Proper nutrition is important for everyone, especially developing children. Nutrition is a necessary component to any autism or PDD treatment to not only monitor possible deficiencies, but also to promote healing. Food allergies, intolerances and environmental toxins cause inflammation, and this affects the brain and how well it functions.
Nutrition is something that has to be carefully monitored in children with autism and other sensory related disorders because many of these children have self-limiting diets. This is because of their sensitivity to textures, tastes and smells which can result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies when a child will only eat a few foods. Autism and nutrition are connected by the fact food being consumed can help heal, and food can also be one of the causes of the symptoms.
All health begins in the digestive or enteric system. A healthy gut keeps everything in balance; and will have the good types of bacteria that keep the immune system strong. Nutrition is a normal and natural way to keep the body healthy. Medications work to mimic what good nutrition does.
Autism and Nutrition: How Nutrition Affects the Brain
The gut and the brain originate from the same tissue during fetal development that later divide. One piece will go to the central nervous system, and the other the enteric system, later they are connected by the Vagus nerve. This nerve serves as a telephone line from the brain to the digestive system, and both of these “brains” run everything else in the body. All health begins here, so when there is an imbalance in one, there is an imbalance in the other.
The hundreds of millions of neurotransmitters in the digestive tract and in the brain are in constant communication with each other, which is why some scientist’s refer to our “gut” as a second brain. Sometimes food is not completely digested, leaving behind tiny particles which interfere with the digestive or enteric system’s ability to communicate properly with the brain. This causes the brain to not function properly resulting in stimming and an inability to learn. This is common in people on the autism spectrum, but it affects neurotypicals as well. The brain makes too much or not enough of chemicals, such as serotonin or norepinephrine. With too much serotonin a person will have impulse control problems, and trouble sleeping. And an imbalance of norepinephrine results in anxiety issues. Hyperactivity and anxiety disorders are linked to imbalances in the digestive system.
Related article – The Brain Gut Connection
This is why nutrition is important for any autism treatment. Foods such as wheat, dairy and soy do not always digest completely in everyone and if a person is allergic to or intolerant of them they should be removed from the diet. Removal can help to reduce the severity of autistic symptoms.
Diets for Autism Therapy
The most common diets used in autism therapy are those which restrict known allergens such as wheat, dairy, eggs, and soy. Lab tests can be performed as well as elimination diets to determine what if any food is not being tolerated. Other diets involve the removal of food additives, colors, and preservatives.
Popular diet models for autism are the Gluten Free Casein Free diet and the Feingold diets. These diets will not work on every child, because not every child has intolerance to the foods removed from these diets. However, the reduction of food additives that cause inflammation by changing the diet and the increase of known anti-inflammatory foods does promote healing for everyone. After implementing these diets 100 percent for a few months, there is a reduction in stimming and hyperactivity. The child is also more engaged and therefore more capable of learning.
The mystery is discovering the areas which are damaged and then repairing them.