Nutrition For Autism

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Nutrition For Autism

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What is Autism?

Autism is a mental condition manifesting itself during early childhood characterized by difficulty in communication and establishing relationship with others through language and abstract concepts.

Autistic individuals socially are not playful and avoid eye contact. Communication-wise they do not use gestures and expressive language is poor. They have unusual interests and behaviors like repetitive actions, hand flapping, picky eating and “stimming”.

Underlying causes and contributors are genetics which involves the systems of methylation, sulfation, detoxification, digestion, gut/brain barrier, inflammation and immune function. The other contributing factor is environmental such as; exposure to toxins, preservatives used in vaccines, antibiotic use leading to disrupting the intestinal normal flora balance and certain metabolic byproducts (i.e., opiate-like byproducts from casein and gluten) and microbial toxins.

Dietary Support for Digestion & Metabolism

Autistic individuals usually suffer from intestinal inflammation leading to a condition referred to as; “leaky gut” which is characterized by increased permeability of the intestinal tissue. It is highly recommended to remove the foods that can inflame the gut and add foods that heal the gut.

Another problem is imbalance of normal intestinal flora due to use of antibiotics which can promote growth of harmful organisms that produce toxins and cause inflammation.

Nutritional deficiencies must be corrected to maintain normal digestive and physiological function. Selection of good quality foods and their digestibility is very important.. If there are indications of yeast overgrowth it is important to remove simple sugars from their diet.   Addition of probiotics is helpful in restoring the normal intestinal flora which can further inhibit the growth of harmful organisms.

It is also very important to reduce exposure to toxins in foods (i.e., pesticides and preservatives ) and endogenous toxin formation. Since other metabolic difficulties include faulty detoxification, supplementation with certain essential nutrients becomes necessary to reduce the burden of toxins in their body.

Biochemical Factors

  • Genetic mutations affecting metabolic pathways
  • Mitochondrial metabolic inefficiency
  • Nutritional deficiencies (B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin A & Vitamin D and Essential Fatty Acids)
  • Poor methylation and sulfation
  • Poor detoxification
  • Endogenous Oxidative stress
  • Increased intestinal permeability (“leaky Gut”)
  • Casein & Gluten metabolic by products (Opiate-like byproducts)
  • Intestinal dysbiosis (decreased presence of normal flora and beneficial bacteria, increased yeast presence)
  • Immune system problems (autoimmune responses, immune insufficiencies)
  • Hormonal imbalances (insufficient Oxytocin)

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutrition means what an individual eats, absorbs and transports to cells in their body. Autistic persons have difficulty at every step beginning with poor intake because of restricted appetite which can be due to; reflux, and other gastrointestinal discomforts (i.e., diarrhea and constipation). In some increased amounts of “Opiate-Like Peptides” which are a metabolic byproduct of Casein (milk protein) can cause intense food cravings for some foods and limited intake of other food items.

Vitamin B group are very important in all metabolic pathways and they are especially needed for optimal mitochondrial function.   They play a vital role in numerous enzymatic reactions involving the neurotransmitters, antioxidants and detoxification processes especially in autistic individuals. Therefore, their deficiencies will have neurological manifestations as seen in autism.

Fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A and D can be deficient in an autistic individual. Vitamin A is especially important in maintaining eye contact and antioxidant function. Vitamin D is important in bone health, immune function and brain health especially cognition.

Some mineral deficiencies such as Zinc deficiency can also cause poor taste perception which may be the cause for being a picky eater. Zinc deficiency can result from routine use of antacids usually recommended for reflux in addition, high glycemic diets, inadequate animal protein intake and toxicity with heavy metals (due to incapacitated detoxification process) can impair all metabolic processes that require Zinc as a co-factor. Magnesium deficiency can also be the cause of increased anxiety, hyperactivity, poor sleep quality, constipation and impaired glucose tolerance seen in some autistic individuals.

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