Managing autism symptoms not only require exercise or workouts, but also a balanced and proper diet.
Aside from a lack of physical activity, diet is also another issue among people and children with autism.
The debate has gone on that people with ASD face a unique challenge to achieve physical fitness.
But as we’ve mentioned in one of our previous posts, exercise and workouts for autism are not only possible – it’s doable!
But physical strength is not the only thing you need to build.
Diet also plays a major role for children and people with ASD.
You’re probably asking right now…
What is the best diet for autism?
People and children with autism are quite unique.
Their symptoms and behavior vary from person to person.
Even more challenging is the fact that many individuals with ASD have feeding issues. This also includes food sensitivities and sensitive digestion.
Sensitivity to certain foods is often the culprit for autistic individuals to suffer from a lack of proper nutrients.
With poor nutrition comes the risk of chronic illnesses that could develop later in life. These illnesses include heart problems, diabetes, and most of all obesity.
Feeding issues are not the only problem
The dietary struggles of children with autism do not stop with aversions to certain food choices.
Children and people on the spectrum are naturally low on calcium and protein. These two building blocks of growth affect brain, bone and muscle development. A lack of calcium and protein also affects physical strength, balance and even mental ability.
Proper diet for autism matters – A LOT
By now, it’s important for you to realize that the food your child eat matters a lot.
You either feed your child food that will help develop his brain and body or you give them food that makes their symptoms even worse.
In a quick summary, there are five food items you CAN’T give your child with autism. These are:
If you’re asking, here’s why.
Children with ASD are more likely to have gastrointestinal issues, especially a leaky gut.
Studies show that children with autism have fewer types of intestinal bacteria.
Hence a diet filled with gluten, which is a mixture of protein found in rye, barley or wheat, can increase systemic inflammation.
Gluten is not only found in bread, pasta, pizza or cake, it’s also found in sauces and even processed meats.
The bad thing about gluten-induced inflammation is that it affects the brain. It also decreases good bacteria in the gut. As a result, children with autism who eat a gluten diet are more stressed, anxious or depressed.
Consuming gluten also impacts the cerebellum negatively.
The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for motor, thought coordination and processing complex information.
However, children with ASD already have a decreased function in their cerebellum. With gluten affecting this part of the brain, it makes symptoms worse in people and children with ASD.
Removing corn in the diet of your child with autism may be up for debate.
Whole foods like grain are considered healthy for children with ASD.
However, the USDA reveals that corn is the top crop to receive pesticides since 1972. Corn’s constant exposure to pesticide worsens autism symptoms when consumed.
More so, corn promotes inflammation. This is due to the omega-6 fatty acid instead of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory.
A study also showed that corn is a breeding ground for at least 46 fungal isolates. These fungi growth can cause much potential harm since it increases digestive sensitivities.
If that’s not enough, corn is one of the toughest foods to digest whether a child has autism or not. This is a problem since it’s harder for children with ASD to digest corn. When ingested, this food item can cause them further discomfort in digestion.
If sugar causes normal children to roll and jump like a battery-powered toy that is out of control, imagine what it could do to your child with autism.
Sugar is addictive. Even adults can’t shy away from a tasty treat of ice cream or a cold bottle of soda to quench their thirst.
The bad news is sugar is inflammatory. It also causes your brain cells to start firing rapidly and erratically.
Dietary studies have shown that hyperactive children have higher sugar levels compared to their peers.
Children with autism have poor gastrointestinal health. As a result, they have a poorer ability to metabolize sugar properly.
A burst of sugar rush is the least of your worries as a parent.
Now this is the complication.
Constantly adding high sugar foods in the diet of your child can cause problems in their glucose tolerance. It can also affect their insulin levels which could lead to Type 2 diabetes.
So what should you do? Avoid high sugar foods.
When you do this, you can see a dramatic improvement in your child’s symptomatic behavior. Your child will also from having a better focus and concentration.
Another diet you should be aware of is dairy.
Almost similar to gluten, dairy contains the protein casein which produces exorphins when it mixes with stomach acid. When it reaches the brain, exorphins can cause a number of problems like:
1. poor concentrate
4. brain fog
In a study, rats behaved oddly when injected with too much exorphins. At first the rats were restless. Then they became inactive. In fact, the studies showed that rats no longer responded to a ringing bell. A behavior with a suggestive similarity of ‘deafness’ among children with autism.
Another problem with dairy is that it’s pro-inflammatory.
This poses a serious problem since inflammation causes immune system dysfunction.
To make ASD symptoms more manageable, you need to reduce dairy in your child’s diet.
You’d also find your child with better digestion. Other notable benefits include lessened hyperactivity or unresponsiveness.
5. ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS
You may not consider artificial ingredients as food.
However, almost all the food we eat today especially processed goods, contain preservatives or artificial ingredients in one way or another.
Here are some artificial ingredients you need to watch out for:
- Food colors or food dyes like Red 3 and Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.
- Sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and acesulfame potassium and even sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup.
- Flavorings or flavor enhancers. If it says “artificial flavors,” avoid it.
- Any other additive or preservatives like sodium benzoate, trans fat, sodium nitrite/nitrate, potassium bromate and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
The best way to avoid artificial ingredients is to be aware of food labels. Make reading food ingredients a habit to help your child or family member with autism.
Check it out: Which Diet Is Right For Your Special Needs Child?
Special diet for autism
Now that you know the major food groups you need to avoid to lessen autism symptoms, it’s time to focus on which food groups would help with ASD.
