Autism Nutrition And Diet
Rates of Autism are on the rise. As of 2008, roughly one percent of children in the US (1 in 88) had been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In 2011, these numbers were increased to 1 in 50. The challenge with autism is that it is not a single health issue, but a series of brain and physical conditions (including gastrointestinal, inflammatory and immune) that affects each patient. There could be new environmental or physiological causes triggering more incidences nowadays; but in part, new definitions of the disease and increased awareness have brought about the diagnosis of a larger group of children than ever before.
ASD and Autism are both general terms for a group of complex developmental disorders that usually appear in the first three years of a child’s life. Characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviors, the autism spectrum includes the milder form, known as Asperger syndrome, to autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD (the most severe form).
Some practitioners have found that by treating a child’s problems one by one, like any gastrointestinal issue, they can dramatically increase their comfort level, which often lessens behavioral symptoms as well. There is much debate over the etiology of autism, but we have begun to see nutritional patterns emerge among this patient population. It hasn’t been determined whether these nutritional changes lead to the symptoms associated with autism or if they are the result of the biochemical differences that underlie the condition. Either way, it is essential to supply the nutrients to ensure that your patient can function at their best!
In addition to avoiding certain foods due to diagnosed allergies (like gluten or casein), there are many nutrients that children with autism would benefit from, especially if they have any nutritional deficiencies. One important consideration is that many children with autism have digestive imbalances that can affect absorption of nutrients.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – According to the University of Minnesota, preliminary evidence for the supplementation of omega-3s in autistic children is very promising. As you know, omega-3 fats are extremely important for both immune and brain health. Recent studies have found that increasing omega-3s in the diet is associated with improvements in hyperactivity, repetitive behaviors, cognitive and motor skills, concentration, eye contact, sociability, and sleep in children with ASD. Furthermore, infants who received essential fatty acid supplements in their breast milk or formula were less likely to develop ASD.*
- Vitamin B12 and Folate – Preliminary research suggests that individuals with ASD have difficulty with the biochemical process of methylation. Supplying methylated forms of these nutrients (methylcobalamin and methylfolate, or MTHF) may help to overcome that difficulty.*
- Iron – Iron is essential for normal development of the brain and nervous system. Studies have demonstrated that children with autism have a higher rate of iron deficiency and that the deficiency is often related to sleep disturbances. Clinical trials on iron supplementation have been conducted on children with ADHD, but none to date on autism.*
- Magnesium – Magnesium promotes neuromuscular function, cardiac and emotional health, regulates acid-alkaline balance in the body. It is also necessary for metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids and fats, energy production; utilization of calcium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus.*
- Complex Digestive Enzymes – Proteases provide optimal activity across a wide pH range and facilitate the normal breakdown of proteins and di- and tri-peptides. Lipase promotes lipid breakdown while amylase and glucoamylase stimulate polysaccharide breakdown of starch and glycogen. Invertase and lactase support digestion of carbohydrates, including the dairy sugar lactose. Cellulase supports fiber breakdown.*
- Amino Acids – Amino acids maintain daily wellness with amino acid building blocks to support protein synthesis. Enhances healthy neurotransmitter synthesis with amino acid precursors to support cognitive function and positive mood. Promotes immune function, in part by supporting healthy glutamine and glutathione levels.*
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) – Plant based DHA is breakthrough supplement derived from algae oil is important for brain, nervous system, eyes and cardiovascular health. Along with Lecithin, plant based DHA helps lipid layer membrane to maintain fluidity allowing nutrients to enter cells for support of vital organ functions.*
- Consider Probiotics, botanicals and nutrients that can support healthy digestive function to ensure that whatever you prescribe is ingested, digested and absorbed properly.*
- There are several other key nutrients to consider in children with autism including Vitamins A, C, D, K and E, selenium and glutathione. In addition to vitamins, there are homeopathic combinations, botanicals and minerals to support well-being of a patient. Each case, it is essential to consider the individual needs of the child, but it is certainly likely that your patients with autism would benefit from correcting any nutritional deficiencies present.*
- Very common issue among children with Autism is heavy metal toxicity that reqiues very careful approach during detoxification process.
- In addition to above-mentioned nutritional recommendations, avoid artificial sweeteners, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and processed foods. There are numerous studies supporting that the consumption of these products increases inflammatory processes and alters gastrointestinal function, especially in children with Autism. Use only organic produce from well recognized brands and local farms. Please follow this LINK if you wish to know how to “Avoid Foods Made With Genetically Modified Organisms“
To download complete “Autism Nutrition and Diet” recommendations by Julie Matthews, CNC, click on the image below.