Autism is a a neurobiological and a developmental disorder which affects 1 in 160 children. It is a medical condition where the child has difficulty in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication.
Some common symptoms of this health condition are repetitive behaviour, difficulty in adapting the changed routine, inability in learning different skills, anxiety, sensory changes, sleep disorder among others. Autism also affects the educational performance of the child.
Characteristics of autism can be detected in early childhood, but it often let undiagnosed till later years of age. The health disorder can adversely affect the child if they don't consume the right diet. We spoke to Shivani Baijal, Senior Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Gurgaon and asked her to share the importance of healthy eating for autistic kids.
Healthy Eating Habits For Children With Autism
The expert shared, "Children with autism suffer mostly with nutrients depletion due to their behavioral changes and feeding related issues. Poor nutrition causes risk of developing different metabolic disease in the later year of their life. Calcium and protein deficiencies can be easily seen in these children which further affects their cognitive development and physical growth. Food allergies can also be seen in children, common known allergies are with sea food, eggs, peanut, gluten, casein, tree nuts, soy and fish. In case of food allergy that particular food shouldn’t be the part of diet but there nutritional content must be replaced with other equally nutrient rich food item."
Importance Of Feeding Nutrition Rich Diet In Autism
Diet and nutrition plays an important role in the lives of all of us but for an autistic child, the diet plays a greater role because under this condition the child is usually at the risk of multiple nutritional deficiencies. The expert shared that autistic children usually suffer from food intolerance, food allergies, eating disorders, nutrient deficiences among others.
The expert further shared that there is no ASD specific diet but according to some studies, exclusion of some proteins such as gluten and casein can work well.
Shivani Baijal, Senior Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Gurgaon shared that some children also experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), abdominal distension, bloating, chronic diarrhea, gastric discomforts etc. due to their faulty eating habits. Adapting an appropriate diet is necessary to improve child’s nutritional status. Continuous monitoring of the diet will help to see the effects of that particular diet. Adequate dietary management is required in conditions like obesity, overweight or underweight (due to lack of proper nutrition). Many studies also shows the beneficial effect of including omega 3, probiotic and multivitamins in diet of autism patient.
Child with autism and seizure disorder, can be treated nutritionally better by giving them a ketogenic diet (A diet high in fat, moderate protein, low carbs). Keto diet has some side effects too so this should be followed under a supervision of qualified dietician only.
Quick Tips For Parents
Autistic person have special characteristics like following a same routine which is a good habit. So from the starting try to make their routine healthy. Set up a schedule for your child like, fix time for meal, study and sleep. Pre planning will be required, to follow same routine every day.
It is important to know food allergies of your child and for the same, casein, gluten should be excluded from their diet. Almond milk, soy milk can make good options for them. Instead of gluten, given them ragi, amaranth and varities of millet.
Keep note of all their symptoms while you are excluding these foods from their diet. After a few weeks of eliminating these foods, start giving them new varieties and then see the affects. Accordingly note down what your child is allergic to.
Implementation of these dietary changes may not be easy for parents, but believe that this is the safest approach to find out the best suitable food for your baby.
A good, healthy meal is cricual for an autistic child to fuel their body with the right nutrition. We hope this guide helps you plan a nutrition rich diet for your child. For more such health related tips, stay tuned!