While autism is generally known as a condition which affects the mind, there are physical aspects to it that can affect overall functioning as well. Learning how nutrition can affect mood, attention, and overall mental health can help you be more intentional with what your child eats. Many parent have reported some pretty significant changes after diving into diet.
A good place to start with is the gut. Studies have shown associations between autism and gastrointestinal issues. Often times this can stem from a deficiency in healthy, digestive bacteria. Introducing foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt or pickles, can improve digestion and reduce discomfort. Foods high in fiber, such as fruits and grains, will help aid this as well. It is also important to be aware of any allergies or gluten intolerance. When these factors are addressed, energy and mood will be improved, resulting in more stable behavior.
Certain nutrients can also directly affect the brain as well. Children with autism naturally have deficiencies in essential fats that are at work in brain functioning. Foods high in Omega 3’s and EPA will be especially beneficial. These essential fats can be found naturally in fish, such as salmon or tuna. You can also find these fats added to some foods such as peanut butter or milk. If implementing these foods proves difficult for your child, try giving them supplements of these essential fats.
The effect of sugar can prove to be a double edged sword for autistic children. Children on the spectrum tend to be more drawn to sugary foods, and are less able to handle the effects of sugar. High sugar intake for kids with ASD results in sugary levels that fluctuate, leading to inattention, unstable energy levels, and mood swings. While avoiding overtly sugary cereals, and limiting treats may seem straightforward, it’s important to remember the types of foods where sugar may be hiding, such as in ketchup or juice.
When you discover a diet routine that your child enjoys and that provides crucial nutrients, it’s important to be mindful of where you buy your food. Organic and natural foods are going to be the least likely to result in food allergies, gastrointestinal issues, or overall insufficient energy. This intentionality in feeding the body and mind will go a long way in helping your child thrive.
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