an ecosystem of there own called the microbiome. Just like in an ecosystem in the forest, you need all different species to maintain the healthy balance of nature. If one forest species is depleted it allows other species to grow rampant and unabated causing an imbalance in nature. The same principle can be applied to microbiome of the gut fermenters. Did you know that upwards of 90% of your bodies’ serotonin is produced in the gut? Serotonin is the feel-good body chemical that effects mood, sleep and appetite. This is what is referred to as the gut-brain connection, which is the ability of the gut microbiome to communicate with the brain and regulate behavior. So, if a child has food allergies or sensitivities that cause irritation of the gut and disruption of the delicate balance of bacteria, you can see how this may affect their overall wellbeing.
Many children on the autism spectrum have gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, gastroesophageal reflux, and intestinal infections. A number of studies focusing on the intestinal mucosa, its permeability, abnormal gut development, leaky gut, and other GI problem. GI tract has a direct connection with the immune system and an imbalanced immune response is usually seen in ASD children. GI abnormalities are often seen to correlate with the severity of the ASD behavioral problems and current literature favors a gut-brain interaction where GI abnormalities are present.
In a nutshell, autism is primarily a communication disorder and if an individual is in pain or discomfort but cannot effectively express this, you may see challenging behavior. If you can reduce the discomfort and physical stress you may reduce the challenging behaviors.
The most common food allergies are dairy, gluten, soy, food additive, dyes and preservatives. So, without having to do extensive testing, you can begin an autism diet by eliminating suspected or potential allergens from the diet and you may see results. In my own personal experience with my daughter (individual results may vary) it was only 2 weeks on an autism diet before teachers and caregivers were remarking on the reduction in hyperactivity and meltdowns they observed. When making dietary changes and eliminating certain foods it is always wise to do your research and seek support from a nutritionist to ensure your child is still receiving a well-balanced diet for optimal health. Check out some fun autism friendly recipes for your picky eater.