Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects children’s ability to communicate, understand the feelings of others and creates social anxieties.
Studies show that certain diets can help alleviate ASD symptoms. There are an abundance of diets that have been known to help reduce these symptoms, however, recently the most popular one is the gluten and casein free diet, also known as the GCFC diet.
“Autism Research Institute (ARI) surveyed thousands of parents and found that’s 69% of those applying the GCFC diet saw improvement” (Kawicka and Regulska-Ilow, 2013) when implementing this diet, it is crucial to remove all foods with gluten (barley, rye, wheat) and casein (dairy and milk products). The benefits of the gluten and casein free diet come from the concept that ASD children may have food sensitivities, similar to that of an allergy, in foods that have gluten and casein in them. Children, who have ASD, according to this concept, digest proteins differently than children who do not have ASD. Theoretically, the difficulty in digestion of these proteins may enhance autistic symptoms. The brain therefore does not process this intake of proteins the way it normally would and this causes the behavior of the child to fluctuate (Williams, 2013). Gluten and casein free diets is said to alleviate these reactions and increase better communication and social behaviors.
It is suggested that additional dietary recommendations that help relieve ASD symptoms include increased levels of omega 3 fats, certain vitamins and minerals.
Since it is known that some autistic children have an “enzymatic defect that removes essential fats from brain cell membranes more quickly than it should” it is important to provide an ASD child with higher intakes of omega 3 fats (ASD and Diets, 2016). Increasing the intake of these essential fats, as well as the inclusion of certain vitamins and minerals will help improve the child’s overall behavior, sleep patterns and social communication skills.
Guidance from a qualified dietitian is always recommended to ensure that the child is taking in all of the proper nutrients during a specific diet. Contact Nutrition CPR to learn more.
Sidney is a junior at Lynchburg College and a Health Promotions major. She is a member of the women’s lacrosse team and has a younger brother with Autism. Her sibling bond is the reason for her interest in the correlation between nutrition and the behavior of children with ASD. Sidney will be writing 2 more articles on autism and diet this summer for Nutrition CPR!