The Paleo diet helps to treat autism by reducing inflammation.
The paleo diet significantly improves symptoms of autism. The paleo diet removes all complex carbohydrates and dairy which helps to reduce the brain inflammation that is a hallmark of autism. Some people refer to the paleo diet as “The Autism Diet” or the “Anti-inflammatory Diet”.
What does the research say about the paleo diet and autism?
Medical researchers and experts, including Dr. Martha Herbert, MD, agree that the paleo diet helps to reduce inflammation in autism. Dr. Martha Herbert is a Pediatric Neurologist and Associate Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of the bestselling book, The Autism Revolution.
The Human Genome Project, funded by the National Institute of Health, has identified 35, 000 genes in the human genome. Now, researchers are trying to identify how those genes impact human health and interact with the environment. Genes can come in different forms. As individuals, we carry a certain FORM of a gene. Some genes play a significant role in increasing susceptibility to toxins, both in diet and in our environment.
For example, many children diagnosed with autism, carry a form of the gene MTHFR that makes it difficult for them to convert folic acid into methyl folate. Researchers at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute have identified that children with a diagnosis of autism have impaired methylation. Folic acid conversion is a very important part of healthy methylation. Children with an altered form of MTHFR can further slow methylation by eating foods high in synthetic folic acid.
So, the best strategy for most children with autism, is to remove the grains from the diet so that their body’s can start making and using more methyl folate.
The paleo diet helps improve methylation in autism:
The methylation cycle is needed for many aspects of cell function including the production of glutathione. Glutathione is the “master antioxidant” and is needed for healthy development. Up to 80% of this crucial molecule is depleted in autism. Treatments like methyl B12 injections, B6, NAC, folinic acid and diet improve production of glutathione. Dietary intervention is an essential part of biomedical success. Gluten and dairy stop the absorption of NAC which is needed to make glutathione.
Some great books that discuss this dietary approach include:
- The Autism Revolution – Martha Herbert, Phd, MD
- Grain Brain – David Perlmutter, MD
- Brain Maker – David Perlmutter, MD
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD
The Human Microbiome Project, also funded by the NIH, revealed that bacteria in the gut outnumber our cells by 100 to 1. This means your gut will make more decision in one day than you will in a lifetime. Most of the important “decisions”, the metabolic activity, take place in the colon.
The gut has many functions including:
- Supporting development
- Making brain chemicals
- Detoxifng harmful chemicals and toxins
- Making and converting nutrients to active form
- Reducing inflammation
- Regulating immune function
The paleo diet improves the health of the microbiome in autism:
Microbes that feed on carbohydrates like yeast and clostridia, cause brain inflammation. Brain inflammation slows the brain down. When children have neuroinflammation it is more difficult for them to remove toxins. Brain inflammation also leads to many nutrient deficiencies and very low levels of essential fatty acids. Opportunistic microbes reduce the amount of energy the brain receives. The reduction in energy in the brain contributes to language, social and cognitive delay.