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food for the brain

Championing optimum nutrition for the mind


Action plan for managing autism

Improve digestion

Key to digestion is having balanced gut ecology. This means plenty of beneficial gut flora and lower levels of the non-beneficial strains. Since many children’s gut flora becomes imbalanced due to lack of breast-feeding or antibiotic use, it is usually necessary to supplement probiotics – beneficial gut bacteria. The most important strains are Lactobacillus Acidophillus and Bifidobacter. Saccharomyces boulardii while technically a yeast, not a bacteria, is another important strain that should be present in the gut, particularly if low levels of Secretory IgA (SIgA) are found in a saliva test.

Digestive enzymes provide assistance by helping to break down food making the nutrients more available for absorption and relieving the strain on the digestive system while it recovers. The amino acid glutamine is an important gut healing nutrient but may be contraindicated in autism because some autistics have protein deamination problems leading to production of ammonia which doesn’t mix well with glutamine.

Balance blood sugar levels

This means cutting out sugar and all sources of sugar. Eat only unrefined carbohydrates and ensure these are combined with protein and plenty of fibre to further slow the sugar release. Avoid stimulants, even apparently ‘natural’ ones.

Increase omega-3 fats

This means eating fish at least twice a week, seeds on most days and supplementing omega 3 fish oils.

The best fish for EPA, the type of omega 3 fat that’s been most thoroughly researched are: mackerel (1,400mg per 100g/3oz), herring/kipper (1,000mg), sardines (1,000mg), fresh (not tinned) tuna (900mg), anchovy (900mg), salmon(800mg), trout (500mg). Tuna, being high in mercury is best eaten not more than twice a month.

The best seeds are flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Flax seeds are so small they are best ground and sprinkled on cereal. Alternatively, use flax seed oil, for example in salad dressings. While technically providing omega 3 only about 5% of the type of omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) in these seeds is converted in your body into EPA.

Increase vitamins and minerals

A diet rich in whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grains is naturally higher in vitamins and minerals. Avoid processed foods that have had many nutrients removed.

Avoid food allergens

Consider testing your child for IgE and IgG food allergies and avoid those foods to which they test allergic. Alternatively, consider pursuing a wheat and dairy free diet which has proven helpful for some, but not all, autistic children. However we recommend you do so under medical supervision, or supervision of a dietician or nutritional therapist to ensure that suitable replacement foods are included that ensure your child achieves optimal nutrition.

Click here for a review of this approach. You may also wish to give your child a chemical additive free diet which has also proven helpful for some.

Finding Help

If you would like further help, you can visit our clinic the Brain Bio Centre which specialises in optimum nutrition for mental health recovery.  We have helped many adults and children with autism, by working with them/their parents to create personalised nutritional programmes based upon their health history, symptoms and test results. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, please click here.

Alternatively a register of nutritional therapists in your local area can be found by visiting the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

Further reading

Optimum2 Optimum Nutrition for your Child 
P Holford and D Colson, 2010
This book aims to help parents ensure that their children are healthy, happy and bright. It includes information on:
What to feed your child and what to avoid for optimum good health and development.
Which foods can improve your child's mood and behaviour and boost their intelligence.
How to prevent or overcome common childhood problems such as obesity, food allergies, sleep problems and ADHD.

£2 from each book sale is donated to Food for the Brain.

Further support

The National Autistic Society exists to champion the rights and interests of all people with autism and to ensure that they and their families receive quality services appropriate to their needs. Their website includes information about Autism and Asperger syndrome, The NAS and its services go to www.autism.org.uk

The Autism Research Institute is a highly informative website describing progress in autism research. http://www.autism.com/medical/research/advances/index.htm