Updated: Jun 5, 2022
By feeding our children unhealthy foods, we can not expect our children to get well! Food or nutrition are often ignored in the conventional treatment process. When it comes to food, it’s usually thought about how it tastes, looks, smells, or feels in the mouth. We need to look beyond it and focus on what food actually does in our bodies.
When you have a child on the autism spectrum, it’s critical to understand that food is more than just something that brings us pleasure.
Food impacts the brain and bodily functions
What your child eats can have a major impact, both positive and negative, on his/her brain and body functions. Hence, it’s very important for you as a parent to know exactly how food impacts your child.
Food impacts the child’s ability to be at his best
Without proper nutrition, your child will not be able to function at his/her full potential. As a result, he will not fully benefit from his therapy sessions. Therapies are external. Food influences what's going on internally.
Food impacts the immune system
Children on the spectrum often have dysfunctional immune systems and inadequate detoxification processes. Nutritional problems place a huge burden on your child and slowly eats away their health and ability to fight infections and aid the detoxification process.
Nutritional Problems are Common with children on the spectrum. A large percentage of children with Autism/ADD/ ADHD struggle with one or more of the following nutritional problems:
• Poor diet
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Feeding problems
• Food allergies
• Food intolerances
• Chemical sensitivities
• Gastrointestinal disorders
• Exposure to neurotoxins
• Frequent illnesses and infections
A good diet is the starting point in your child’s healing journey. To help you understand better how a poor diet can negatively affect your child, here are few ways how poor diet is impacting your child:
Brain development and function: Your child’s brain is highly dependent on the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids found in the food being fed to him/her. If your child is not getting enough of certain key nutrients, it compromises neurotransmitter production, synthesis of brain’s myelin sheath, and glucose oxidation leading to compromise in brain function, decline in cognitive processing and contribute to behaviour and learning problems.
Detoxification processes: Heavy metals and other toxins like mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins, PCBs, pesticides, and solvents, are one major root cause of autism. These neurotoxins can damage your child’s brain and central nervous system, in turn resulting in a lower IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit and hyperactivity. Not only this, compulsive behavior, aggression, violence, speech difficulties, memory impairment, motor dysfunction, developmental delays, and mental retardation can also be the effect of damage due to these neurotoxins. To help the liver naturally rid his body of harmful neurotoxins your child must consume foods rich in zinc, selenium, magnesium, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, and choline.
Gastrointestinal health: The GI tract is highly dependent on the amino acid glutamine and requires a constant supply of vitamins and minerals for normal bowel function. If your child has nutritional deficiencies, it will impair the growth of new cells in the gastrointestinal tract, which in turn compromises the ability to absorb the nutrients consumed in foods. It is a vicious cycle. Poor food leads to gastrointestinal impairment which further leads to poor nutrient absorption, eventually leading to nutritional deficiencies that impact the brain and body even worse.
Immune system function: A healthy immune system relies on vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, selenium, zinc, and bioflavonoids to function at its optimum level. If your child’s diet is deficient in these nutrients, your child is at greater risk for developing allergies as well as frequent ear infections, acute and chronic illnesses, and upper respiratory infections.
Erythropoiesis: Erythropoiesis refers to the process by which red blood cells are produced, usually in the bone marrow. Red blood cells transport oxygen to our brains and throughout our bodies. Main nutrients that support this process include iron, vitamin B6, copper, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Deficiency of these key nutrients can cause anemia, which can lead to irritability, headaches, loss of appetite, lethargy, hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and poor school performance.
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Curtis, L. T., & Patel, K. (2008). Nutritional and Environmental Approaches to Preventing and Treating Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(1), 79–85. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2007.0610
Burger, S. E., Haas, J. D., & Habicht, J. P. (1993). Testing the effects of nutrient deficiencies on behavioral performance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57(2), 295S-302S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/57.2.295s
Horvath, K., Papadimitriou, J. C., Rabsztyn, A., Drachenberg, C., & Tildon, J. (1999). Gastrointestinal abnormalities in children with autistic disorder. The Journal of Pediatrics, 135(5), 559–563. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70052-1