Altering Diet for Autism
Autism is a brain disorder in which sufferers have difficulty communicating with the world, other people and forming relationships. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning severity will vary among individuals. Some Autism sufferers may have severe learning disabilities and/or be unable to speak or communicate in any way, whilst others may have extremely advanced IQ’s. People with Autism are often very introverted, have narrowed interests and exhibit behaviours that others find difficult to understand. There is no specific treatment for autism, however there are many options available for Autism sufferers, or parents of children with Autism to trial. These include medications, behavioural therapy, social skills training and dietary changes. Although medical experts are divided as to which of these interventions offers the best outcome, it is widely believed that early intervention is best while the brain can more easily adapt. Nutrition and its effect on Autism is a widely debated issue. Although there are no studies indicating any particular dietary change positively impacts on a Autism sufferer, sufferers themselves, and parents of Autistic children do claim that they have experienced improvement with particular dietary regimes. This article discusses some of the current dietary regimes being trialled for Autism sufferers. Gluten and Casein Free DietOne dietary theory suggests that Autistic children may have gastrointestinal issues leading to the incomplete digestion of the proteins, casein and gluten. Casein is found in dairy products and any product containing dairy. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats and rye, as well as any product containing these grains. It is hypothesised that when these proteins are incompletely digested, the by-products enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain, causing Autism symptoms. Studies have looked into the effectiveness of the gluten and casein diet for autism and it is yet to be supported by medical research. Still there are a number of parents of Autistic children who feel the diet has helped and choose to follow it.Undertaking a gluten and casein free diet is restrictive, difficult and expensive. It is important to consult a dietitian before placing a person with Autism on such a diet to ensure nutritional needs are still being met. There is the possibility of deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D. Fibre intake should also be a consideration, as removing gluten containing grains will decrease fibre intake and may lead to constipation. Another common issue making this restrictive diet even harder is the food restrictions sufferers of Autism place on themselves. The narrowed and restricted behaviours exhibited by Autism may mean they only eat specific types of foods, only foods of a particular colour, or only foods from a particular food group. Limiting this further by removing casein and gluten will be extremely challenging for care givers and will further increase the possibility of nutritional deficiencies and a restrictive boring diet. Clostridia: Antibiotics or Probiotics It is said that a notable number of Autistic children suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain and excessive gas. These symptoms are likened to that of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Studies have linked these symptoms to high levels of particular bacteria known as Clostridia in the gut of these children. It is then theorised that the Clostridia bacteria produce neurotoxins which could potentially be the cause of, or a contributory factor to Autism symptoms. Antibiotics are known to destroy both good and bad bacteria in the gut, potentially causing more harm than good, as they leave the gut vulnerable to further attack by multiply ‘bad bacteria’. On the other hand, probiotics are known to restore the microbial balance in the gut, and alleviate IBS like symptoms. Although there is again no scientific evidence to say probiotics are treating Autism by eliminating harmful bacteria such as Clostridia, parents of Autistic children claim they have observed positive changes in behaviour. Medical experts say that these observed changes could simply be because the child is feeling better, having what were uncomfortable symptoms alleviated. Probiotic use in Autistic children needs to be further researched. This should focus on determining which particular probiotic bacteria is most beneficial, as like the spectrums of Autism, there are many different strains. As there is little evidence to suggest any dietary change will positively affect the symptoms of Autism, it is wise to investigate any proposed changes thoroughly. Many of the particular diets and supplements out there are expensive and require restrictive eating habits. This places the Autistic person at risk of nutritional deficiency, and could cause further complications. It is important to talk to a medical expert and dietitian before undertaking any changes in an Autistic person’s diet. It is ultimately the care givers decision to make, however a dietitian can ensure the change is implemented whilst still ensuring optimal nutritional intake.
Added to site on : Monday, 26 November 2012