As parents, it is important to work closely with the nutritionist to make sure to follow the specific diet and nutrition plan. It is also advisable for parents to help their children follow a rainbow diet that is a diet consisting of colorful vegetables and fruits. Parents can help introduce new vegetables and fruits slowly. The human brain needs lot of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals to work its best.
All the mentioned nutrients are packed in veggies and fruits, and the use of probiotics in food can help soothe the gut and improve its functioning. Thus, these tips can help parents ensure the benefits of a healthy diet.
While following Gluten free diet gluten free alternatives like millets, quinoa, rice, sorghum, gluten free pasta, noodles, gluten free bread etc can be included.
While following Casein free diet casein free alternatives like coconut milk, rice milk, Almond milk can be included.
Points to remember
Do not include processed foods at all in the diet.
All foods should be as natural as possible.
Fruits and vegetables should be given raw and fresh.
Give small and frequent meals.
Give plenty of water daily.
Do not allow children to skip meal.
Make them chew food properly before swallowing.
If having difficulty in chewing change food consistency as per need.
Limit fried foodstuff.
Include the alternative food items before eliminating the restricted food items from the diet.
Maintain food dairy.
Try to incorporate colorful variety of food.
Read label carefully for gluten & casein.
All children on elimination diets should be under the care of a nutritionist.
A specific diet or nutrition plan should only be started after consulting the child's pediatrician as well as occupational therapist. It should only be considered if the child is in need of specific and special dietary details.
A diet plan can be given by a qualified dietitian or nutritionist. Normally, ones pediatrician or occupational therapist can give a referral for a nutritionist. Our database online also has an exhaustive list of potential nutritionists and dietitians sorted by country, state, and city.
It is better to start the special diet in consultation with your doctor and your Dietitian as soon as possible after diagnosis. Having said that, it is important that the child eats the alternative food options before eliminating any food from the child's diet.
Simple sugars can be very hazardous to those with Autism. This increases the energy levels on a temporary basis which can be attributed to hyperactive behavior intermittently. Sugar substitutes like dates, honey can be used. Artificial sweeteners must be strictly avoided too. Artificial colors, flavors or any preservatives must be strictly kept at bay. Avoid big fishes as they are concentrated with toxins from the sea especially mercury, an immunotoxin that can lead to lowering the capacity of the immune system. Toxins like Monosodium Glutamate-MSG (ajinomoto used in Chinese foods) can cause over-excitation in the brain leading to hyperactivity, hence must be avoided.
You may find that there are several diet plans that are advised for Autism. However, it is advisable to consult with your child's nutritionist before starting with any particular diet plan. Currently, the few most commonly suggested diet plans for children with Autism, are:
Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet (GFCF)
The most specialized autism diet plan commonly prescribed for children on the spectrum is the Gluten free and Casein free diet (GFCF-diet).
There are several theories as to why the GFCF diet may be beneficial. One hypothesis is that individuals with Autism have difficulty digesting gluten & casein, causing the formation of peptides-gluteomorphin & casomorphin and their absorption into the bloodstream. These two peptides which appear to have chemical structure similar to opiates can cross the blood brain barrier and cause symptoms like delayed social and language skills & some behavioral issues.
Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains, including oats, rye, barley, bulgur, durum, kamut and spelt, and foods made from those grains. They are also found in food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, flavorings, and artificial colors and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins.
Casein is a protein found in milk and foods containing milk, such as cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, whey and even some brands of margarine. It also may be added to non-milk products such as soy cheese and hot dogs in the form of caseinate. The GFCF diet for autism mainly eliminates all wheat (and wheat products) and milk (and milk products). Although it may sound difficult, several alternatives are easily available.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
This diet excludes all complex sugars and starches (except honey & fruit sugar) in addition to gluten and casein. Eliminating sugars and starches starves out the yeast and bad bacteria (which feed on complex sugars), therefore helps reduce side effects created by yeast and bacteria overgrowth, which include gastrointestinal issues, headaches and hyperactivity.
In this diet for autism, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, certain beans, all non-starchy vegetables, and fruit are allowed. This is not a low carbohydrate diet but a specific carbohydrate diet. Diet focuses on non-starchy vegetables, fruit, honey, and certain beans for carbohydrates and avoids other sugars and starches.
Body Ecology Diet (BED)
The Body Ecology Diet is an anti-Candida autism diet plan focused on clearing up yeast and dysbiosis (imbalance of bad bacteria in the gut). Based on the concept of a natural balance of microorganisms that are involved in a range of functions in the body, and that this balance might be lacking in individuals with autism.
The three basic elements are adding cultured foods (such as yogurt and fermented vegetables), integrating "good" fats (flaxseed and extra virgin olive oil), and significantly reducing carbohydrate and sugar intake. Even if someone chooses a different diet, many of the Body Ecology principles can also be applied, such as the inclusion of fermented foods, soaking grains, and consuming more non-starchy vegetables full of minerals and alkalizing to the body. Fermented foods in particular are wonderful for supplying good bacteria that are known to reduce pathogenic bacteria such as clostridia, and for overall digestive and immune function.
Lutein-Free Diet (Sara's Diet)
This diet eliminates lutein, a pigment nutrient found in some fruits and vegetables such as spinach, corn, carrots, oranges and peaches. Lutein has been found to trigger severe allergic reactions, which often express themselves as gastrointestinal issues. This diet for autism also incorporates removal of soy and restriction of gluten and casein.
It is important to monitor and moderate the intake of certain additional food based substances while following any autism diet plan.
Often, the nutritional status in Children with autism remains compromised. It is seen that they usually have vitamin or other mineral deficiencies, such as, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency. This could be a result of swallowing difficulties, sensory problems like food preferences, or gut related issues such as, diarrhoea, constipation, frequent infections, bloating and gastrointestinal (GI) pain. Issues such as not being able to sit in one place during meal times, could also be one of the reasons.
When things go awry in the "gut," negative behavioral changes and cognitive problems could occur or can get exacerbated. Hence, an autism diet plan with an alteration in the diet with respect to the nutritional requirement after assessing the other aspects like the swallowing and digestive ability is necessary so as to improve the quality of life of the patient.
Just like with other children, it could be challenging for a parent of child with autism, to ensure their child is receiving all the right nutrients in the right proportions. Hence, a healthy, nutritious and balanced, diet plan for autism needs can make a world of difference in their ability to learn, how they manage their emotions and how they process information.
Normally, diets such as the the Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet (GFCF), Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), Body Ecology Diet (BED), and Lutein-Free Diet (Sara's Diet) are followed to help children on the autism spectrum.
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