17 Oct Can nutrition help autism?
There is so much information and education regarding nutrition and autism. I could easily write multiple posts on the subject. These would include understanding digestion, typical digestion in a person with autism, nutritional deficiencies typically seen, and recommended diet that will most benefit and lessen severity of symptoms your child may be experiencing. This post will mostly be a quick overview on the digestive state and nutritional deficiencies typically seen in autistic children. I’ll also tell you two of the best diet recommendations to help lessen the severity of symptoms.
There are two divisions of your nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic is also known as “fight or flight”. Picture a caveman running into a saber tooth tiger. His body would jump into sympathetic and either run from or prepare to fight the tiger. In sympathetic your heart rate rises, blood pressure rises, and digestion stops. Parasympathetic is also known as “rest and digest”. This is when a person is able to relax, digestion , and heart rate and blood pressure are normal.
Autistic children typically suffer from chronic stress. Chronic stress puts a person into a sympathetic state. This means not only is there digestive dysfunction, but they are also not able to absorb the nutrients from the food which leads to a gut microbiome imbalance and leaky gut.
Symptoms of digestive dysfunction
Some of the more obvious symptoms of digestive dysfunction are very obvious including diarrhea, constipation and belly pain. Other symptoms of digestive dysfunction most people are not aware of include undigested food in the stool, light colored stool that floats, bloating, gas, leaning over a table or couch to put pressure on the belly to relieve pain, vomiting, heartburn/reflux, picky or fussy eating habits, cravings for sugar and/or starchy foods, dislike in proteins, eczema, dry skin, muscle cramps and much more.
The most important dietary change is to carbohydrates. The only sugars or carbohydrates allowed are those found in fruits and non-starch vegetables. All complex carbohydrates found in grains and starchy vegetables must be removed. This can be a very difficult task especially if your child craves sugar or starches as mentioned above. Use the previous mentioned websites to find recipes that you can substitute.
Why is this change so important? It is due to the digestive dysfunction which causes the gut microbiome to become imbalanced (more bad bacteria than good bacteria). The bad bacteria loves to feed on complex carbohydrates and starchy foods, which will help them to continue to grow out of control. Adding a probiotic supplement to your child’s diet along with eliminating complex carbohydrates will help to bring your child’s microbiome back into balance.
The other dietary change that should be done is the type of fats in the child’s diet. The fats which should be in your child’s diet are fats in fresh meat, fats rendered from meats, dairy fats (butter, cream and ghee) and fats in egg yolks. Fats that should be absolutely avoided are vegetable oils, cooking oils, margarine, butter replacements, spreadable butter, hydrogenated oils, and shortenings. Your child also needs a good supplement of essential fatty acids. I recommend either a cod liver oil or a fish oil with EPA and DHA.
As I stated at the beginning this is only a brief overview. If you would like to know more about what diet changes and supplements would help your child, please call or make an appointment and we can fully discuss your child’s full history and the best first steps to take.
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