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