As a rule of thumb, the best diet for people with autism should be filled with vitamins and minerals to minimize deficiencies.
Here are a list of essential vitamins and nutrients, their function and a list of food items you may want to consider in your child’s diet.
Function: eye health, immune system function, growth and bone development
Food sources: eggs, liver, oily fish, sweet potatoes, squash, yellow fruits like papaya and mango, carrots, spinach, leafy vegetables
Function: powerful antioxidant to strengthen immune system and prevent numerous diseases
Foods sources: all kinds of fruits, especially citrus fruits, and also vegetables
Function: bone strength, reduce inflammation, promote cell growth and boost immune system function
Food sources: red meat, oily fish like salmon, herring and sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms
Function: antioxidant that fights against free radicals, helpful in promoting cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health, better cognitive function
Food sources: avocados, peanuts, sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, almonds
Function: promotes better bone, cognitive and cardiovascular health
Food sources: kale, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, fish, liver, meat, liver, eggs
Vitamins B6 and B12
Function: help support balanced hormone to calm and maintain a healthy mind, key vitamin to ensure optimum metabolic processes
Food sources: salmon, beef liver, dark green leafy vegetables, bananas, oranges, papayas, poultry products like chicken and turkey.
Children with autism must be on a special diet. But there’s no one-size fits all diet specified for people with ASD.
Hence, knowing your child and removing or adding certain food items can help you see improvement in their symptoms.
A few things to remember before starting a special diet with your child:
Remember that just like with any other condition, food and diet impacts a person’s state of health, both in body and mind.
However, putting your child immediately on a completely different diet than what they’re used to can be more damaging than helping. Since autism symptoms are complex and vary from person to person, it’s important that you are well-informed before you put your child on a specific diet.
The best thing you can do in this situation is speak to your child’s doctor.
Go and ask your doctor for any nutritional deficiencies your child may have. After that, use what you now know to supplement using the appropriate foods.
This way, you can determine whether you need to add or remove some food items in their current diet.
Now that we have diet out of the equation, the next portion of this article will address the best workout for autism.
Ready? Here we go
Helpful exercises for autism spectrum disorder
Exercising for people with ASD not only helps them physically. It also helps develop their mind and gear it for better concentration and focus.
Time and time again you hear how beneficial exercise is to all people.
For children and people on the spectrum, the best benefit of exercise is that it helps curb behavior due to autism symptoms.
More than that, regular exercise is very important to children with autism since it promotes healthy weight. Obesity is a common health issue among children with autism along with other chronic illnesses due to a lack of physical activity.
By incorporating a regular workout or exercise routine, your child is more likely to live a healthier life compared to those in the spectrum who lack the necessary physical activity to strengthen them in both mind and body.
Whether with autism or not, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day to promote optimum health.
For people with autism, a 30-minute jog in the park won’t simply cut it.
Instead, there are three types of exercises you need to mix together to achieve maximum results for your child’s health.
These exercise includes aerobic, bone strengthening, muscle building, and balance and coordination exercises.
Want to learn more about the benefits of exercise for both mind and body? Check out our post here.
Studies show that exercise for children with autism help remove aggression, lessen hyperactivity and decrease stereotypical behaviors found in children with ASD.
Health practitioners, including fitness experts, calls exercise as a “medicine.”
A wealth of research shows that exercise has a wide range of benefits to ensure overall health.
Children with autism cannot only improve physically with exercise. Regular physical activity also develops their social and motor skills.
Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry.
Promoting exercise to someone with autism is a real challenge.
Whenever you promote exercise to your child with autism, it’s important that you bring them to a place that is calming and supportive of their routine.
This is why positive reinforcement such as giving positive feedback is very important.
When you see your child starting to exercise, let them know how great they are. encourage them to do better. Praise them for finishing an exercise routine. Even your simple “wow, that’s [you’re] awesome!” statements can be a big encouragement for them.
When you do your exercise routines like this, you increase your child’s level of interest and remove their frustration.
Now that the important basics are out of the way, here are a few workout routines for autism that you can start with.
Warming up before doing any exercise routine is necessary for both safety and efficiency.
On the other hand, warmup exercises are still part of the workout routine, so it’s important that you know how and where to start.
One of the best warmup exercises that uses the entire body is the Frog Jump.
As the name implies, this warmup routine requires you to jump like a frog. Make sure your child bends their knees in a squat as they jump to awaken sleeping muscles. Do this for 10-15 reps then take a quick rest before moving to the next round of exercises.
Once you’ve warmed up, you can now proceed to other forms of exercise depending on the level of your child’s fitness.
To start with, you can do mirror exercises for your child with autism.
Mirror exercises encourage your child to copy what you are doing. Since autistic children are more likely to have difficulty doing the exercise on their own, showing them how will help them.
By having someone to look at and “mirror” the exercise, they become aware of their surroundings. There’s also the added bonus of interacting and socializing with other people.
To start with mirror exercises, you can begin with the simple arm circle exercises. This exercise is pretty easy to do since all you need is to stretch out your arms on the side and make small circles and graduate to bigger ones.
You can also check out our list of adapted fitness training plan here that you can do at home or at the gym.
Proper diet and exercise should go hand in hand for people with autism.
If you want to make your child healthier, you should pair up their exercise routines with a diet that’s fit for them.
If you’re having a hard time working out an exercise routine or diet for your child, you can get the 7-day free pass here. Start the Special Strong experience and help your child or family member get fit even with limited mobility.