Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nutrition For Autism

Autism is a complex developmental and neurological condition that typically appears during the first three years of life. It affects brain function, particularly in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Approximately one in every 150 American children has autism or a similar disorder. The number of children being diagnosed with autism is growing at a rate of 10 percent to 17 percent per year.
People and children with Autism have special dietary needs, and many have various food sensitivities. New studies show that gluten (wheat protein) and casein (milk protein) bind to opioid-receptors in the brain, and can have a potent effect on behavior (like heroin or morphine), causing problems including sleepiness, giddiness, inattention/”zoning out”, and aggressive and self-abusive behavior. Like opioids, they can be highly addictive, and a lack of them can cause severe behaviors. Tests are available to show food sensitivities. If you are considering a Gluten Free, Casein Free diet, talk with your health-care team, including a registered dietitian. There can be side effects and potential nutrient shortfalls when a GFCG diet is self-prescribed.
Several studies have demonstrated that children with autism have substantial oxidative stress, suggesting either a low level of key antioxidants or an increased need for them.
There are over 20 studies of vitamin B6 with Magnesium for autism, including 12 double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, making it one of most studied treatments for autism. Almost all of these studies found that 45-50% of children and adults with autism benefited from high-dose supplementation of vitamin B6 with magnesium. Vitamin B6 is required for over 100 enzymatic reactions, including the production of major neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and others) and glutathione (needed for detoxification). Magnesium is used to prevent the possibility of hyperactivity, which can occur if the vitamin B6 is taken by itself. Studies show that Vit. C also has positive effects, as it helps with protein metabolism, and sufficient levels of iron should be monitored as well. Low levels of essential fatty acids are associated with a wide range of psychological disorders, including depression, post-partum depression, bipolar (manic/depression) and Rett’s syndrome (similar to autism). Most importantly, two published studies have found that children with autism have lower levels of omega –3 fatty acids than the general population.
Supplementation may be necessary, as typical Autism behavior can affect eating habits and food choices. It is still best to encourage healthy, vitamin-rich foods to ensure the proper balance of nutrients. Only a customized diet plan with your health care provider should be considered. Medical Nutrition Therapy for the treatment of any illness or disorder is regulated by law and limited to professional nutrition practices. To find a Registered Dietitian in your area, go to Find a Dietitian

~Mayo Clinic, 2011

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Allergy or Intolerance?

Food allergies occur when your body's immune system over reacts to a substance in a food, usually a protein, your body sees as harmful. This sets off a chain reaction within your body. Symptoms can occur within minutes and are generally seen on the skin (hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin). Gastrointestinal symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea. Respiratory symptoms may accompany skin and gastrointestinal symptoms, but don't usually occur alone. They can be mild–such as a runny nose or itchy eyes to severe and even life-threatening. Most food allergies develop early in life, and many are outgrown.

Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly. Without immediate treatment – an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and expert care – anaphylaxis can be fatal. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, dizziness or loss of consciousness. If you have any of these symptoms, particularly after eating, seek medical care immediately (call 911). Don't wait to see if your symptoms go away or get better on their own.

A food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. An intolerance occurs when your body is unable to digest a certain component of a food, such as lactose, a sugar found in milk; monosodium glutamate; or sulfites, a preservative. Though symptoms of intolerance may be unpleasant, including abdominal cramping or diarrhea, they are not life-threatening.

To help you avoid allergens, the Food and Drug Administration has mandated food companies specify on product labels if any of the eight major allergens is contained in the food. Manufacturers can change ingredients of products without notice, so double-check ingredient labels every time you buy a food, even a familiar one. Cosmetics and beauty products also may contain common allergens such as milk, egg, wheat and tree nuts.

A dietitian can help you understand which foods are safe to eat and how best to avoid items that may cause a reaction. When foods are cut from your diet, you may be short-changing yourself on important vitamins and minerals. Ask your healthcare provider for a referral.

~ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012