Dietary Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders
Again, there is no one-size fits all. No magic cure. The key is to develop a nutritional strategy that optimizes function. Again, there are 2 parts to this process - detecting and removing whatever irritation we can and feeding in a way that supports the body's ability to self regulate and grow and function well.
What I stress over and over to my clients, is that a successful dietary strategy is as much about what goes in the diet as it is about what comes out of the diet. If we just focus on food restriction we can not build a healthier body.
Here are a few of the dietary intervention I have used with autistic children to pin point food triggers while at the same time ensuring the diet is nutritionally dense, that blood sugar is stable and that absorption is optimized.
Gluten free / Casein Free / Soy Free
Emerging research on the gut-brain connection, food intolerance and non-celiac gluten sensitivity supports this diet as a viable place to start. Coaching around what to add in place of gluten, casein and soy rich foods along with careful attention to nutrient density are critical.
While an elimination diet has proven to be the most effective way to determine food sensitivity, care must be taken to monitor nutritional status during the process. Once foods have been identified, coaching around incorporating new food ideas to ensure the diet remains nutritionally balanced, along with digestive support and a systematic plan for the reintroduction of offending foods can be helpful.
This group of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that ferment easily when they come in contact with bacteria has been well researched for use in the treatment of GI conditions. As with the elimination diet, simply removing foods for an extended period of time is not the objective - improving digestive capacity so that the foods may be tolerated is the goal.
The low oxalate diet is most well known for the prevention of kidney stones in those susceptible, however I have also found it helpful for some cases of inflammation, chronic pain, autism, asthma, recurrent urinary tract infections and yeast infections. As with the other diets, the goal with the LOD is to relive irritation and symptoms while we focus on digestive regeneration.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and The Gut And Psychology/Physiology Syndrome Diet restrict disaccharides and polysaccharides while focusing on monosaccharides, proteins, healthy fat, and non-starchy vegetables with the overall goal of regenerating digestive and detoxification functions. Because these diets transition families away from common foods like whole grains and starches and emphasize foods such as broth, ferments, and fats, support ensuring new foods are well tolerated and that the diet remains nutritionally balanced is an important part of making these approaches successful. In 2013 I trained under Dr Campbell-Mcbride (creator of the GAPS diet) and continue to receive mentoring from her on GAPS principles.
Low Phenol / Low Salicylate
A reduced ability to process phenols can result in self injurious behaviour, bed wetting, aggression, dark circles under the eyes, headaches, inattention, night waking, speech difficulties, dyslexia and impulsivity. Avoiding phenolic additives and high phenol foods while adding in enzymes and support for sulfation can help relieve these reactions.
While the amino acid glutamate is crucial for proper brain and neurotransmitter function, it can act as an excitatory neurotransmitter in people who do not process it well and can lead to reduced glutathione production and subsequent neural damage. Removing glutamate-rich foods can help reduce symptoms of ASD, headaches and ADHD in some people.
Combining these dietary principles according to individual needs helps reduce irritation and inflammation while maximizing supportive nutrients, so that medical treatment can be more effective and function can be optimized.