Autism and autism spectrum disorders are serious issues. One of the most pressing concerns for autistic children’s parents is keeping their children’s weight healthy. “What is the best diet for autism?” is a question that doctors get asked every day.
Autism and diet are directly related. What your child eats plays a major role in their health. Eating the wrong kind of food can trigger negative behavior. You can use healthier foods to positively influence your child too.
What Is the Best Diet for Autism
Many parents who have autistic children are desperate for any information that will help their child. Unfortunately, there’s no diet for autism that works for every single child with ASD.
You need to be prepared that it may take some time to figure out what works best for your child, so don’t get discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work immediately.
Your doctor is the best person to talk to about an autism diet plan.
We understand that you may have had some challenging moments when going to doctors’ offices with your child in the past. We can provide a full ASD screening via teleconference. Your family won’t have to leave the comfort of their home, minimizing the stress for everyone.
The Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that was originally developed to treat epilepsy in children. It’s been shown to have some beneficial effects in treating autism, including reducing hyperactivity and irritability.
If your autistic child has seizures or epilepsy, then the ketogenic diet might be a good option. Research has shown a link between dietary changes and reduced seizures in children with autism.
While the exact mechanism of action isn’t known, the ketogenic diet is thought to work by increasing the level of certain chemicals called ketones in the brain. This may improve communication between brain cells (neurons), which may help reduce symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
There are several types of ketogenic diets:
- Standard ketogenic diet (SKD):
High fat/moderate protein: 70% fats; 20% proteins; 10% carbs
- High protein ketogenic diet:
Moderate fat/high protein: 60% fats; 35% proteins; 5% carbs
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD):
Low fat/high protein: 45%-50% fats; 25%-30% proteins; 20%-25% carbs (but only around a workout)
The GF/CF Diet
The gluten-free/casein-free diet is based on the idea that gluten and casein are harmful to people with autism.
Many people find success with the GF/CF diet. This diet avoids gluten and dairy products as much as possible because research has shown that they can make symptoms worse in some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
This diet is restrictive, meaning that it requires parents to eliminate certain foods from their child’s diet. It does not treat autism or change a person’s behavior, but it can be helpful in reducing symptoms of gastrointestinal problems in some children.
Many parents have reported more positive behavior, better sleep patterns, and improved speech after implementing the GF/CF diet.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a dietary approach that aims to manage the symptoms of autism, including seizures, sleep issues, and behavioral problems. It’s based on a theory that people with autism have an underlying digestive problem that causes them to be intolerant of many foods.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet focuses on eliminating grains, legumes, and milk products from the diet. This means that most processed foods are off-limits for people following this diet. Instead, you’ll focus on eating lots of meat and vegetables — with some fruits and nuts included as well — and using plenty of olive oil in your cooking.
There’s some evidence that this approach can help reduce the severity of some symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including anxiety and hyperactivity.
But it’s not a cure-all for every autistic person who tries it. It may take some trial and error to find out what works best for you or your child.
Low FODMAP Diet
The Low FODMAP diet can help children on the autistic spectrum to manage their symptoms. The diet limits the amount of fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) that can be eaten in a day.
FODMAPS are a type of carbohydrate found in many foods and drinks. Some people with digestive conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may have trouble digesting these carbs. For example, people with IBS report feeling bloated or gassy after eating certain high-FODMAP foods.
Foods that are low FODMAP include proteins such as egg, meat and certain cheeses. Feta, cheddar, brie, and camembert are all on the safe food list! Some nut milks are acceptable, but be sure to do your research.
Quinoa, rice, oats, eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, and squash are just a few of the veggies that are on the autism food list. Strawberries, pineapple, and grapes are good fruit suggestions.
Following a low FODMAPS diet has been shown to help patients manage their symptoms better than other types of diets do.
In a Nutshell
There are many diets that can help autism. The important thing to note is that there isn’t a perfect diet that will cure all symptoms.
The best diet for autism depends on your child’s age and what he or she likes to eat. There is, however, some evidence showing that a gluten-free diet would be most beneficial for a child with an autism diagnosis.
In general, these diets follow some common principles:
- They emphasize whole foods instead of processed food (which tends to have higher amounts of sugar or artificial additives
- They avoid processed grains (like white flour) in favor of whole grains like oats and quinoa
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas to develop an autism diet that works for your child. It may take time before you notice any changes in their behavior or mood, so don’t give up!
If you’re looking for more information on special diets like gluten-free (GF) and casein-free (CF), consider booking a telemedicine autism screening consultation with a Developmental Pediatrician, based in Texas.