Diets are very important in the outcomes of autistic children. Since nutrition affects physical health, a doctor will typically suggest a well-rounded diet that includes such needs as protein, calcium and vitamin B-12.
But in addition to these needs, doctors look at the possibility that special diets may help reduce the autism symptomatology related to digestion. There are several dietary benefits to consider when trying to cover all of your bases with this disorder.
It’s important to remember that every child’s needs are different and thus, the best diet for your child will be medically developed specifically tailored to this individual’s needs.In this article, we shall help you understand some important dietary trends to ensure healthy brain development in children with autism enabling them to do more, such as therapy. Before that, let’s have a basic idea about ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
What Is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the way a person processes information and communicates with others. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describes autism as an “extremely broad spectrum of conditions” that affects an individual’s ability to communicate, interact with others, and develop social skills.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are complex neurological disorders that affect how people think, speak, move, learn and behave.
Although each person with ASD has unique characteristics and needs, there are some commonalities among those affected by this condition.
According to statistics:
- More than 4 million people in the United States live with autism or ASDs.
- Approximately 1 in 44 children has been diagnosed with autism or ASDs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- This represents an incidence rate of 6 per 1,000 children.
Relationship Between Food Habits And Autism
The relationship between food habits and autism is a complex one.
Some children with autism may be picky eaters, while some may not be picky eaters but still have dietary restrictions.
A child who has a restrictive diet may not be able to eat certain foods or may only tolerate these foods in limited amounts. A child who is a picky eater may have preferences for certain types of food and dislike others.
Other factors that can affect a child’s eating habits are:
- Age – younger children tend to develop their eating habits earlier than older children.
- Developmental Level – infants who do not breastfeed or whose mothers don’t provide much breast milk are more likely to develop picky eating habits later in life.
- Gender – boys tend to eat less than girls due to biological differences.
- Socioeconomic Status – lower socioeconomic status families have fewer choices for healthy foods and more pressure from society to consume unhealthy foods.
- Cultural Differences – certain cultures place more emphasis on certain foods than others, and it can be difficult for people from these cultures to adjust their eating habits when they move into an environment where these foods are not available.
What Dietary Changes Can Improve Brain Development In Autistic Children?
Here are some of the major dietary changes required to improve the mental health of autistic children:
Include more fiber. To ensure your child gets enough fiber every day, try adding some fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into her meals each day.
Increase your child’s activity level. Autistic children tend to be less active than other children, so it’s important that you work with your child’s doctor to set up an exercise schedule that involves physical activity and movement. Encourage more sleep. You may need to help your child get enough sleep by providing them with a dark room, earplugs or a white noise machine.
Maintain Blood Sugar Level
Here are some tips for maintaining blood sugar levels in autistic children—
- Avoid eating high-glycemic foods like white bread, pasta and pastries.
- Eat more whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, instead of white bread.
- Eat fruits instead of sweets so that your child doesn’t get addicted to sugar or other sweet snacks.
Include Omega 3 Fats
Autistic children need to take more essential fats as their condition causes early removal of these fats than other people.
Include oily fish at least two times a week. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are some great options, among others.
You can also include some important seeds like flax and chia for breakfast along with some whole grains like oatmeal etc.
Include Vitamins And Minerals
Vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium are the most important components that you cannot miss out on in your child’s diet.
You can include the following items:
- Green and leafy vegetables.
- Citrus fruits.
- Vegetables like peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- Whole grains.
Maintaining brain health is a must for autistic children. Other than including nutritious food in their meals, it’s also important that you avoid some allergic food items. If your child is a picky eater you can also consider autism focused supplements aimed at supporting the development of a healthy nervous system through scientifically backed vitamins and minerals.
Gluten and casein need to be avoided completely. This naturally eliminates wheat and dairy, which are also difficult for them to digest.
Taking care of an autistic child demands great care and attention. Follow the steps discussed above and consult professionals whenever required.