First of all why a special diet?
There is a very famous quote by Hippocrates which says:
“LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE AND MEDICINE BE THY FOOD”
It’s a no brainer that how we feel depends a lot on what we put in our mouths. When there is a special health condition, it is plain common sense to avoid foods which aggravate the condition and instead, give the body healthy nutrients for it to thrive. It does not mean that you are depriving the body, instead you are helping it to heal from inside and function like it is meant to.
When it comes to Autism, there is no fixed diet. In fact, there is nothing approved which will have a sure shot affect on the overall health of the child.
However, that being said, there are a couple of diets to try, which many parents (including myself) swear by. The benefits of these diets include but are not limited to :
-Refined social skills
-Better eye contact
-Reduced hyper activity etc.
Like I said in the previous Autism related posts, since it is a spectrum, the progress varies from kid to kid.
A general rule of thumb is to try the diet for good 3 months and if you see no improvement that means that it is not working for your child. Also make sure during the three months, that there is no cross contamination.
Keep a notepad handy to take notes on your child’s mood, health, sleep etc. so you know the reaction to certain foods. Do not however, expect to see overnight progress. Healing with food is a slow process with loads of trial and error.
Let us now discuss the diets in detail.
GLUTEN FREE/ DAIRY FREE/ SOY FREE DIET(GFCFSF)
This is perhaps the most popular and the most tried diet when it comes to ASD. It includes removal of gluten and dairy and soy products from the diet.
Gluten is a protein found in many grains including Wheat, Barley, Spelt, Rye etc. Unless the Oats are grown in a gluten-free manner, they too come under the gluten umbrella.
Casein is a protein found in all mammals milk.
Most of the Soy Crops in America are highly genetically modified therefore it is best to avoid them.
Kids with ASD and ADHD generally have elevated levels of Gluten, Gliadin and Casein and have gastrointestinal problems. Eliminating these proteins helps in reducing the gut inflammation and help lift off the foggy effect off the brains.
SPECIFIC CARBOHYDRATE DIET (SCD) AND GUT AND PSYCHOLOGY SYNDROME (GAPS) DIET
SCD was created by Elaine Gloria Gottschall who based her research on the findings of Sidney Haas, M.D. More details on SCD and her research can be read in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet.
This diet severely limits the carbohydrates. The model is based on the theory that most carbs convert to sugar and are difficult to digest so by allowing only specific carbs which require minimal digestion, gut inflammation can be reduced.
GAPS diet is derived from SCD diet and is created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. More details on her research and GAPS can be read in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia.
The GAPS diet focuses on removing foods which are difficult to digest and replace them with nutrient rich foods which gives the body a chance to heal.
People usually combine the SCD and GAPS diet and find a good medium which fits their need. One concern about this diet is that it is very restrictive and must be supplemented with vitamins and minerals to make up for the nutrition lost.
THE FEINGOLD DIET
This diet has been said to work wonders for kids with ADHD.
Feingold Diet is an elimination diet created by Benjamin Feingold M.D. The theory behind this diet is that food additives can cause hyperactivity in children and by elimination of those additives one can figure out which food acts like a trigger for their hyperactivity.
Sheri Davis’s book All Natural Mom’s Guide to the Feingold Diet: A Natural Approach to ADHD and Other Related Disorders is an excellent resource for trying out this diet. She writes in detail how to do this diet, what to include and what to eliminate and also how to reintroduce things back to the diet.
Other notable mentions are
A very good read by Julie Mattews , Nourishing Hope for Autism: Nutrition and Diet Guide for Healing Our Children [Perfect Paperback] talks in detail how nutrition affects children with ASD and the different types of diets to try. If you are unsure which diet is right for your child, this book will give you a good idea firstly on how different foods can cause certain behaviors and secondly, a guideline on how to carry out the diet.
My kid has been following the GFCFSF and mostly low sugar diet for the past 4 years. It works for us.
How you ask?
The day my kid has a regular muffin or dairy, he is bouncing off the walls, inappropriate laughter kicks in and he has a hard time falling asleep.
Since I can safely call myself a pro at the GFCFSF diet, I will do a detailed review and help you do this diet, step by step, if you want to try it with your kiddo too.
Feel free to contact me via email if you want any kind of help regarding your kid’s diet.
(DISCLAIMER: These are my views and should be taken for information and education purposes only. Not two on kids on the spectrum are alike. If you think someone you know needs help, please talk to the concerned Pediatrician today.)