Diet and Nutrition
Diet is a key component to the success of the biomedical approach. Typically, food breaks down into chemical compounds that are used for energy, and cellular function. For those with ASDs, the body often improperly metabolizes food, causing biochemical imbalances. Food sensitivities or “allergies” are common, and can cause many behavioral reactions seen in ASD children. When the offending foods are removed, improvements are often seen in areas such as attention, cognition, behavior, and sleep. Often these food reactions are delayed reactions, which makes it very difficult to pinpoint which food is causing the problem. A simple blood test can help identify the foods which are causing challenging behaviors, and often worsening gut inflammation at the same time.
The GF/CF Diet: In addition to general food intolerances, there can actually be “drug-like” effects from certain foods. Mercury often adversely affects an enzyme in the digestive tract called DPP4. When this enzyme isn’t functioning properly, children are not able to properly digest the two proteins gluten (found in wheat, oats, barley and rye) and casein (found in all dairy products). The improper digestion of gluten and casein can cause the formation of morphine-like substances that enter the bloodstream, and can cause symptoms in the child such as spacey or withdrawn behavior, poor attention, constipation, high pain threshold, etc. When the opiate-inducing foods are removed, often children seem to “come out of a fog” and show greater interest in their surroundings, and function and learn better. A GF/CF diet (gluten-free, casein-free) has been shown to help about 80% of children on the autistic spectrum with their symptoms. There are many websites now that can help families with this diet, and several stores now stock GF/CF foods.
The SCD Diet: Some children have more severe GI tract pathology, and actually need to go a step further with dietary intervention to see improvement in their ASD symptoms. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) restricts all disaccharide carbohydrates, which are starches. Simple monosaccharide carbohydrates, such as honey and fruits are allowed. This diet is based on the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall, and has been very beneficial to many children on the spectrum. Dr. Mielke works with each family to help them find the diet that is right for their child. Since most children on the spectrum are picky eaters to begin with, dietary changes can be difficult. We understand this, and can help you every step of the way. Dr. Mielke has favorite recipes that she has personally tried with her own son, and has many tips based on personal experience which can help you. In addition, for families that need more help and support, Dr. Mielke can connect you with a personal chef who is experienced in special-needs cooking , and who can come to your home to help you institute any necessary dietary changes, or prepare special foods and deliver them to your home.