Autism and Food Intolerance
Effects of Food Intolerance on Children with Autism
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique differences and strengths. We now know that autism is caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences, hence the term ‘spectrum’ is used to highlight the wide variations in challenges and strengths exhibited by people with autism.
The most obvious signs of autism tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age, although some developmental delays associated with the condition may be diagnosed as early as 18 months or earlier. Symptoms of autism range in presentation and severity with many children exhibiting an intellectual disability, while others have normal intelligence. Children with autism may also exhibit other symptoms ranging from seizures, motor abnormalities, anxiety and sleep cycle disturbances, to gastrointestinal problems, immune dysfunction, and sensory disturbances.
What is Food Intolerance?
Occurs when a food irritates your stomach or your body can’t properly digest it
Symptoms include gas, cramps, bloating, heartburn, anxiety, migraines, joint pains, skin problems, fatigue, depression, irritability and an inability to lose weight on a diet.
Symptoms may appear immediately or days after eating the type of food you’re intolerant to
Usually develops gradually, with symptoms sometimes not appearing before turning 30 years-old
May happen when you eat a lot of the food
May happen if you eat the food often is not life-threatening
(Read more about: The difference between food allergies and food intolerance)
The effect of food intolerances on autistic children
Gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammation are very common for children on the spectrum. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, bloating and gastrointestinal pain. Intestinal inflammation is typically caused by food sensitivities and an overabundance of unhealthy bacteria in the gut. Impaired digestion causes nutrient deficiencies and weakened cellular function, which exhibits as poor brain function and immune system deficiencies. When food is not broken down properly, as is the case with food sensitivities or a food intolerance, it leads to foggy thinking, insensitivity to pain, withdrawal, and irritability.
Often children on the spectrum have elevated food IgG reactions that in addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, can weaken their immune systems over time making them more susceptible to viruses and bacteria that they are exposed to. A food intolerance lab result can help to minimize the physical symptoms through diet control thus reducing the severity of symptoms and increasing overall health and wellbeing.