Science helps validate special diets for Autism, hope may be right in parents' hands.

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New scientific data and opinion supports nutrition and dietary intervention as helpful for those with autism. Newly updated book by Autism diet expert, Nourishing Hope, explains the scientific rationale for applying special diets.

Cover of Nourishing Hope

Now we're learning that the brain and body can influence each other. There are chemicals produced by and influenced by foods that can affect the brain.

For every one in 150 children diagnosed with autism, traditional thinking recommends only behavior and communication therapies and medicines to control symptoms. Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant and author of Nourishing Hope, knows that something is missing. Treatment options have been limited due to a narrow perspective of autism as strictly a brain, or 'psychiatric' disorder. "Fortunately, science is now rethinking autism and new data supports the idea that special diets can help," Julie says.

Scientists from the University of Western Ontario recently linked a compound produced in the digestive system (also found in wheat and dairy products) to autistic type behavior, which may demonstrate that what autistic children eat could alter their brain function. Commenting on the study, Dr. Martha Herbert, Assistant Professor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, recently told CBC news in Canada, "Now we're learning that the brain and body can influence each other. There are chemicals produced by and influenced by foods that can affect the brain." If you remove those foods, that negative impact can stop.

The new edition of Matthews' book, Nourishing Hope, highlights recent research in biochemistry and nutrition for autism, and explains the scientific rationale for dietary intervention to help restore health. Doctors and researchers are now recognizing what nutrition experts like Julie have known for years, that the brain is "downstream" from the body's biochemistry, and not the sole origin of the problems seen with autism.

Indeed, the editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Mark A. Hyman, M.D., posits a new "systemic way of thinking" about autism in his current editorial, Is The Cure For Brain Disorders Outside The Brain? He states that nutritional deficiencies or imbalances can explain some symptoms of autism and that "the body's influence on the brain must come to the forefront of research and treatment."

To help with autism, Julie recommends avoiding gluten and casein (wheat and dairy) because these foods are known to affect a brain response similar to morphine leading to foggy thinking and food cravings in children. Next, she suggests introducing foods that are easy to digest, rich in good bacteria, and packed with nutrients such as homemade broths, naturally fermented foods, and pureed vegetables hidden in meatballs, as well as supplements such as cod liver oil, probiotics (good bacteria), B6, magnesium, and zinc.

Children with autism tend to have very limited diets, so the idea of removing wheat and dairy can initially seem challenging to some parents: however, Julie provides encouragement by explaining, "Once you remove the problematic foods that can be addictive, children often expand their diet tremendously." Thousands of parents who've applied nutrition intervention attest that what they feed their kids clearly makes a difference.

Since parents determine children's diets, this major key to autism is literally in their hands.    

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in autism spectrum disorders. She speaks at national autism conferences, and leads cooking demonstrations on traditional healing foods. Julie has a private nutrition practice and weekly radio show in San Francisco and assists families from around the world.

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