Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), diet, and the gut microbiome

Photo credit:  Anna Kolosyuk

Photo credit: Anna Kolosyuk

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

Health begins in the gut.


It's where 80% of your immune system is located. If your gut health is impaired, so is your immune system.


Your body runs on nutrients from foods you eat. Those nutrients are the gas that fuels your engine. If your gut health is impaired, so is your digestion. If you can't digest food appropriately, you won't be able to get nutrients from the foods you eat. Every system in your body will experience ill effects over time. Think about it, your car can't run without fuel, right? How can your body?


Your gut microbiome, which is the billions of bacteria that live in your gut (large intestine/colon to be exact) impacts your health in its entirety. We know this now from scientific research linking the gut microbiome to various health conditions and disease states, both inside and outside the gastrointestinal tract.


One of those health conditions is autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Not only does diet play a role in ASD, so does the gut microbiome.



Let's talk about diet first. If your child has ASD, or behavioral problems, step 1 is to look at their diet. Are they eating gluten, lots of carbs, and/or dairy?


I see a lot of children with ASD and behavioral disorders, and the first thing we do is REMOVE GLUTEN. Celiac disease, diagnosed gluten intolerance/sensitivity/etc. or not, REMOVE GLUTEN.


Every case I've worked with a child with ASD or behavioral issues where we've removed gluten from the diet resulted in symptom improvement. EVERY CASE.


You don't want to go cold turkey, especially with children, because removing gluten can cause withdrawal symptoms. Here's what you can do:

  • Take gluten out of breakfast for week 1

  • Take gluten out of breakfast and lunch for week 2

  • Take gluten out of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for week 3

Start there, and give it some time. Often it takes a while for the body to stop reacting to gluten, even after it's removed from the diet.


You also only want to remove only 1 food at a time to see what works and what doesn't. Elimination diets can be dangerous and lead to worsening of health problems as I mentioned last week.


If removing gluten doesn't help, you can explore additional diet changes, but do so with guidance from a professional to avoid the pitfalls of elimination diets.



Now let's touch on the gut microbiome. Imbalances here are linked to ASD and behavioral issues in children.


Along with diet changes, exploring the gut microbiome and resolving imbalances there can bring symptom relief.


This involves a functional stool test, like GI Map, or GI Effects. These stool tests are different than what you get from your conventional medical doctor, and are far (FAR) superior to kits like Viome, Biome and other direct to consumer testing that's available nowadays.


If you are investing in your child's health and exploring gut testing, don't waste time and money on subpar interventions. Do it right.


For questions and guidance, get on my calendar for an introductory consultation and optional free functional health assessment! CLICK HERE!

Support Your Healthy Gut Bacteria With Prebiotic Foods And Resistant Starch

Photo credit: Denise Johnson

Photo credit: Denise Johnson

Prebiotics are important for digestive, and therefore overall health (remember, health begins in the gut).

Prebiotics can inhibit cancer, strengthen your immune system and prevent obesity. They can also improve symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders, neurological conditions, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), IBS and celiac disease. Prebiotics also can improve your skin health.

Prebiotics feed your good gut bacteria, whereas probiotics add healthy bacteria into your gut.

The best way to get more prebiotics in is through food sources. Food sources of prebiotics are fiber rich.

Fiber is not digested by you, rather it becomes food for your good gut bacteria, and your good gut bugs produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which confer health benefits to you. In fact butyrate communicates with your skin microbiome, therefore having adequate levels is important for healthy, rash (eczema) free skin.

Examples of prebiotic foods you can add to your diet include:

  • Chia seeds

  • Flax seeds

  • Hemp seeds

  • Legumes

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Quinoa

  • Brown rice (cooked and cooled)

  • Gluten free steel cut oats (cooked and cooled)

  • Vegetables (non starchy, raw have higher prebiotic content)

    • Cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula)

    • Leafy greens

    • Onion

    • Leek

    • Garlic

    • Chicory root

    • Asparagus

    • Jerusalem artichoke

    • Dandelion greens

    • Other non starchy vegetables

  • Vegetables (starchy)

    • Sweet potatoes/yams

    • Potatoes (cooked and cooled)

  • Fruit

    • Apples

    • Green bananas (less ripe ones)

    • Berries

Notice that brown rice, oats, and regular potatoes should be cooked and cooled to gain prebiotic benefits from them. Doing this changes the structure of the starch they contain, and makes them what we call resistant starch.

Resistant starch is prebiotic. It also doesn’t result in blood sugar spikes, and is an additional benefit if you are struggling with blood sugar issues like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. So if you have been avoiding potatoes because of your blood sugar issues (or your weight), cook and cool them, and enjoy!

If you need guidance on what to eat, The JCB Nutrition Food Pyramid and Diet Plan will help. The program will:

  • Help you understand which foods to avoid if you are embarking on an elimination diet

  • Teach you which healthy foods contain natural chemicals that can trigger symptoms including skin and gut issues, among MANY others

  • Show you what those natural food chemicals are

  • Teach you what foods are common allergens

  • Guide you in choosing what foods to eat and in what amounts