Today, folks can thank my husband for inspiring this post. He sent me a really interesting article at Nature.com — Amino-acid deficiency underlies rare form of autism — and it certainly got my wheels turning.
Even though my son, Freddie, was officially diagnosed with autism in May of 2012, I am not a newcomer to the autism scene. As far back as the late 1990s, I was involved in online forums where mothers and fathers were trying to help their children. I was able to draw a few conclusions based on anecdotal evidence.
- A majority of folks who are part of the autistic spectrum seem to have digestive issues.
- A majority of folks who’re part of the spectrum also have a lot of immune system issues, allergies, and food and chemical sensitivities.
- In trying to address immune system and digestive issues, folks who switch to a grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free diet see amazing improvement in their health as well as their symptoms of autism.
I had already figured out, long before Freddie was diagnosed, that my son was much “better” with a Paleo-plus-raw-dairy eating plan. He is much less anxious, he sleeps better, he can handle sensory overload a lot better, and his chronic digestive issues are MUCH better. So of course it came as no surprise to me that folks might be trying to study the role diet plays in people with autism.
Given my personal experience and the experience of others I’ve “met” over the years, I think Gleeson and his team had it more right than they realized. My gut tells me that the issues of autism are multifaceted. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet (like, “Feed these essential amino acids and everything will be fine.”) I think that gut permeability issues start the autism bomb ticking, and when you heal the gut and strengthen the immune system with the right foods, you’re bound to see positive results.
Interestingly enough, I poked around on NutritionData.com and looked at foods that are highest in leucine, isoleucine, and valine (the amino acids listed in the article), and eggs ranked at the top of the list. Now, Freddie would literally eat nothing but eggs (from our organically fed, tractored hens) if I let him. He also goes CRAZY for fish (of any kind), and we certainly can’t argue about the health benefits of fish for ANYONE (unless you happen to be allergic.)
Because autism is so complicated, I think it’ll be hard for researchers to find the one thing that works all the time for every person. Without a doubt though, nutrition seems to play a critical role in symptom management for all folks on the spectrum. I find it hard to believe that the amino acid issue is relevant for such a small number of folks on the spectrum. Protein, natural fats, and foods that aren’t contaminated by the myriad of toxins used in/on/with them are critical to all humans’ brain development and proper function. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we use food as medicine rather than poison!