Understanding food allergies and intolerances can be a long and confusing process for parents of autistic children. However, persevering with this challenge and learning how to manage and avoid problem foods can provide great rewards. Avoiding anything containing gluten, casein and soy is an important start, but it is exactly that, just the start.
There are eight foods that account for 90% of food allergies in humans. These are:
Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts)
Fish (such as bass, cod & flounder)
Allergy testing is an important tool in uncovering problem foods for your child. Lab tests measure the presence and severity of allergic responses to foods, so be ready to eliminate problem foods once you have your results!
Another effective test is elimination and reintroduction. For a period of 6 weeks, remove a particular food item that you’re concerned about. Make sure the whole family is on board, as well as the school and any other people who might have opportunity to feed your child. Do not change anything else as far as possible during the elimination time. Keep an eye on the “big 5” indicators: sleep, rashes, redness, poo, and behaviour. You would do well to diarise any changes or observations. After this period, reintroduce the food on a four day on, four day off schedule, keeping an eye on the key indicators. Again, this is not a time for other changes in diet, therapies or treatments. During this rotation period, it will become clear weather or not the food under scrutiny is something you want to keep or eliminate from your child’s life.
It is interesting that some autistic children seem to crave the very foods that they are most reactive to. If you find your autistic child craving a particular food, this may well be a food you need to investigate via either lab testing or eliminating/reintroducing. In our article, Autism & calcium supplementation, we discussed the need for supplements in an autistic child’s diet. Always be sure to understand the ingredients in the supplements you give your autistic child, to be certain there is nothing that will cause allergic reaction.
It’s a good idea to keep a continual watch on the area of allergies, and re-test your autistic child every couple of years as he grows and his body chemistry changes.