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Using Diet Therapy in the Treatment of Children Diagnosed with Autism

Your Questions and Answers

What is diet therapy?

It is using diet and nutrition as therapeutic tools. When done correctly, it makes other treatments more effective, has no side effects, and may decrease the need for drugs.

What benefits could I expect?

Depending on your child's age, the degree of impairment, and compliance with the program the results can be dramatic. The diet is not a magic cure; it requires full commitment, but benefits are worth it for many families. Typically improvements emerge across several areas: Bowel function, potty training, eating behavior, self-care, sleep, hyperactivity, eye contact, aggressive or injurious behavior, perseverance/rigidity, language skills, and social skills. Sensory sensitivities may diminish as well. In actuality, younger children may revert to normal, while older ones may see improvement in all areas.

How do I know if my child needs this?

Aside from Autism Spectrum Disorder symptoms, typical signs that diet intervention would help are: classical allergy symptoms (like runny nose and dark circles under the eyes), frequent ear infections and GI symptoms (like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and difficulty in potty training).

I keeping hearing and about "gluten" and "casein". What are those?

These are protein fractions in wheat and milk. Research suggests they are not digested normally in most persons with autism, but are incompletely broken down into absorbable molecules. Many people with autism show some improvement when these two dietary proteins are omitted.

It didn't work for us. Why not?

Removing gluten and casein alone is rarely sufficient to get an excellent result. If removing gluten and casein helps many children, it makes sense that other proteins may be reacting in your child. Testing for them and removing the offending foods may give your child the desired results.

If changing the diet works, why aren't my child's doctors telling me to do it?

Most Doctors and Health Car Professional have had little or no training in allery, food sensitivities, or nutrition. Diet modification is also a relatively new approach and very little has been published about it in the journals they trust. Obviously, there is no incentive for drug or food companies to study diet elimation as a treatment for autism. For expertise, approach a DAN physician who understands the impact of diet on autism.

How long does it take to work?

You should start seeing results within 6 weeks of strictly following the diet.

What are the safety concerns with this diet?

If your child is on medications for seizures, mood, depression, sleep or behavior, professional guidance is a must. Though this new diet can ultimately diminish the need for medications, transitioning onto it can be tough. Spikes in seizure activity can occur when gluten or casein are first withdrawn. An initial hard withdrawal period usually bodes well for success - but careful monitoring is necessary though this "withdrawal" period. Children on gluten and casein restrictions also need supplementation, and safe doses of supplements must be laid out for your child's weight.

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