Nutritional therapy for autism is usually the purview of pseudoscience and inflammatory rhetoric. However, certain aspects of autistic disorder (AD) can keep someone with the disorder from receiving proper nutrition. Even if diet cannot be used as a panacea, at Lexington, we believe it is still necessary to ensure a proper, balanced diet for people with autism.
Diet As An Aggravant Of Autism
Many people believe certain foods or ingredients are aggravators of autism, but at this time the jury is still out. While many theories have arisen, but none have been scientifically proven. Some food ingredients, such as dyes, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial preservatives, are often linked to having a negative impact on children with (or without) autism. Cutting these, along with refined and overprocessed foods, likely won’t negatively impact your child’s health. It’s cutting out foods with nutritional value that may lead to unintended consequences. For instance, preventing your child from eating other foods, such as wheat and dairy, can potentially hurt them because they lose out on necessary nutrients.
Diets To Treat Autism
Some parents introduce restricted diets to their autistic children, including gluten (wheat) free, casein (dairy) free and low sugar. Experts worry because these parents self-treat their children based on personal research and by talking to other parents, despite the fact that none of these diets have been proven by documented research to be effective.
Additionally, children with autism have different sensory issues or may need to eat in a way where certain conditions/routines are met. Some may be sensitive to texture, color or smell or any combination of reactions. If you’re looking to try to restrict your child’s foods, you should consult with a registered dietician or another nutrition specialist to ensure that they eat a balanced and healthy diet.
Diets To Ameliorate The Effects Of Autism
Different diets designed to treat autism can be easily found on the web, but that doesn’t mean these are beneficial to your child. Diets some parents place their kids on include:
- High calcium to protect thin bones.
- Elimination diets to address digestive problems.
- Substitute foods to accommodate children who have an aversion to texture.
It’s important to note that none of these diets have been deemed as cures by experts and that no studies support their effectiveness. There is some research to support that AD does create a disconnect between the gut and brain, which might be the root of some dietary problems. That being said, it’s important to work with a professional to ensure that your child is eating the right foods before starting any diet.
Unlike other conditions, autism encompasses a wide spectrum and is a complex group of disorders. While there are similarities among children with AD, no two have the exact same experience or symptoms. That being the case, while one diet may ameliorate the effects of autism for one child, it may do nothing for another.
Foods And Supplements As A Therapeutic Solution
Sometimes children with autism are given specific foods and/or supplements, such as multivitamins, omega-3, vitamin D and enzymes, to ensure proper nutrition. These can be helpful to some children; however, receiving too high of a supplement can have unintended effects. According to small-scale studies, certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, are considered safe and may reduce some autism-related symptoms such as repetitive behavior, hyperactivity and even improve socialization. Other nutritional supplements may also counteract some of the effects of autism nutritional therapy, but again, you want to be careful. It’s best to check with a professional to ensure that a properly balanced diet, along with the appropriate type and level of supplements, are given.
As you know, dealing with AD can have its rough days. Sometimes we want to believe in a cure so badly it’s easy to turn to something like diet in the hopes that it’ll work. However, while diet modifications may help some children, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Diets should never be generically used as a treatment for autism. However, using it as a complement with more conventional treatments might help.
If you think your child might benefit from nutritional therapy, Lexington Services can refer you to a nutritional specialist to make sure your child is getting the necessary nutrients.
To read more like this, check out our last post.