Diet Plan for Autism

Ensuring a proper diet for autism is a key part of improving symptoms. However, some autistic individuals may have food aversions and sensitivities, making mealtime challenging for parents.

They may have a limited range of foods they will eat, which can lead to concerns about weight gain or malnutrition. Some autistic individuals may struggle with sensory issues related to food, such as texture, taste, and smell, and may need occupational therapy to develop strategies to become comfortable with a variety of new foods.[i]

Despite these challenges, a healthy autism diet plan can play an essential role in minimizing some of the symptoms of ASD. For example, a good diet for autism will be rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to improve gut health and reduce inflammation, which has been linked to improved behavior and cognition in autistic individuals.

While diet alone may not cure autism, it can play an essential role in reducing symptoms and supporting overall health and well-being. Parents and caregivers can work with healthcare professionals and nutritionists to develop a healthy and balanced diet that meets the unique needs of their autistic child. By prioritizing a nutritious diet, parents can support their child's physical health while potentially reducing some of the symptoms of ASD.[ii]

The Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for those diagnosed with autism or with other brain-based conditions. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation can help our ASD patients reduce symptoms and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats autism spectrum disorder and its associated symptoms, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

What is autism? 

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe and includes repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.

It is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects people to varying degrees, and no two individuals with ASD will exhibit the exact same degree of symptoms or impairment.

While the exact cause of autism is not yet fully understood, research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may play a role. Research suggests that changes in genes may increase the risk of developing autism, while prenatal exposure to toxins or other environmental factors may also play a role.[iii]

Individuals with autism may require different levels of support depending on the severity of their symptoms. Some may require significant support with daily activities such as eating, getting dressed, and personal hygiene. Others may need less support but may still struggle with social communication.

Food aversions & autism

Food aversions are a common issue experienced by many individuals with autism. These aversions are characterized by a strong dislike or fear of certain foods, which can be challenging for individuals and their families.

One explanation for why food aversions are so common in autistic individuals relates to sensory processing. Many individuals with autism experience sensory processing difficulties, which can make certain textures, smells, and tastes of food very uncomfortable or even overwhelming.

Food aversions can be especially challenging for parents of autistic children during mealtimes. It can be difficult to find foods that their child will eat while also meeting their nutritional needs. This can lead to concerns about weight gain or malnutrition.

Additionally, food sensitivities can cause physical discomfort, such as digestive issues or even allergic reactions. Parents may need to explore different foods and preparation methods to find what works best for their child.

Despite these challenges, individuals with autism will benefit significantly from eating a healthy and balanced diet. Additionally, appropriate nutritional supplements have been shown to be clinically beneficial in reducing some of the symptoms of ASD. [iv]

Nutritional risks for autistic individuals

Autistic individuals may face risks due to their food sensitivities, as they may avoid certain foods that are essential for their overall health and well-being. This can lead to dietary deficiencies, which can exacerbate the symptoms of autism. For example, lacking essential vitamins and minerals can lead to problems with cognition, behavior, and overall physical health.

Because this is such a common problem with autistic individuals, the Drake Institute will frequently order laboratory blood tests to screen for biomedical and nutritional deficiencies. Based on the lab findings, we may also make referrals to functional medicine doctors for appropriate supplementation.

In addition to dietary deficiencies, avoiding certain foods can lead to restricted eating patterns, making it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and increasing the risk of malnutrition. This can be particularly concerning for individuals with autism who may already struggle with sensory issues and have limited food options. Occupational therapy can be helpful in treating food-based sensory sensitivities.

Nutrition and autism is an area of study that is still being extensively researched. However, certain foods, vitamins, and minerals have been shown in autism and diet research to improve symptoms. [v]

Autism diet food list

While there is no known cure for autism, establishing a "nutritional baseline" can still be beneficial for managing or reducing some of the symptoms associated with the condition.

