Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex neurological disorder that can negatively affect a person's social and communication skills. Since the exact cause of autism is not known, treating a child's autism is difficult. Behavioural therapy and occupational therapy are often prescribed to help the child increase social skills and communication. Some children on the spectrum also have other conditions that are treated with medication. Parents and some health professionals believe that a special diet can also improve the child's prognosis.
What Is The Autism Spectrum Diet?
Parents use trial and error to find the right diet for their child, but the most common ingredients to eliminate are gluten, casein and high fructose corn syrup. The theory behind the diet is that children with autism are more sensitive to these foods, or they may have an allergy that causes gastrointestinal discomfort. Since these children often have communication problems, they are unable to tell their parents that these foods cause pain. Instead, they may scream or act aggressively to convey their discomfort and pain.
Another theory is that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a leaky gut. Toxins, yeast or antibiotics cause tears in their intestines that allow particles from the food they eat to travel throughout their body and into their brain. Furthermore, good bacteria may leave the gut, which leads to further damage. When cells that produce enzymes are destroyed, the child is unable to digest certain foods.
If a child has a leaky gut, toxins, bacteria and protein that haven't been digested can enter the bloodstream. The immune system will then attack these particles as foreign matter, which can lead to allergies and the opioid effect.
The opioid effect is when undigested protein molecules, usually from casein or gluten, enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain. These protein molecules are similar in structure to endorphins, so they bind to the brain's opioid receptors. When this happens, a person will struggle with speech, social skills and behavior. Just as opiates like heroin are addicting, the child will become addicted to gluten and casein.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of the latest foods eliminated in the autism diet. Some parents and professionals believe that HFCS is linked to a zinc deficiency. Zinc is needed to eliminate toxins and heavy metals from the body. Excess heavy metals and toxins in the body can cause behavior and communication problems in children.
Finding a diet that helps your child will be trial and error. Not all doctors and specialists believe that a dietary change will improve symptoms, so be prepared to meet resistance. If you think a special diet would help your child, eliminate foods one at a time and observe results. Keep a journal and write down your child's behaviour, sleep patterns and daily food.
You may be tempted to eliminate all the foods at once, but if you see improvement, you will not know which foods or combination of foods cause the improvement. Some children with autism are very picky eaters, so you do not want to eliminate foods unnecessarily and further limit your child's diet.