• February 24, 2014
  • Generation Rescue
  • 0
Learn the Science Behind the Benefits of Diet & Autism

GR: What benefits might my child see from following a special diet? 



Julie MatthewsBenefits range dramatically from child to child.  Many parents report that their children make wonderful gains in language when starting a special diet, such as gluten-free casein-free – it may be an increase in words, speaking in sentences, or back and forth conversation.  Some children make gains in behavior, a reduction in irritability or tantrums, or less hyperactivity. Other children have improvements in the quality of life, relief of digestive upset, fewer colds and infections, and are happier and healthier.  While benefits differ, my experience as a Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in autism for the past 13 years is that a vast majority of clients have some level of improvement. Nourishing hope is a process, it’s about using sound science and experience to discern and apply an optimal food and nutrition plan for you child.    




GR: What if my child is a picky eater? Any tips on introducing different foods? 


Julie MatthewsIf your child is a picky eater, look for what might be underlying the picky eating.  There are many reasons for picky eating, some might be medical, others could be: 1) addiction to foods with wheat and dairy (when opiates are created) causing a child to only want those foods, 2) nutrient deficiencies causing poor sense of taste, 3) sensory sensitivity and issues with textures, or 4) anxiety over food.  If your child is extremely limited, seek out a feeding therapist for support. 


As far as tips for picky eating, try to determine what might be causing it, and if it’s texture, get creative with meal ideas.  Many kids don’t like lumpy and mixed texture foods, others don’t like wet and slimy foods like mango—many children like foods that are dry or crunchy.  Some of my favorite picky eater recipes involve vegetables that are crispy, such as shredded vegetables in crispy potato pancakes; carrot, squash and other chips similar to potato chips; and fries made with vegetables such as squash fries, rutabaga, parsnip and many other vegetable fries. 


Read Chapter 3 (What if you Have a Picky Eater?) of my eBook “Using Food and Nutrition to Improve ADHD & Autism” for more on this science, and suggestions. Get the eBook here http://nourishinghope.com/get-started-guide/



GR: Is there any science behind the benefits of nutritional support for autism and ADHD? 


Julie MatthewsThere is overwhelming scientific support for “diet and nutrition intervention” for ADHD and autism. Many studies indicate that children with autism and ADHD have deficiencies in nutrients such as zinc, iron, fatty acids, and that supplements improved symptoms. There are studies showing benefit with nutritional support for autism and ADHD. There are also studies on B6 and magnesium helping improve symptoms of autism.  One study on children with autism showed that a multivitamin-mineral formula improved all areas of autistic symptoms studied including: language, play, sociability, hyperactivity, cognition, eye contact, and more. The aggregate science screams “pay attention to food and nutrition.”



Food choices can directly affect mind, body, and behavior.  Those with ADHD or autism need to avoid foods their bodies can’t digest or that can create inflammation and other negative reactions, and they need to eat foods rich in nutrients to support cellular and body functions.



Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine taught us to “let food be your medicine” and informed us “all disease begins the gut.”  To help heal autism, we need to relearn the principles of healthy food and nutrition. 



Parents report positive changes to health and behavior when applying special “autism diets.” They are realizing that they can affect their child’s health through calculated omissions and additions. Because they choose what their child eats, taking charge of diet is way for parents to help children feel better, reduce their autism symptoms and pursue their full potential.



Simply put, the following science and research validates following a specialized diet:


  1. Children with autism have problems with certain foods that affect their behavioral, cognitive, and physical symptoms.1,3,5
  2. Food has a direct effect on the gut, intestinal inflammation and digestive capacity—which in turn affects physiology and brain function.2, 4
  3. Nutrient deficiencies are common with autism.6,7,8 
  4. Gut problems and insufficient digestive enzyme function are common.9
  5. Digestion, detoxification and immune function are often affected.
  6.  Dietary intervention influences these disordered systems seen in autism:
    • The gut is considered the “second brain” and the “gut-brain” connection has been studied in autism.10
    • Healing the gut positively influences the brain.
    • Addressing digestive issues increases nutrition absorption. As nutrient status improves, systems function better—including the brain.
    • Removing foods containing toxins (such as artificial additives) that adversely affect brain chemistry relieves a burden on the liver and detoxification system and affects improvement in brain function and behavior.11
    • By avoiding inflammatory foods (gluten, casein and others) we support immune and digestive systems.

While “dietary intervention” (change) can seem overwhelming, with learning and focus, even busy moms and dads can, and do, make it work. As a child feels better, parents often have more quality time with their children and cooking becomes more enjoyable. And nutritious meals needn’t cost a fortune. While quality, whole foods involve more expensive ingredients; you’re buying fewer expensive processed foods and may actually save money. 


A healing diet empowers you to support your child’s health and improved well-being. This is why I titled my book, Nourishing Hope. We need to nourish children’s bodies with healthy food, and nourish our minds and souls with hope – doing this will benefit everyone.  When you prepare healthy food you transfer healing energy through your loving intentions. With virtually no downside, everyone should give this a try.


Join me in nourishing hope.



Learn more from Julie’s new e-book, Using Food and Nutrition to Improve ADHD and Autism, now available for free at nourishinghope.com. 



  1. Jyonouchi H, Geng L, Ruby A, Zimmerman-Bier B. Dysregulated innate immune responses in young children with autism spectrum disorders: their relationship to gastrointestinal symptoms and dietary intervention. Neuropsychobiology. 2005;51(2):77-85.
  2. Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M. A randomised, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Sep;5(4):251-61.
  3. Lucarelli S, Frediani T, Zingoni AM, Ferruzzi F, Giardini O, Quintieri F, Barbato M, D’Eufemia P, Cardi E. Food allergy and infantile autism. Panminerva Med. 1995 Sep;37(3):137-41.
  4. Millward C, Ferriter M, Calver S, Connell-Jones G. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD003498.
  5. Reichelt KL, Knivsberg AM. Can the pathophysiology of autism be explained by the nature of the discovered urine peptides? Nutr Neurosci. 2003 Feb;6(1):19-28.
  6. Tapan Audhya, presentation at the Defeat Autism Now! conference, San Diego, October 2002. Audhya reported his measurements of vitamin and mineral levels in the blood of over 150 children with autism compared to 50-100 controls of the same age. He found that the children with autism on average had much lower levels of most vitamins (vitamins A, C, D, and E; all B vitamins except choline)  and some minerals (zinc; magnesium; selenium).  
  7. MA Landgreme and AR Landgrebe, Celiac autism: calcium studies and their relationship to celiac disease in autistic patients, The Autistic Syndromes, Amsterdam:  North Holland; New York; Elsevier, pp. 197-205
  8. Alberti A, Pirrone P, Elia M, Waring RH, Romano C  Sulphation deficit in “low-functioning” autistic children: a pilot study.  Biol Psychiatry 1999 Aug 1;46(3):420-4.
  9. Horvath K, Papadimitriou JC, Rabsztyn A, Drachenberg C, Tildon JT. Gastrointestinal Abnormalities in Children with Autistic Disorder. J Pediatr. 1999 Nov;135(5):559-63.
  10. MacFabe, et al.,  Neurobiological effects of intraventricular propionic acid in rats: Possible role of short chain fatty acids on the pathogenesis and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders. Behavioural Brain Research. 176 (2007) 149–169
  11. McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, Kitchin E, Lok K, Porteous L, Prince E, Sonuga-Barke E, O Warner J, Stevenson J. “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.” Lancel. Published Online, September 6, 2007. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61306-3.



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