23 thoughts on “Diet & Autism

  1. Ellen

    I’ve never heard of the the Body Ecology diet, but Natasha Campbell McBride, a Russian Neurologist living in London, has written a book which talks about the connection between gut health and autism.. and she recommends the same kind of specific diet that removes casein and gluten particles. Her program is called the GAPS program – GAPS meaning: Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

    I just watched something recently that referred to the gut as “the second brain.” Can’t rememeber which show it was.

  2. Ann

    Holy dramatic. I really dislike the host of the show….
    I do like how the Dr. reiterated that he doesn’t see this as a cure. That is (what I find to be) the saddest thing in the autism community. The business’s, and charlatans that claim to cure autism, at great expense. As a family member of a person with severe autism, I can certainly see the desperation of parents willing to spend anything for hope. Good on the Dr. But honestly, didn’t expect any better from Faux News.

    I do believe the Paleo movement is onto something…. I feel eons better when I’ve ditched the grains. Not only weight, skin, but emotionally too. Anxiety disappears, and my brain feels like it has this wonderful clarity.

    And, my autistic sibling was hospitalized as a child, and was then highly sensitive to milk. All he wanted to eat was yogurt. Poor kid. I’ve wondered before if going Paleo would help him stabilize his moods a little in the least. If I felt somewhat limited by anxiety, he’s shackled with it.

    I just find it so interesting how many seemingly different conditions that seem to respond well on a limited carb or Paleo style diet. Epilepsy, diabetes, skin clearing, depression, anxiety, etc etc etc.

    Thanks for posting Tom, I’ll be checking back for more comments.

  3. CJW

    I sent this to my wife (a nurse) who had the following to say:

    Interesting. However, I went to one of the on-line resources I trust and found the following article:


    My first question for the family, which was not brought up in the interview, was “what other therapies was she receiving at the time?” When children are diagnosed with autism, especially that late in the game, they usually start on an intensive and diverse therapy regimen (like [a recently-diagnosed child we know], who is ramping up to 25 hours of therapy a week).

    I’d certainly want to explore all possibilities. However, keep in mind that WebMD is run by pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of promoting pharmaceutical solutions. They sure as heck aren’t going to promote changing one’s diet as a solution.

  4. Allison

    Our 5yr old son is suspected to be autistic. We’ve noticed huge improvements since taking out grains and sugars. We have not removed dairy, but that might just be our next step.

    It can’t hurt to try. Wishing you and your family the best.

  5. your older brother

    The dad looks pretty lean. He seemed to imply that the whole family is eating this way — I wish the host would’ve asked him if there had been any health changes noted (weight loss, energy, etc) in the rest of the family.


    I had the same thought.

  6. CJW

    Tom, I think your comment about WebMD may be a tad harsh. Though they certainly seem to be firmly rooted in “conventional wisdom” when it comes to nutritional advice, a quick perusal of their sites reveals many articles promoting lifestyle and diet changes, not just pharmaceuticals, for treating various conditions.

    I certainly won’t be following their nutritional advice, but to say that they’re only interested in pushing pharmaceuticals is a bit of a stretch.

    I don’t think it was too harsh. Check it out:


  7. Penty

    @Ann: “If I felt somewhat limited by anxiety, he’s shackled with it.”

    This is how I would describe my own son who has high functioning autism… shackled with anxiety….

    Trying to get family buy in go paleo is tough but I think I’m making headway.

    @Tom, putting Fathead on Netflix has at least made a difference in my family due to increased buy-in from the wife.

    Every little bit helps. I also encourage people to check out some of the books in the Recommended Reading section. A film can only present a fraction of the information that a book can.

  8. Tracee

    Three weeks into the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, my son began to say five words a day, his motor skills came back and he began to play with children. We had previously had some improvement with omega-3 supplementation and the tantrums stopped on the Feingold. NOTHING makes me crazier than medical “experts” who insist diet could not have done that. Many of these kids will have some sort of improvement with diet, but medical folks are perfectly fine to turn their backs and tisk-tisk. I’m sorry. It makes me crazy. There is something terribly wrong here….and you don’t have to look to far in the medical literature to see there may be something to this. But of course since they know better they don’t look. In fact, in the 1930’s gi doctors noticed an odd behavior in some of the more severe gi children and were surprised there wasn’t more mention of it. : http://breakingtheviciouscycle.info/autism/dr_hass_exerpt.htm
    (I have the book, it even goes on to say the behavior cleared up on the diet. This was before they really understood what celiacs was) I also have a page with a few links on autism/gi/diet research:http://mrsedsresearchandrecipes.blogspot.com/p/research-guide-for-autismdietgi-tract.html
    Thank you for this post. Sorry for the rant, but the nay-sayers really hit a nerve with me.

    Rant away. I would too.

