In the past I have mentioned how important a healthy diet is to all children, not just autistic children, but some parents jump in to using strict elimination diets without first making any simple changes to their child’s diet to make it more nutritious. You never know, a few simple changes to make your child’s diet more “nutrient dense” may lead to vast improvements without having to cut out gluten or casein.
Nutrient Dense Foods
As I have already said, the first thing to do before trying any special diet or eliminating any foods is to make sure that your child is having a nutritious diet and this means giving them nutrient dense foods. A nutrient dense food is a food that is rich in macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, fiber, fats, essential fatty acids, protein and amino acids, and water, and that is also rich in micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
According to Catherine Gavin RD, LDN, MPH of the Pfeiffer Treatment Center, a nutrient dense diet is essential because micro- and macronutrients are needed for “proper biochemical functioning of the body and brain”. She advises that parents should give their children organic foods, where possible, and foods that are whole and unprocessed because they are much denser in these essential nutrients.
Everyone has seen vitamins and supplements that are labeled “antioxidant” but what does this actually mean and why are they essential in our diet?
Antioxidants are substances that protect the cells of our bodies from damage by free radicals which come from pollution, pesticides, artificial colors and flavors, heavy metals, trans fats and hydrogenated fats. Our children’s gastrointestinal tracts and brains are particularly susceptible to damage from these free radicals, which cause “oxidative stress”, and Austim experts like Dan Rossignol believe that oxidative stress is a key factor in autism.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about the importance of a healthy balanced diet and how eliminating some foods, such as casein, gluten and complex carbohydrates, can be beneficial to autistic children. A healthy diet can help combat deficiencies and elimination diets can stop autoimmune reactions and allow an inflamed gut to heal.
Autism and Nutritional Deficiencies
Research into autism has found that some autistic children have nutritional deficiencies, particularly in the B vitamins, Vitamin A, calcium, zinc, selenium and magnesium, so it may be worth getting your child tested for deficiencies.
However, it can be difficult to get a child to eat a healthy diet and almost impossible to get them to consume all of the right essential nutrients, especially if they are a fussy eater!
The good news is that there are vitamins and supplements out there that can remedy this and help ease some of the symptoms of autism. Here are some vitamins and supplements which have been found to be helpful in treating autism:-
The B Vitamins
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – A thiamine deficiency can starve the brain of the fuel it needs to function properly, causing damage and inflammation to the brain. As autism is a neurological disease, a Vitamin B1 supplement can be beneficial, particularly where a child has suffered from gastrointestinal disorders which may have effected absorption of this vitamin.