Nutrition and Autism

plates with sliced citrus fruits with cutlery near bowl

We had not realised how for our son so many autism symptoms were actually from underlying medical factors that could be helped. Hopefully our sharing may help others. 

Age 3 our son had spent the last 2 years with numerous childhood illnesses and was diagnosed with regressive autism. His development had reversed and his behaviour very difficult. We did not have to “push” for diagnosis. We sought support from other parents and from that we were encouraged to look at nutritional therapy. 

What next? A nutritionalist (not dietician as they are different specialists) did some tests (mostly stool and urine), took all the history and looked at our son in detail.

From there it was explained to us how he was suffering from underlying medical conditions and how these contribute to autism symptoms but usually remain untreated. E.G. an imbalance of healthy bacteria, chronic glue ear, chronic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies like iron and B12, food intolerances. We didn’t realise how much all this impacts on mood, behaviour, sensory processing ability, focus, speech and sleep. This link shows all the science on this. it was not obvious to us that he had these medical conditions. 

We were fed up of giving him medicines and such was his problems anti psychotic medication had been suggested by his paediatrician, we really wanted to avoid this if possible. We were well aware of the average life span of a person with autism, this being in 40’s and 50’s. Most of all we wanted him to be happy. 

With fantastic support from the nutritionalist and other parents tips we gradually removed the foods causing harm, increased non processed foods and started supplements under the guidance of a qualified professional. It was very hard as he was such a fussy eater – although we realised the food intolerances were actually contributing to this. As a parent it felt extremely hard to do but we knew in the longer term it would help and it would lessen the chances of any medications being needed and increase his happiness, his mental health and longevity and life experiences.  After all we’d given him all the medicines for 3 years and dressed him whilst holding him down against his will. 

Over the first few weeks our son started to improve, he looked at us for the first time in years, nursery told us how he started to play with the other children, he laughed and sang songs – things he had not done. Meal times got easier – he started wanting the new foods and not screaming for the old ones. His mood improved and he was “with us”. We were able to play games suggested by therapists and nursery – previously we could not get him interested. We could go out without panicking about noise or behaviour.

This pattern continued and his development improved and his autistic symptoms lessened. He stopped getting repeated illnesses and the “bags under his eyes” went away. He looked better, more colour in him and his chronic cradle cap went away (yes at age 3 ½ his head was covered in it). He joined in with others on parks, he climbed and ran – instead of sitting in the pushchair refusing and screaming. 

This way of eating is now normal life and in fact we all eat better – we eat mainly non processed foods and still avoid his intolerances. He has supplements as recommended. 

Professionals have been amazed at his progress – he has had zero prescribed medications since aged 3 ½ and in fact zero of any medications. His development has only gone forwards despite us being told he would have “periodic” regressions. 

His behaviour is very good and he interacts with his teachers, therapists, parents and friends very well. 

Most of all he is happy. 

Whilst there is much debate about diet these days we wanted to share our experience and hope it helps. 

Further science papers are below for those interested. 

The first paper below looks at a controlled single blinded 12 month treatment study and states “There was a significant improvement in nonverbal intellectual ability in the treatment group compared to the non-treatment group”

Comprehensive Nutritional and Dietary Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder-A Randomized, Controlled 12-Month Trial – PubMed (nih.gov)

Another similar paper looking specifically at gluten and casein (dairy) free intervention for autism spectrum conditions. 

Gluten- and casein-free dietary intervention for autism spectrum conditions (nih.gov)

This paper below examines the physical health difficulties present in people with autism and how these contribute to autism severity / symptoms and outcomes both mentally and physically. [Full text] Bridging the Gap Between Physical Health and Autism Spectrum Disorder | NDT (dovepress.com)

By Lisa