Research has shown that an optimal diet for autism should focus on improving gut health, reducing sugar intake, increasing omega-3 fats intake, and increasing consumption of key vitamins and minerals. Below are some of the most important items to consider when creating a diet for autism and specific foods to consider including on an autism diet food list. [vi]

Improve gut health

Improving gut health is crucial because the gut is often referred to as the "second brain," and there is a strong link between gut health and brain function. According to Foodforthebrain.org, to improve gut health, autistic individuals should consume a diet high in fiber and fermented foods like:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains.

Reduce sugar intake

Reducing sugar intake is also crucial, as it can worsen symptoms of autism, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity. Instead, autistic individuals should focus on consuming natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Increase Omega-3 fatty acids intake

Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake is important because these fats are essential for brain health and development. Foods high in omega-3s include:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans/soybean oil

Increase consumption of key vitamins & minerals

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for immune function, vision, and overall brain health. Brain health is vital for autistic individuals who are already experiencing brain dysregulation. The best foods for consuming vitamin A are:

  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Butternut squash
  • Kale

Vitamin D

In Drake Institute’s laboratory testing, we’ve identified Vitamin D deficiencies in some of our autistic patients, and supplementation may be recommended. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and plays a role in immune function and overall brain health. In an autism diet, vitamin D can be obtained easily through exposure to sunlight, which won't affect any food sensitivities. However, if the individual doesn't have these sensitivities, the following foods have high amounts of vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Fortified dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is important for immune function and can help reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation is essential in a diet for autism since excess inflammation may exacerbate existing deficiencies in communication, social interaction, and restrictive/repetitive behaviors. Below are some of the most vitamin C-heavy foods for an autism diet:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes)
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for nerve and muscle function and can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep, particularly if you have a deficiency. Some autistic individuals may have food sensitivities that limit their ability to consume magnesium through their diet, making supplementation necessary. The best foods for magnesium consumption include:

  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Dark chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Black beans

In cases where the individual has severe food sensitivities, supplements may be necessary to ensure proper health, including immune function and brain function.

MTHFR Gene

Although 40-45% of the general population can have at least one mutation in the MTHFR gene, it’s even much more common in autistic individuals. It can increase the risk of developing Cerebral Folate Deficiency (CFD) and requires supplementation.

What is a sensory diet for autism?

Understanding the nutritional needs of autism patients is an important component for improving symptoms, but what is a sensory diet for autism?

A "sensory diet" for autism refers to a range of activities that can help autistic individuals manage symptoms. In this case, a sensory diet does not refer to nutrition but to a recommended set of actions or sensory inputs.

This can include deep pressure touch, vestibular movement like jumping jacks or swinging on a swing, and oral sensory activities. These activities can be any type of sensory input and should be tailored to the specific sensory needs of the individual.

It is crucial to work with a trained professional, such as an occupational therapist, to develop an effective sensory diet for autism.[vii]

How The Drake Institute Treats Autism

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical conditions such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain mapping and neurofeedback, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

Before beginning treatment, a qEEG brain map of the patient is recorded and analyzed. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific areas of the brain are experiencing dysregulation linked to symptoms. 19 total sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, social/emotional understanding, memory, executive functioning, and behavioral/emotional regulation.

The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and linked to symptoms. Once we know what areas are dysregulated, we can develop individualized treatment protocols for the patient.

Neurofeedback

During neurofeedback training, sensors are once again placed around the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback treatment sessions, the patient will learn to improve brain activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.

Neurostimulation

As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

For over forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, and hypertension reduce their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.

 

[i] https://www.autismspeaks.org/nutrition-and-autism

[ii] https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/manage-autism-diet/

[iii] https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-causes-autism 

[iv] https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/what-it-about-autism-and-food-0

[v] https://www.autismspeaks.org/nutrition-and-autism

[vi] https://foodforthebrain.org/autism/

[vii] https://autismawarenesscentre.com/what-is-a-sensory-diet/

 

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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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