The Paleo Diet and Autism

People who know about the Paleo Diet instantly think of it as an effective weight loss program and a great diet and fitness regimen for athletes. In recent years, however, researchers have found that the Paleo Diet may be of great benefit to children and adults diagnosed with autism.

The dictionary defines autism as a “variable developmental disorder that appears by age 3.” “Synopsis of Psychiatry” by Drs. Kaplan and Sadock further adds three major diagnostic criteria for autism, which are as follows…

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1) Impairment in reciprocal social interaction
2) Impairment in communication and imaginative activity
3) Markedly restricted repertoire of interests and activities

Research on the role of diet in autism has revealed that there are certain foods that induce symptoms, such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, temper tantrums, and self-injurious behaviors (like head banging, hair pulling, scratching and biting). The specific foods that have been implicated are those that contain glutein and casein. In fact, doctors advise parents of autistic children to switch the diet to one that is gluten- and casein-free (called the “GFCF Diet”).

Enter the Paleo or Caveman Diet. Advocates of this diet believe that the best foods to eat are those that have been widely consumed by prehistoric man prior to the discovery of fire and the development of agricultural and cooking techniques. The Paleo Diet emphasizes that people eat lean meats, fish and other seafoods, eggs, fruits and vegetables, nuts, roots and mushrooms. Prohibited are grains, legumes, potatoes and dairy products, as well as processed foods, salt, and vinegar.

What connection does the Paleo Diet have to autism treatment? This diet eliminates the very foods that are prohibited in the GFCF Diet. Remember that gluten is obtained from grains and cereals while casein is found in dairy products. From this alone, you can already see that the Paleo Diet can be effective in alleviating autism symptoms.

Another advantage of the Paleo Diet is its emphasis on low carbohydrate intake. This will prove helpful to autistic children who frequently suffer from gastrointestinal problems because of bacteria and yeast overgrowth in their digestive tracts.

Also, refined sugars are prohibited in the Paleo Diet. Nutrition research on autism has shown that a high intake of processed sugars can cause or worsen symptoms. In addition, parents who feed their child gluten- and casein-free baked products have discovered that these foods are actually high in sugars and carbohydrates, which also cause symptoms to develop.

Last but not least, the Paleo Diet stressed the need to increase intake of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, one of them being Vitamin D. Most autistic children and adults have a deficiency in Vitamin D, which can be corrected by this diet.

If your child is autistic, consult with your doctor today if it would be to his or her benefit to switch to the Paleo Diet.

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