• March 31, 2011
  • Generation Rescue
  • 0
Food Matters for Autism

By Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant and Autism Diet Specialist

In the past year, diet has become a popular topic of discussion among parents.  With so many children finding benefit and parents talking and writing about the positive changes they see in their children, families are learning about this important intervention.  Both online and through their local autism support groups, parents are discussing various diet options such as gluten-free and casein-free diet.  

Diet intervention involves removing offending foods and boosting the nutritious foods children eat.  Parents are realizing that they can affect their child’s health through these calculated omissions and additions to diet.  Since parents determine what their children eat, implementing a diet is an empowering step parents can take to help their child(ren) feel better, reduce their autism symptoms, and help them pursue their full potential.

One important question that comes up for many parents is whether this is sound advice—is there science behind diet intervention?  The answer is yes, and here’s some information to support it.


Here is some current knowledge about food, diet, and autism:

  • Children with autism have problems with certain foods that affect their behavioral, cognitive, and physical symptoms.
  • Food has a direct effect on the gut, intestinal inflammation, and digestive capacity – which in turn affects physiology and brain function.
  • Nutrient deficiencies are common with autism.
  • Gut problems and insufficient digestive enzyme function are common.
  • Digestion, detoxification, and immune function are often affected.  Dietary intervention influences these disordered systems seen in autism.
  • The gut is considered the “second brain” and the “gut-brain connection has been studied in autism. 
  • Healing the gut positively influences the brain.
  • Addressing digestive issues increases nutrition absorption. As nutrient status improves, systems function better – including the brain.
  • Removing foods containing toxins (such as artificial additives) that adversely affect brain chemistry relieves a burden on the liver and detoxification system, and affects improvement in brain function and behavior.
  • By avoiding inflammatory foods (gluten, casein, and others) we support in immune and digestive systems.

When you see how much food matters, it’s easy to understand why most people who try dietary intervention benefit! The Autism Research Institute (ARI) surveyed thousands of parents and found that 69% of those applying the Gluten-free Casein-free Diet saw improvement.  For the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, 71% noted improvement. In recent autism diet research funded by Autism Speaks, 82% of parents reported “definite improvement” in their child’s skills. Parents report improvements in eye contact, language, attention, diarrhea, constipation, sleep, hyperactivity, and more.

While “dietary intervention” (change) can seem overwhelming, with learning and focus, even busy moms can, and do, make it work.  As a child feels better, parents often have more quality time with their children and cooking becomes more enjoyable.  And nutritious meals needn’t cost a fortune. While quality, whole foods involve more expensive ingredients; you’re buying fewer expensive processed foods.  A healing diet empowers you to support your child’s health and improved well-being.

This is why I titled my book, Nourishing Hope.  We need to nourish children’s bodies with healthy food, and nourish our minds and souls with hope.  Food nourishes the body, and the positive changes we see nourishes hope. Healthy food preparation even transfers healing energy through the loving intention of the chef. With virtually no downside, everyone should give this a try.

Join me in nourishing hope.  

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Autism Diet Specialist, and author of Nourishing Hope for Autism.  Visit: NourishingHope.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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2.    Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M. A randomised, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Sep;5(4):251-61.
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Food Matters Photo Credit: NatlieMaynor, Flickr March 31, 2010.

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