Can autism, an uncurable disease, be improved?

We believe in a salutogenic approach (where we focus on creating health) to every condition and problem. With autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, there is never a guarantee nor can anyone offer a cure. But for countless lives, focusing on lifestyle changes that balance the nervous, digestive, and immune systems has created a much more pleasant way of life for parents and children alike.

For today, we will focus on digestive changes. As we discussed last week, gut health and the microbiome has a huge impact on neurological function and health. So optimizing the gut creates a place where healthy bacteria can keep bad things in balance, toxins are quickly moved through the body, and happy hormones are translated up to the brain.

Several diets have been studied in great detail and shown to have huge positive impacts on the gut in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders.  The first one that we highly recommend is called the Feingold diet.  In this diet, children eliminate artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and several preservatives that are believed to activate neuroinflammation associated with hyperactivity, as well as inflammation that affects allergies, asthma, eczema, and hives.  Some excellent studies have shown its effectiveness.

Feingold was Chief of Pediatrics at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, CA, until 1951, when he became Chief of Allergy at Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. He continued his work with children and adults with hyperactivity and allergy until his death at the age of 82, in 1982.

Another diet specifically developed for neurological disorders is called the GAPS diet.  GAPS is a very involved diet designed to alter the microbiome by introducing a broth based diet for several days to kill off any harmful bacteria and yeast.  After that, healthy and nutritious foods are slowly reintroduced, and the gut is repopulated with beneficial bacteria that have also been proven to show great changes in behavior, sleep patterns, and mood.  Read more about the GAPS diet here and here.

Though introducing a new diet to children with neurodevelopmental challenges can be difficult, the benefits are amazing!  Next week, we will discuss other health changes to improve the lives of children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.


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    Dr. Sheena grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture, Chemistry, and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.