Nutrition for Autism

Ongoing research over the last decade is now clearly indicating that autistic children often function better when alterations are made to their diets. Simming, aggression, pain, and self injury are some of the behaviours that can be relieved through dietary change. Improvements in learning, sleep, focus, eye contact and verbal ability can also be achieved.  No two children are exactly the same and therefore no one diet works for every autistic child. Our nutrition for autism program draws on various dietary principles to systematically determine the most appropriate diet for your autistic child and create a strategy that optimizes their health. Your nutritionist will help you understand how to use food as a tool to support your child, and will follow your progress, altering your plan as necessary.


Some of the dietary changes that can improve autistic symptoms:

Gluten Free / Casein Free / Soy Free
Emerging research on the gut-brain connection, food sensitivities, opioid receptors and non-celiac gluten sensitivity along with clinical evidence supports this as a viable place to start when dealing with autism. As with any restrictive diet, careful attention needs to be paid to ensuring the diet remains nutrient dense. Parents removing gluten, casein and soy also often require support understanding food addictions and cravings.

This group of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that ferment easily when they come in contact with bacteria has been well researched as a way to improve gastro intestinal symptoms such as excessive gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and indigestion. Because these symptoms can lead to discomfort, malabsorption, pain and increased intestinal permeability they can often lie at the root of behaviour concerns in autistic children. As with any restrictive diet, removing foods for an extended period of time is not the objective – improving digestive capacity so that the foods may be tolerated is the goal.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and The Gut And Psychology/Physiology Syndrome Diet are both widely used for autism. Both diets restrict disaccharides and polysaccharides while focusing on monosaccharides, proteins, healthy fat, and non- starchy vegetables with the overall goal of regenerating digestive and detoxification functions. Because common foods like whole grains and starches are restricted, learning to use new highly nutritious foods is an important part of making these approaches successful. At the OIHC a Certified GAPS practitioner can help you tailor the SCD/GAPS dietary principles to the needs of your particular child and overcoming common stumbling blocks.

Low Oxalate
Since 2005 Autism researcher Susan Owens has been researching the role oxalate toxicity may play in the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. Her research has found a low oxalate diet to relieve unresponsive bowel problems and stimming, and improve fine and gross motor skills, speech and growth, in some children. It can also be helpful to remove oxalate-rich foods to reduce inflammation, chronic pain and persistent yeast infection, which are common issues for autistic children. As with other restrictive diets, the goal is to relive irritation and symptoms while we focus on digestive regeneration, and then slowly reintroduce foods and diversify the diet.

Low Phenol / Low Salicylates
A reduced ability to process phenols can result in self injurious behaviour, bed wetting, aggression, dark circles under the eyes, headaches, inattention, night waking, speech difficulties, dyslexia and impulsivity. Avoiding phenolic additives and high phenol foods while adding in enzymes and support for the sulfation process can help relieve these reactions.

Low Glutamate
While the amino acid glutamate is crucial for proper brain and neurotransmitter function, people who do not process it well can experience reduced glutathione production and subsequent neural damage. Ability to process glutamate is lowered in many autistic children.