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Diet and Autism

An interview with Brian Udell, MD.

What other nutritional advice do you give to your patients?

A healthy diet is essential for all kids, but even more so with kids with ASDs because there is concern their GI issues may lead to poor absorption of key nutrients for growth and development. One of our primary goals is to get kids eating a nutritionally complete diet and to reestablish a healthy GI system.

I recommend a healthy, natural, varied diet as close to the earth a possible. Avoiding pesticides, preservatives, artificial ingredients, fast foods, monosodium glutamate, or processed foods is ideal, but not always practical. Diets that are less processed and more natural, like an organic diet, are easier to digest and absorb because they contain fewer toxins that need to be eliminated. 

Many of the kids with ASDs tend to be deficient in essential fatty acids, fiber, and protein. We turn to registered dietitians to evaluate diets and help parents understand where the nutrient gaps are and how to fill them. 

Are there any other supplements you recommend to your patients?

I recommend omega-3 fatty acids because it is well known that these are "good fats" that can help reduce inflammation. Parents can try salmon, cod liver oil, or use mercury-free supplements. 

How can probiotics help GI symptoms?

Probiotics contain healthy bacteria and can improve the microflora in the GI tract. Kids with autism tend to have abnormal GI flora, and when they routinely ingest probiotics, their stools can improve. I suggest a probiotic with 1.5 to 4 billion bacterial colonies, depending on the age of the child. These are available in the grocery store. 

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Reviewed on February 01, 2010

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