Curious about the link between Nutritional Deficiencies and Autism? Find out the effects of these missing vitamins

When it comes to discussions within the Autism community, treatments and causes are high on the list of conversations.  Likewise, there are suggestions about vaccines, pesticides, and other possible causes of Autism.  While research is essential, finding proven ways to help reduce the symptoms of Autism is even more critical. 

Nutritional Deficiencies and Autism

Recently, one proven link that came from ample research is between nutritional deficiencies and Autism. In today’s post, we will talk about each one of the vitamins found to be lacking and some ways to help incorporate those vitamins into you or your child’s diet.

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. A statistical study on Autism states that it is one of the fastest-growing developmental disabilities in the United States. Currently, 1 in 52 children is diagnosed with Autism in America.

When it comes to who has Autism, the data still shows that boys are diagnosed four times more than Autism in girls. There are also three different levels of Autism.

With the numbers of Autism being so high, Autism is more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.

Some of the signs of Autism include:

  • Abnormal Body Posturing or Facial Expressions
  • Avoidance of Eye Contact or Poor Eye Contact
  • Behavioral Disturbances
  • Deficits in Language Comprehension
  • Speak Delays
  • Echolalia
  • Flat or Monotonous Speech
  • Inappropriate Social Interaction
  • Hyper-Focusing
  • Lack of Understanding Social Cues
  • Learning Disability or Difficulty
  • Not Engaging in Play With Peers
  • Preoccupation With Specific Topics
  • Repetitive Movements
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Social Withdrawal

What causes Autism?

Like disorders such as cerebral palsy & Erbs palsy, there is no one cause of Autism.  Subsequently, there is clear evidence for a genetic link, as Autism and related conditions seem to run in families.  There is also evidence of environmental and situational factors, such as premature birth.

While there is no one cause for Autism, there is evidence of a link between certain nutritional deficiencies and Autism.  That is to say, studies that determine these deficiencies help parents and doctors to be able to help treat some of the symptoms of Autism.

Studies on the link between Nutritional Deficiencies and Autism

Several studies have confirmed nutritional deficiencies in some Autistic individuals. The vitamins most noted are omega-3 fatty acids, B12, B6, D, and Folinic acid.

After that discovery of the nutritional deficiencies and Autism, research has begun on how supplements of these vitamins and minerals can affect Autistic individuals. Unfortunately, those studies have had inconsistent results.  This leaves parents and caregivers are a loss on the use of supplements for their children.

Vitamins for Autistic Individuals

While studies on supplements have been inclusive, the fact of the proven nutritional deficiencies and Autism is clear.  It is always best to discuss adding any supplement to your child’s routine with their pediatrician.  Many supplements contain additional items that may counteract with your child’s current prescriptions. All considered, though, vitamins for Autism are a worthwhile option to explore.

If you are looking for a more natural route, there are ways to add these essential vitamins and minerals into your child’s diet.  Autistic individuals do struggle with changes in diet, so we will add some small ways to incorporate these items into currently preferred foods towards the end of the post.

1.  Vitamin D

In multiple studies, individuals with Autism had lower levels of Vitamin D (<20 nml).  There are two possible mechanisms for vitamin D3. The first one is its anti-inflammatory effects in the brain; the second one is the effect on serotonin levels.

When it comes to vitamin D deficiency, most people have no symptoms at all.  In severe cases, the deficiency can lead to thin, brittle, or misshapen bones, as well as muscle pain and weakness, as well as fatigue.

Above all, the best way to get vitamin D is by going outside.  Let your child spend time in sunlight.  Other methods are to eat fatty fish and seafood, mushrooms, vitamin D milk, and cooked egg yolk. 

Since most of these foods are a no go for many autistic children, getting them outside to play is vital.  You can also make sure to purchase vitamin D milk (instead of 2%) and use both dairy and eggs in many items you prepare for your child. 

2. (Methyl) B12

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep our body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and makes DNA (the genetic material in all cells). Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia.

A key thing to consider when it comes to B12 is that the symptoms in children mimic the symptoms of Autism. 

For instance, Vitamin B12 is naturally found include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. However, vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians 

3. Vitamin B6/Magnesium

In those studies, some individuals had an abnormal synthesis of several neurotransmitters. Vitamin B6 and magnesium both are known to help this critical process in the body.

In other words, the supplementation of B6/Magnesium is considered to help improve certain symptoms of ASD possibly. However, the results have been inconclusive.

That being said, there are many natural ways to incorporate these minerals into your diet.  Magnesium is found in foods such as leafy vegetables, grains, and nuts, as well as meats and dairy products.  B6 is commonly found in meat, fish, eggs, potatoes, beans, nuts, and cereals.

4. Folinic acid

Based on some studies, some Autistic individuals have several abnormalities in the metabolism of folic acid (a naturally occurring form of folate). Folinic acid promotes higher levels of glutathione in individuals with Autism. In addition, it also increases higher levels of dopamine (the happy hormone).

In a small pilot study, treatment with folinic acid improved communication and eased autism symptoms in language-impaired children who have Autism. The children that had the most significant gains were the ones who tested positive for an autoantibody that may partially block this vitamin from entering brain cells.

The great thing to know is that many foods contain folinic acid.  These foods include spinach, black eyed-peas (cowpeas), and fortified breakfast cereals.

5. Omega‑3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the fundamentally essential agents for forming and sustaining brain structure and the healthy functioning of the brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon and anchovy, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and Omega-3 fortified foods such as eggs and milk.

Further, researchers have studied omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies with Autism. They found that many Autistic children do have reduced concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. That considered, the supplementation of this vitamin could be helpful for Autistic children.

Supplementing Vitamins with a Proper Diet

Autistic children do struggle with changes in routine, and that includes food.  Therefore, this factor could be a leading cause of the link between nutritional deficiencies and Autism, but that is currently inconclusive as well.

However, it is possible to implement many of these foods into their diet without stress.  Some possible ways to incorporate these vitamins into your child’s diet are:

  • Fortified Breakfast Cereals
  • Encouraging Meats
  • Baking & Cooking with Vitamin D Milk & Eggs
  • Homemade French Fries
  • Peanut Butter Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread
  • Using Cow-Peas as a meat substitute (think tacos, chili, sloppy joes, etc)
  • Add Flax Seed, Chia Seeds, & Walnuts into muffins, pancakes, or waffles
  • Leave walnuts in a bowl on the counter to encourage snacking on them

Nutritional Deficiencies and Autism

In conclusion, the above-mentioned researches and studies do show the relationship between nutritional deficiencies and Autism.   Whether you choose to have your child take a supplement, or supplement their diet with the essential foods above, remember always to consult your doctor first. 

We hope that this article on the link between nutritional deficiencies and Autism help educate you in the options available.  We encourage you to read more of our autism articles and sign up for our newsletter below!

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