Autism Spectrum Disorders and Nutrition

Not many words conjure up as much fear in parents as does the word “AUTISM”. Shrouded in mystery, it crumbles families to the ground leaving parents to pick up the pieces of the life they once knew. Other than behavioral therapy, there is no direction given when handed this diagnosis. There is no medical advice provided. No road map to follow. Until now….

The times are changing for this elusive disorder as there is finally evidence that the symptoms of Autism can be improved.  Nutrition is at the forefront and is leading the way to a better life for these children. Parents are finally getting some answers and the hope they deserve.

Autism: A Medical Problem with Nutritional Answers
Autism is a storm of things gone wrong – a cataclysm of failed body systems and biochemical pathways. More than just a neurological disorder, autism is now considered a very complex medical condition that asks much of the nutritional world.

Doctors and researchers now know that children with autism have considerable nutritional needs. These kids are often deficient in many vitamins and minerals. They have fatty acid deficiencies – a lack of dietary fats that contribute to skin problems, attention issues, and mood disorders. They have undiagnosed food allergies and digestive problems which makes learning and interacting difficult for them. These children have imbalances in their immune system which makes them susceptible to autoimmune disorders, viruses and bacteria. Sleep seems to evade these kids. They are extremely picky eaters. And they have self injurious behaviors often due to pain, food intolerances, and/or the inability to communicate. Many of these problems are medical in nature, often requiring a nutritional answer. See our Resources page for Parents and Families of Children with Autism to get helpful links.

How Targeted Nutrition Can Benefit Children with Autism
Nutritional intervention can support children with autism at all levels, and put them back on the road to well-being. Special diets can eliminate problematic foods that interfere with digestion and cognition. Key nutrients can be used to correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies. And essential fats can be incorporated back into the diet. With nutrient therapy, immune systems have a chance to rebalance, sensory issues subside, and sleep becomes second nature for these kids.

Targeted nutrition allows children to get more from their therapy as well. Speech and language often improves. Motor planning issues can resolve. And behavioral programs have the potential to be fast tracked. Children start to feel better and learn better, because they are better. Every child is unique and therefore responds differently, but most children benefit in some way.

Science and Research Supporting the Use of Diet and Nutrients for Autism
The science is finally emerging to support what many parents have known for years: Diet and nutrition can help many children with autism.  Thousands of parents all over the world have reported that their children improve when special diets and nutrients are used.  And below is just a fraction of the research that supports this:

  1. Horvath K, Papadimitriou JC, Rabsztyn A, Drachenberg C, Tildon JT. Gastrointestinal Abnormalities in Children with Autistic Disorder.  JPediatr.  1999 Nov; 135 (5):559-63.
  2. 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.
  3. Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M.  A randomized, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes.  Nutr Neurosci.  2002 Sep; 5(4):251-61.
  4. Twenty one of twenty two studies yielded positive results for using Vitamin B6 (often with Magnesium) in children and adults with autism, including 13 double-blind placebo-controlled trials:
    1. Heeley & Roberts (1965) 2. Bonisch (1968) 3. Rimland (1973) 4. Rimland, Callaway, Dreyfus (1978) 5. Gualtieri et. al.(1981) 6. Ellman (1981) 7. Barthelemy et al. (1981) 8. LeLord et al. (1981) 9. Marineau et al. (1982) 10. Jonas et al. (1984) 11. Martineau et al. (1985) 12. Martineau et al. (1986) 13. Martineau et al. (1989) 14. Marineau et al. (1989) 15. Rossi et al. (1990) 16. Moreno et al. (1992) 17. Menage et al. (1992) 18. Findling et al. (1997) 19. Hopkins (1999) 20. Audhya (2002) 21. Kuriyama (2002) 22. Rimland & Edelson (2005)
  5. Tapan Audhya, presentation of the Defeat Autism NOW! Conference, San Diego, October 2002. Audya reported his measurements of vitamins 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 had on average, much lower levels of most vitamins (vitamins A, C, D, and E; all B vitamins except choline) and some minerals (zinc; magnesium; selenium).
  6. Meguid NA et al. “Role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the management of Egyptian children with autism.” Clin Bioch 41: 1044-1048 (2008).
  7. Alberti A, Pirrone P, Elia M, Waring RH, Romano C. Sulphation deficit in “low-functioning” autistic children: a pilot study. Biol Psychiatry 1999 Aug1;46(3): 420-24.
  8. 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.
  9. Whiteley P, Haracopos D, Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Parlar S, Jacobsen J, Seim A, Pedersen L, Schondel M, Shattock P. The ScanBrit randomised, controlled, single-blind study of a gluten- and casein-free dietary intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2010 Apr;13(2):87-100.
  10. Ooi YP et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in the management of autism spectrum disorders. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 69:969-971 (2015).
  11. Adams et al. 2001 Effect of a Vitamin/Mineral Supplement on Children and Adults with Autism. BMC Pediatrics  11:111.
  12.   Parracho, H.M., et al.  2005 Differences between the Gut Microflora of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders  and That of Healthy Children.   Journal of Medical Microbiology 54(Pt 10):987-91./li>
  13. Critchfield, J. W., et al. 2011.  The Potential Role of Probiotics  in the Management of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Gastroenterology Research and Practice 2011:161358.
  14. D’Eufemia, P., et. al. 1996.  Abnormal Intestinal Permeability in Children with Autism.   Acta Paediatrica  85(9):1076-9.
  15. Marti, L. F. 2010.  Effectiveness of Nutritional Interventions on the Functioning of Children with ADHD and/or ASD:  An Updated Review of Research Evidence.  Boletin de la Asociacion,  Medica de Puerto Rico 102(4): 31-42.


Watch this Video to See Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diets for Autism Put to the Test


Please note that in children with very limited diets, nutritional intervention should be done under the care and guidance of a medical doctor.

To inquire, please e-mail
or call Kerri Schmidt @ 778-241-1951

Focusing on Nutrition for Autism and ADHD

Kerri Schmidt is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Maple Ridge / Pitt Meadows serving the Fraser Valley & Lower Mainland.