Apr 22

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The Dangers of Extreme Limiting Diets for Autism

The Dangers of Extreme Limiting Diets for Autism

 The Dangers of Extreme Limiting Diets for Autism

Desperation can sometimes lead to dangerous extremes. Families dealing with loved ones who have autism often face problems with their diets. Children and adults are usually described as picky eaters, but there is more to the issue than a refusal to eat chicken skin or asparagus. There are serious health consequences that need to be considered.

Self-limiting Diets vs. Caretaker-limiting Diets

Most extreme diets in autism can be divided into two categories: self-limiting diets and caretaker-limiting diets. In self-limiting diets, the person who has autism will refuse to eat certain foods or drink certain beverages. Sensory issues are often blamed for this, and the person tends to end up with an extremely small list of acceptable foods. In caretaker-limiting diets, the caretakers or family members decide to eliminate certain foods for the autistic person. They will often experiment with various diet plans which can heavily restrict what is eaten every day and will test elimination diets.

Nutrient Deficiencies

One of the biggest dangers of both self-limiting diets and caretaker-limiting diets are nutrient deficiencies. Are the children or adults who have autism getting enough vitamins, minerals, calories and other nutrients throughout the day? A study from New York, titled “MRI findings in pediatric patients with scurvy,” found that autistic patients with extremely restricted diets had scurvy. Another study from the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Columbia University found vitamin B deficiencies and liver dysfunction in an autistic patient on an extreme diet. This patient would only eat fried chicken from a fast food chain. The wrong diet can contribute to development problems, weight loss, malnutrition and growth issues. However, it is not easy for families or caretakers to find the correct balance of healthy meals because autism makes it more difficult. Experts recommend seeking help from professionals before deficiencies appear.



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  1. 1

    It’s hard enough for anyone to get the adequate minerals and vitamins through foods and supplements. Adding someone who has special needs has got to make it even more challenging!

    1. 1.1

      Your are so right Barrie!

  2. 2

    My 17 year old son is autistic and falls into the self-limiting diet category. Additionally, the medication he takes for his ADHD causes a diminished appetite. This past fall he had to have oral surgery and was unable to eat normally (for him) for many weeks afterwards. He ended up losing enough weight that his doctors began to be concerned. We were going to take him off of his ADHD medication, but then his weight stabilized and has remained that way. Luckily he is doing alright now, but it is a very real worry.

    1. 2.1

      Thanks for sharing your story mdotdrizzi! I am so glad that your son has stabilized!

  3. 3

    Thank you for linking up with us at Idea Box link party!

  4. 4
    Life With Lorelai

    Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty – We hope to see you again next week!
    Life With Lorelai

  5. 5

    We find with age my daughter is easier to talk to and get her to try something but there are still days when just the sight or thought of having to eat something makes her gag and vomit. We have removed gluten and dyes from her food choices and she has done much better and we also give her a vitamin and probiotic daily.

    1. 5.1

      Thanks for sharing! It is so hard to find the right balance with children on the spectrum. My heart so hurts for them.

  6. 6
    Dan D

    I will share this information with my daughter, she works with children with autism.

    1. 6.1

      Thanks for sharing Dan!

  7. 7
    Terry Poage

    “I didn’t know this, thanks for sharing.

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