The CDC estimates that one in 59 kids in the United States suffers from autism, or autism spectrum disorder. A common question always up for debate about this condition is what link, if any, is there between diet and autism?
While each child’s case is unique and should be viewed as such, the growing amount of research on food and its effects on autism could be helpful in their treatment.
But, how do you know what might work and what doesn’t? Should you take away certain foods, or add others?
Plenty of parents have claimed elimination diets cutting out foods with gluten (including wheat and rye) or casein (dairy and milk products) have been successful in helping their child. Another popular diet right now is the “Specific Carbohydrate Diet,” where certain carbohydrates, sugars, and even vegetables are avoided.
Experts say that while there is no definitive research that shows these diets have an effect one way or another on autism, “parents know their children and tendencies best,” explained Dr. Dilip Karnik, pediatric neurologist at Child Neurology Consultants of Austin. “If you believe something is working for you, then you should continue to go with it.”
When trying a new diet for your autistic child, here are some suggestions to make it easier on you both:
1. Work with your regular physician and other professionals.
Seek help from a registered dietician first before cutting out something that could have valuable nutrients for your child or adding something that may interfere with certain medications. Nutritional deficiencies can be even more harmful than the autistic traits themselves that you’re trying to curb.
2. Set realistic goals.
Remember that there is currently no cure for autism, so do not expect any diet or food to magically and completely make it go away. Also, be aware of when something is having little to no effect on your child, and be willing to move on.
3. Be patient.
Remember that the average kiddo may take a dozen or more times to warm up to a new food, so an autistic child with certain apprehensions may take twice as long. Practice patience with your child (and yourself) as you are embarking on a new therapeutic food journey.
For questions about autism in young children or teenagers, please contact Child Neurology Consultants for an appointment with one of our board-certified pediatric specialists.