Our practice specializes in working with people suffering from gastrointestinal disorders and food sensitives.
Since some children with ASD and ADHD have gastrointestinal issues, the therapies we use have the potential to help this population.
Three Foundational Nutritional Interventions for Children with ADHD and ASD
1.The first foundational intervention we will look at is restoring gut health. Since it is common for children with Autism to have gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, research indicates a link between the gut and Autism. Approximately 70% of our immune system is located in the gut, if your gut isn’t healthy you will never feel well.
GI issues can affect ones entire body. If your child is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, you may want to take steps to start improving the health of his or her gut.
– Abdominal pain/stomachaches
– Underwear soiling
– Acid reflux
– Backache and joint pain
– Unable to tolerate medication
– Urinary problems
It is also important to understand that a nonverbal child may not be able to communicate all of the symptoms he or she is experiencing.
The following signs and symptoms may indicate GI distress in a nonverbal child:
– Head banging, unusual posture, wincing, constant eating, grinding teeth
– Screaming, frequent throat clearing, tics, swallowing, sighing, whining, moaning
– Sleep disturbance, increased irritability, and applying pressure to the abdomen
A 2010 article in the Journal of Pediatrics titled “Recommendations for Evaluation and Treatment of Common Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with ASDs” stated that a detailed history should be taken to identify associations between food allergens and GI problems. Additionally, an evaluation by a nutritionist is recommended if:
– Caregivers are concerned about patient’s diet
– A patient exhibits selective intake
– A patient is on a restricted diet
The paper also called for further investigation of Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) diets. There are several plausible theories as to why GFCF diets may be effective. The most plausible theory is that we know gluten increases intestinal permeability. With increased intestinal permeability, one will also likely experience:
– Malabsorption of nutrients
– Exacerbation of food sensitivities
– Increased inflammation
– Increased absorption of toxins in the intestinal lumen
– Increased oxidative stress
You may be thinking…if gluten is problematic, could other foods or chemicals also be harmful? Absolutely other foods can be harmful! Identifying foods that could be contributing to your child’s symptoms is so important to improving their overall health. Learn more about food sensitivity testing on my website.
2. The second foundational nutritional intervention for this group of kids is nutritional supplementation. Please understand, this is nutritional supplementation when clinically indicated. Meaning, you have labs to back up supplementing your child. Supplementing without evidence it needs to be done can be harmful.
Due to the fact that many children who have been diagnosed with ASD or ADHD are on restricted diets, and experience GI distress frequently (which decreases nutrient absorption), nutritional deficiencies are very common. A picture is worth a thousand words, check out these nutrient wheels provided by Spectrcell Laboratories, to see what nutrients are commonly deficient or insufficient in a child with autism or ADHD.
3. Cleaning up the diet is our final foundational intervention. This may sound like a daunting task, and it can be expensive. However, simply avoiding chemicals, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, hormones and antibiotics can go a long way in this group of kids. It has been speculated that added chemicals may tax poorly functioning detoxification pathways which are common among this population.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to get started in cleaning up your diet.
1. Get the processed foods out of your diet, and replace them with whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are as close to their original form as possible. One of my favorite examples is a potato (the whole food) versus a potato chip (the processed version)
2. Start looking at ingredients lists. You would be amazed at how many additives are in our foods today! And yes, additives and preservatives are approved by the FDA, but in the end you are still putting things in your body it does not need. For some people, these additives and preservatives can be harmful.
3. To keep things affordable, look for foods that are in season and grown locally.
4. Buy organic whenever possible. If this is going to put a strain on your budget, use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Guide to determine which foods you should always try to buy organic. Going organic is a great first step to getting chemicals out of your child’s diet.
Interested in learning more? Contact us for a free copy of my presentation that accompanies this blog post.
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