Nutrition and Diet
A healthy gut leads to a healthy mind.
More than 70% of what your body does to fight disease occurs in your digestive system. If your child's digestive system doesn't work properly, the immune system is compromised. According to the research of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a compromised immune system can lead to ADD/ADHD, autism (ASD), learning disabilities, PDD-NOS, PANDAS, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other disorders. The Time Magazine article, “How Gut Bugs Make You Sick - or Well”, references research that states up to 85 percent of children with autism also suffer from some kind of gastrointestinal distress.
In addition to fighting disease, your child's digestive system helps produce neurotransmitters. If your child's digestive system is unable to properly break down nutrients into the correct quantities of inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters, these can become out of balance. An improper balance can affect your child's mood, memory, and executive function.
Gut dysfunction can occur for many reasons. Food allergies can provide your child's digestive system with the wrong instructions for breaking down nutrients. Also, genetically modified (GMO) wheat, soy, corn, high fructose corn syrup, and foods with hydrogenated oils in them confuse the gut. The digestive system might break down these modified foods in the wrong way or it might not break them down at all. The undigested food can rot in the intestinal tract and set the stage for the bad bacteria and viruses to take over, crating holes in the gut lining (Leaky Gut Syndrome). If the gut lining is compromised, bad bacteria and viruses can enter the bloodstream and possibly the nervous system.
How do you support your child's digestive system?
- Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. These have plant enzymes that can help with digestion. If the food is not organic, thoroughly wash the food to free it of pesticides and other gut destructive chemicals.
- Avoid or eliminate pre-packaged and processed foods, that have gone through a heating process, and/or had chemicals, additives, preservatives and flavorings added to them.
- Avoid products made with any of the “Big Four” genetically modified ingredients: corn, soya, canola, cottonseed oil. Also, wheat is being increasingly modified, so eat foods made from organic flour.
- Take probiotics, which contain good bacteria that help break down foods.
- Avoid antacids which reduce the acidity in your stomach which is needed to digest your foods.
If you are pregnant, consider supplementing your diet with probiotics, to strengthen your immune system and that of your baby. Try to avoid anitbiotics during pregnancy. Research shows that babies given antibiotics in the first six months of life, have a 50% chance of later developing asthma.
Also, breastfeed instead of using formula. According to a Duke University study, reastfeeding is crucial to help normalize your infant's microflora (hence protecting against disease and developmental problems). Also, breastfeeding avoids formula which often contains genetically modified products such as soya.
Good nutrition is often the beginning and end of the autism journey. Have your child checked for food allergies and parasites. To test for leaky gut syndrome, ask your pediatrician if a bacterial dysbiosis test and a lactulose/mannitol test are in order. And replaces as many processed foods as you can with natural, organic alternatives.
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Dr. Susan McCreadie