Nutrition and Autism with Canberra/Queanbeyan Dietitian Paula Tazzyman

Children on the Autism Spectrum can have very complex eating/feeding issues. These neurodiverse children can experience many challenges around food and eating. Their dietary management can be more intricate. It is beneficial that parents work with a nutritional therapist that has a deep understanding in this area to gain  improvements in the overall heath of their child and to ensure the diet is balanced.

Some specific issues that I have observed over the last 27 years of working in this area:

  1. Food: Children on the Autism Spectrum are notoriously difficult to feed despite the parent’s best efforts. They can be very selective about their food choices often influenced by sensory processing difficulties. The colour, smell, temperature and texture of the food can be an influencing factor. Fear of eating certain foods is very real for many.  In some cases conditions such as constipation, stomach pain and/or reflux will impact on the child’s eating. The diet of autistic children  can become very limited, leading to nutrient deficits. This can impact on their physical health, mental wellbeing and brain function. Nutrient deficits can potentially exacerbate their ASD symptoms. As an example, many of my neurodiverse clients are low in iron. Low iron cam make concentration difficult as well as impacting on the child’s stamina and sleep quality. So many times I have witness the benefits of repairing the iron deficits to support the focus, energy levels and sleep of my clients.
  2. Digestion: Many autistic children  experience tummy problems with constipation, diarrhoea, tummy pain and bloating being the most common symptoms. Inflammation of the gut lining can further complicate the digestion of food resulting in poor absorption of nutrients.  An overgrowth of “unfriendly” bacteria and yeast, can lead to a decrease in production of nutrients and more tummy distress. Research on gut permeability here.
  3. Immune system:  Studies have shown that autistic children  are also known to experience a greater prevalence of immune system dysregulation. This results in more frequent ear infections, tonsillitis, eczema and food allergies and intolerances. Research shows that often nutrient deficits, like Vitamin D deficiency, will play a role in the dysregulate the immune system.
  4. Toxins: Detoxification systems may work less well in autistic children. They tend to accumulate toxins and heavy metals in the body more readily than neurotypical children.
  5. Other Concerns: Poor sleeping patterns, neuro-inflammation, anxiety and poor concentration are also features all too common to children on the Autism Spectrum. Research here.

Nutrition plays a key role in improving all the above-mentioned conditions. It has been my experience that making changes to the diet may result in improvements in their ability to focus, sociability, language development, sleep quality, behaviour and the reduction of gut symptoms.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that substances within the diet cause these problems but rather they aggravate the underlying condition in sensitive children.

Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis tend to be the most sensitive of all children. Please keep in mind that every child is different. There is no “one diet fits all approach for children who are neurodiverse.

An individual assessment will determine what areas need to be explored and how to best begin to balance the diet or make diet changes.  It is vital that your child’s diet remains balanced if you choose to make dietary modification. Please discuss with your doctor as this information is general in nature.  Your doctor is a great support person to monitor progress and test for nutritional deficiencies.

Support the wellbeing of your child today through effective, individualised nutrition interventions. 

Feel free to give me a call on 0418 162 202 if you would like to explore any of these areas. Take advantage of the FREE 10-minute phone consultation to ascertain if I can help your child.