A diet for an autistic child

Autism and diet

There is no such thing as the perfect diet for an Autistic child. It is usually recommended that those on the spectrum follow a Gluten free and Casein free diet. This is because due to faulty metabolism these proteins are capable of affecting brain function in a negative way contributing to Autistic symptoms.

Apart from this they can wreck havoc on an already compromised digestive system. It is usually stated that Autism is a disorder of the brain but current thinking is that Autism may be a disease state that stems from the gut! And it is also suggested that the gut is the second brain.

In clinical investigations it is found that the gut health of Autistic children is compromised. They may have digestive problems ranging form moderate to severe. They have problems with digesting certain foods and have fluctuations in their bowel patterns such as severe constipation and diarrhoea. Some may have acid reflux, a distended abdomen and abdominal pain.

Unfortunately an Autistic child is not able to tell us these. But usually once an appropriate diet has been prescribed and with some nutritional supplementation some of these symptoms will go away. This often leads to a happier and healthier child.

Which diet?

As mentioned above the Gluten free (GF) Casein free (CF) diet is not the one and only diet. This is only the first step in trying to bring about changes and healing. There are other diets that are worth looking into if the first one fails. But take note that often better results are achieved with keeping other diets also GF/CF. Here I will briefly talk about them.

Gluten Free / Casein Free

First the GF/CF diet: With this diet all food sources of Gluten and Casein needs to be eliminated. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley. Kamut, triticale and shorgum may also be contaminated with gluten and is best to avoid them also.

Casein is a protein in all dairy products. Cows milk cheese, butter, yoghurt or same products made with sheep or goats milk. These foods need to be replaced where possible with suitable alternatives. Some children do very well on this diet and some report improved concentration, eye contact and communication.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

With this diet all food sources of double bond sugars and more complex sugars are removed. Only those foods with single sugars are allowed. All grains are eliminated and dairy is eliminated in the beginning. After the initial elimination period home fermented dairy is introduced and if well tolerated the child can eat fermented dairy products and cheeses.

Example but not complete list of foods eliminated on this diet grains such as rice, wheat, oats, rye, barley, millet, quinoa, potatoes, milk, buffalo cheese, sugar, ladies fingers, dried beans. Most fresh fruit and vegetables are allowed and meats, fish, chicken and other animal proteins, honey almonds and seeds are allowed. This diet may be suitable for those that have not progressed on the GF/CF diet or those with more severe gastro intestinal problems. It has proven to be a very effective diet and some children do very well on it.

Low Oxalate Diet

In this diet foods that contain high oxalates are eliminated for an effective period or till positive effects are felt. Due to faulty metabolism the oxalates form crystals in the body and can affect brain function, cause pain and even contribute to hypotonia.

Symptoms improve as the oxalates leave the body this is called oxalate dumping. Some nutritional supplements need to be taken to help the binding and elimination process. Recommended for those that have not moved on with the SCD or that have a continuously distended abdomen on the SCD.

Some of the high oxalate foods are berries, nuts, seeds, green beans, aubergines, tomatoes, grains. Some low oxalate foods include white rice, squash, cabbage, courgette and pears.

The Body Ecology Diet

This diet is based on, the gut is infected with yeast and all food sources that feed the yeast needs to be eliminated. It concentrates highly on fermented foods that are highly beneficial to the gastro intestinal tract. These foods are home made and are packed with friendly bacteria probiotics.

With this diet all food sources of sugar is eliminated and only limited fruit is allowed. Lots of fresh vegetables, meats, chicken and fish are allowed. Each meal needs to be eaten with some fermented vegetables. In the introduction stage a drink called kefir needs to made and drunk. This is a fermented dairy drink but at the initial stages of the diet it is recommended to use coconut water to make coconut kefir. Later on cows milk or goats milk kefir is introduced if tolerated.

Apart from all the above diets an Autistic Child’s diet may need to be low in Phenols due to faulty sulphation, also free from: additive, colouring, yeast, trans fat, nitrate, sulphate, flavour enhancers (MSG, yeast extract, vegetable protein…), Soya.

Nutritional therapy fordingbridge hampshireAbout The Author 

Susan Davis is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist located in the New Forest, Hampshire. Susan typically sees from the surrounding areas of Cranbourne, Damerham, Verwood and Three Legged Cross.

Find out more about Susan’s work by visiting her GoToSee profile page here

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