Parents to autistic children often face challenges providing a well-balanced diet. This is because autistic children often tend to limit their food intake or be picky about what they eat. As a result, such a child is more likely to experience dietary deficiencies.
The importance of a proper diet for any human being, autistic or not, should never be underplayed. The healthiest people also tend to be the ones with the most balanced diets. In the same way, a balanced diet for an autistic child will result in health benefits for that child.
The good stuff
Certain nutrients have been found to be helpful in the management of autistic children. Vitamins and minerals are especially recommended. For instance, some studies have found that multivitamins may help improve sleep and reduce the digestive problems associated with autism. Similarly, some research has found that Vitamin B6 and Magnesium supplements help to improve behavior in autistic children.
Probiotics have also been found to be beneficial for autistic children, especially kids with digestive health conditions. This is because the digestive tract requires a healthy balance of both bad and good bacteria. Probiotics (found in foods like yoghurt) help increase the good bacteria that are only found in low amounts in many autistic children.
However, as a parent, it’s important to understand that every child is unique. As such, it is important to work closely with your doctor when trying to identify what to focus on when it comes to your child’s diet. The first thing you will need to establish is whether your child is in fact experiencing some nutrient deficiency. Once you know this, then you can discuss with your doctor how to resolve it. Your doctor may recommend a diet adjustment or the inclusion of a nutrient supplement.
The bad stuff
Something else that parents to autistic children should be aware of is that certain foods can be problematic for their children. They include:
- Dairy – This has been associated with brain fog, inability to concentrate, spaciness, and numbness to pain. When excluded from the diets of autistic children, bowel problems were resolved and they became more talkative and less hyperactive.
- Gluten – When ingested, gluten can increase systemic inflammation (the body creates antibodies to gluten that can inflame the brain). Parents of autistic children that eliminated gluten from their meals report improvements in symptoms.
- Sugar – This promotes inflammation and increases erratic brain cell firing. Avoiding sugar has been found to improve concentration and reduce impulsiveness, which is great news for parents of autistic children.
- Artificial Ingredients – Researchers have linked the artificial ingredients present in many foods with autistic symptoms. These include preservatives, additives, artificial flavorings, dyes and artificial colors and artificial sweeteners.
These are just a few of the most common things that tend to be problematic for autistic children. Again, every child is unique, so as a parent, you need to take the time to figure out what works for your child. Working with a nutritionist that specifically works with autistic children is also highly recommended.