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Nutrition for Autism

on April 2, 2015

AutisticChild

2nd April is the world Autism Awareness Day. On this occasion, let’s see what is autism and how nutrition can be helpful for its treatment. Autism is a complex biological disorder characterized by difficulties with speech; abnormalities of posture or gesture; problems with understanding the feelings of others; sensory and visual misconceptions, fears and anxieties; and behavioral abnormalities such as compulsive/obsessive behavior and ritualistic movements. It is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

There is growing evidence that nutritional therapy can really make a big difference to children with autism. Many autistic children complain about digestion problems, eating disorders, food sensitivities & allergies or nutrient deficiencies; so correcting or treating these problems with diet is the key for a better productive life.

Following nutritional tips might be helpful

  • Improve digestion.

Many of the autistic children might be on the antibiotics due to various infections; respiratory or ear infections are the common ones. Broad-spectrum antibiotics kill good as well as bad bacteria in the gut, and this may be why autistic children commonly have bowel irregularities. Also research suggests that as many as nine out of 10 individuals with the condition also suffer from gastrointestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease and ‘leaky gut’ due to lesser gut friendly bacteria. Eating curd (probiotic), fruits, vegetables in the form of soups & steamed salads or fermented products (over-fermentation should be avoided) might balance the gut flora & thus improve the digestion. A paper published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology shows that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may associated with mental health; furthermore, the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways.”

  • Improving blood sugar levels

For Autistic children who show signs of hyperactivity, improving blood sugar balance is a key. When a child is regularly snacking on refined carbohydrates, sweets, chocolate, cold drinks, juices and has low fiber in the diet, the levels of glucose in their blood will fluctuate continuously and that will in turn trigger the fluctuations in their levels of activity, concentration, focus and behavior. This is definitely not a positive sign for any child’s brain function.So avoiding processed food, sweets, aerated drinks, fruit juices, sugar candies, over-eating cakes, chocolates & pastries will be helpful in maintaining the sugar levels.

  •  Avoid artificial sweeteners, coloring agents, genetically modified food, and preservatives.

These are also linked with hyperactivity & allergies; and can create a havoc for the brain so should be avoided.

  •  Include omega-3 fatty acids

Deficiencies in essential fats are common in people with autism. Research has shown that some autistic children have an enzymatic defect that removes essential fats from brain cell membranes more quickly than it should. This means that an autistic child is likely to need a higher intake of essential fats than the average. And it has been found that supplementing essential fatty acid, which can slow the activity of the defective enzyme, has clinically improved behavior, mood, imagination, spontaneous speech, sleep patterns and focus of autistic children. The good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, fish, olive oil, walnuts etc. Including these sources will be helpful.

  •  Treating nutrient deficiencies

The pioneering research by Dr Bernard Rimland of the Institute for Child Behavior Research in San Diego, California showed that vitamin B6, C and magnesium supplements significantly improved symptoms in autistic children. B6 in particular may help, in part because many children with autism or learning difficulties have pyroluria, a condition in which, for genetic reasons, high levels of compounds called kryptopyrroles are excreted in the urine, causing a deficiency of zinc and vitamin B6

  •  Write a food diary & child’s behavior

This will help to identify any food allergy or sensitivity or its reaction on child’s mental development and behavior.

  •  Take the help of a qualified dietitian

There may be confusion and lack of proper knowledge about nutrition approach. There are claims that removing wheat or milk will be helpful. However, these food items contain essential nutrients, so they should be carefully replaced. This is best done under a nutrition expert.

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