  9. Lisa Sargese

    I brought up the GAPS diet in my psychology class last night. One of my students asked, “If giving up sugars, processed grains and stuff can help kids with autism wouldn’t giving up those things help everyone? Why aren’t we all just giving up those foods?”

    Exactly, my dear. Exactly.

  10. Leta

    I love that you are branching out a bit with stuff like this.

    I’ve said it before, buy on my wish list of your posts is raw milk, and I wouldn’t mind reading one that dealt with zoning. (Go with me for just a minute.)

    Food security and having a good diet are intertwined- people who can’t grow their own, and are of limited means buy cheap starch. You can grow your own, except in places (many, many places) where zoning precludes you from doing so. The zoning problem applies more to livestock than fruits and veggies, but livestock give us the fats of a low carb/paleo/diabetes friendly/earth friendly diet- meat, milk, eggs, etc. And animal products are more expensive. Especially with things like raw milk, the safest way to consume is very fresh, like, from the backyard fresh. And things like chickens, rabbits, and mini goats can fit in most backyards and do good things for the soil, producing more veggies in that garden.

    Zoning sucks for a lot of reasons- /rant/ You want to tell me what I can do with my own private property? Piss off! We have to share the world with other people, and you don’t get to boss your neighbors just because you might not like their choices! /endrant/- but, to me at least, this is the absolute worst- to disallow people from growing a food of higher quality than they can afford to buy, which just reinforces locking people in a cycle of dependency (food stamps) because of zoning regulations.

    So, please, give it some thought. I could write these posts, but then they wouldn’t be funny.

    I’ve written a couple of posts about raw milk laws.



    Sally Fallon even picked up one of them for her Wise Traditions magazine. I think my byline may have ended up as Tom McNaughton. Since I’m a libertarian, you can imagine how I feel about laws telling people they can’t grow food on their own property. (I’m talking about government-imposed laws, not contracts people enter into when buying within a subdivision where everyone agrees to have a pretty yard.)

  11. CJW

    @Tracee (and @Tom): It is not my intention to be a nay-sayer. I’ve been eating/living paleo for the past year and have had astonishing personal health results. I am constantly amazed by how many different health problems simply go away once we start eating the right foods.

    My wife is generally open-minded about all this, especially in light of my results. But since it goes against much of what she was taught about nutrition in nursing school and throughout her career, she is inclined to view a lot of the claimed benefits with a certain degree of skepticism.

    Anecdotal evidence of this diet helping with autism is fascinating. And my first thought when I saw the video was: “Wow. It helps with Autism too?!” But my wife raises an important question: Is it *definitely* the diet, or does it perhaps coincide with other forms of therapy? Are there any larger, more conclusive studies linking diet with improvement in autism? I’d love to hear more.

    Your wife has the right attitude. It’s an avenue to explore, but we shouldn’t take it as gospel just because the news was encouraging.

  12. Jacs

    I do voluntary work with severely autistic adults and am the mother of a 16 year old who is much further towards the ‘high functioning’ end of the spectrum. I cringed when the interviewer described autism as a ‘disease’ which the doctor had ‘cured’: full marks to the doctor for putting her right on the ‘cured’ point. Other commenters have asked about therapies that the little girl may have been given at the same time as her diet changed. One other point, which often gets overlooked when changes in behaviour are discussed in terms of diet/therapies, is the passage of time. When my son was first diagnosed, I was terrified that the same autistic behaviours would stay with him forever. Of course, as I came to realise, his behaviours changed as he got older. Not surprisingly, he is now a completely different person from his 5-year old self. He did not have special diets or therapies, just a lot of understanding, particularly at his (mainstream) schools. Each child with autism is unique and will develop along their own unique path. Parents of newly diagnosed children feel enough pressure already: they shouldn’t also be saddled with a belief that if they do not choose (from a huge number of these ‘treatments’) and stricly follow THE diet or therapy which will ‘cure’ their child,or make his/her life easier, they will have failed that child.

  13. Willa Jean

    I used to have a book by a naturopathic doctor who suggested that many people may have mild sensitivities to a number of things that, by themselves, don’t cause much of a problem. But, he said, if you mow the lawn, then have a sandwich and a glass of milk, then pet the cat, you might be in for an unpleasant evening.
    Doesn’t it make sense that if the body is being stressed, by a bacteria, a virus, a chemical imbalance, or whatever, then removing as many additional stressors as possible would be likely to help? I’m not suggesting to Jacs or to anyone else that they have to use fermented coconut milk or any other cure-du-jour, just that lots of folks might respond well to avoiding wheat, or milk, or food coloring, or preservatives, or whatever their particular bodies are most sensitive to.
    Dontcha think?

    Sure, it’s not always going to be just one thing.

  14. Sonja

    My son was unresponsive and in his own world of autism,with no emotions showing, not speaking or making sounds or moving at all at 2 years old. After going through a long road of docters and reading we finally found out he has autism. We started by putting him on a SKU machine that sends electical impulses.
    And immediately put him on a candida diet-no sugars,wheat,diary,gluten,processed food, yeast products,vinegar, raisins and a lot of other stuff. After two weeks he came to me and said “I want water”. And after that he slowly but surely came out of his own world. He had more words each other week and started walking and looking around and with time his emotions started showing. We did no therapy.We gave him probiotics(bioremferment) and omega oil, flaxseed oil and he drinks 3 liters of homemade smoothys and eat other foods in between. Today he is almost normal. There is still some work to be done, but he plays now, is loving, makes jokes, and is very energetic. He talks in sentences and do it all day! He can do things I ask him and he talks to strangers.
    In the last year for the first time we did a six month long chelations program because a test showed that he had very high levels of metals. That is now gone. He is doing MAPS therapy at the moment for six months and he is developing very fast forward! He is pottytrained too. He wiil be 5 next month.

    The diet was my starting point, and it made a huge difference in his behaviour and speech and even his emotions and development. He had cronic diaree and bad skin problems and allergies that all went gone in a month after the diet started.He was a different person! I should say that anybody in this situation should always stanrt at clearing health issaues, a person that is feeling well can develop. Then give attention to emotions, if you feel happy and relax you can have a interest in the things around you- Maps brain therapy does that- it relaxes the brain.

    That is great news.

  15. J.C.

    I’m an autistic young man and not only am I irritated at the whole “oh it’s a horrible disease and now he talks!!! it’s a miracle durr hurr” angle a couple comments and that video goes into (why are you linking Fox News?).

    I will say however after drastically cutting grains and upping meat, I’m feeling a lot more positive and cheery lately. I wouldn’t say more outgoing (that’s probably something one would have to ask my family, since I sure can’t measure myself fairly), but I think a high fat/protein diet and low carbohydrates has definitely made me less…hateful, I suppose.

    Oh, and I lost 50 pounds since November, so that’s awesome too.

  16. KRS

    When I was a young child, I was extremely moody. I would be perfectly happy one moment and filled with rage the next. Until I was nearly in first grade, I rarely let my parents touch or hug me. Doctors had no answers and my parents were on the verge of having me mentally evaluated. Thankfully, when I was in kindergarten, I developed a severe case of hives that nearly covered my body.

    This prompted my parents to have me tested for allergies. Lo and behold, I tested as reactive to wheat. My parents immediately eliminated all wheat products from my diet. They tell me that on the fourth day of this new diet, the change in my behavior was unbelievably dramatic. When we talk about this, my mom always mentions that, specifically, I sat in my dad’s lap during story time; something I had never done before.

    For most of my life I have followed a wheat free diet, with the occasional “special treat”. As an adult, I can feel a difference in my mood when I eat wheat and when I stop, I experience severe cravings and mood swings, almost like I’m experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

    I often wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t been tested for allergies. I suspect I would have been diagnosed with some sort of mood disorder and spent my life in therapy and on medication.I also wonder how many people are running around who have been diagnosed with some sort of disorder, who really just have a food sensitivity.

    Anyway, I watched Fat Head a few days ago (on netflix streaming) and am now on day 3 of a modified paleo diet. Modified, because i still consume dairy at this point. I will be happy if I lose about 5 lbs doing this, but weight loss is not my goal. I just want to feel as good and be as healthy as i possibly can. I had never considered going low carb before. I used to be concerned that I wasn’t getting enough carbs because of the wheat thing.

    That was quite a fortunate case of hives. I believe lots of people are suffering from physical and mental disorders that are caused by food allergies that were never identified.

  17. HopeFoodSciences

    We struggled with our Autistic child until we were able to get him on a strict Gluten Free Diet. That was not very easy as the choices are limited and do not taste all that great. However we found a company called Hope Food Sciences and found some delicious items that have made it much easier.

  18. Nads

    I too believe there are links between diet and many brain and neurological disorders. Microbes specifically are what interest me at the moment. One of my patients who has Parkinson’s Disease is going to be a subject for a research project where they are doing Fecal Cell Transplants. It sounds disgusting, but basically you get someone else’s normal poo put into you after clearing you out. He is confident it will work because previously he had a bowel infection and was cleared out and had the strongest anti-biotics you can get and he was completely free of Parkinson’s symptoms for 2 days. I’ve been emailing him links to diet / Paleo type sites too, as I think people can influence their own gut microbes with diet (although it probably takes a lot longer). I’ve heard that fecal cell transplants can turn people from metabolic syndrome to normal almost immediately. One thing I wonder is if they keep eating their “normal” diet will they kill off the normal gut bacteria again?

    I hope what I’ve said makes sense and you don’t think I’m mad!!!

    I also think that Vitamin D is linked in here somewhere too. I watched a video of a scientist talking about gut microbes and how about the affected patient is prevented from being able to use vitamin D. Sounded interesting.


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