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  • Writer's pictureKate Killion

Food Allergies & Autism

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


When you Google "Autism nutrition," you are absolutely bombarded with information. You might notice one common theme in the pages and pages of results: food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. But with so many people trying to sell you the newest book or supplement, it's hard to know what the science actually says. Let me clear things up:


Food Allergies

It is well established that kids diagnosed with Autism have higher rates of allergic diseases, including food allergies. In the United States, about 11% of kids with ASD have food allergies, compared to about 4% of kids without ASD. Even when adjusting for sociodemographic and other allergic conditions, kids with ASD have twice the odds of being diagnosed with food allergy compared to kids without ASD!


When somebody has a food allergy, their immune system reacts to given foods. Allergic reactions may be mild (e.g., minor rash) or severe (e.g., anaphylaxis). Food allergies should always be diagnosed by a medical professional via skin prick tests, blood tests, and/or elimination diets. Diagnosis of food allergies is key, as we want to avoid unnecessary restriction of the diet!


If you are struggling to manage food allergies, or suspect that your child has a food allergy, a dietitian can help. Schedule an appointment with our dietitian via email at info@lwell.com or phone at (833) 516-0454! Scheduling is managed by LWell, Inc.


Food Intolerances

Food intolerances typically involve the inability to digest or process certain foods, but are not mediated by the immune system. For example, somebody with lactose intolerance is missing an enzyme (lactase) needed to digest the milk sugar lactose. Based on current research, it is unknown whether Autistic people have different rates of food intolerances than non-Autistic people


Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are more complex, as they can involve bodily systems beyond the immune system. For example, someone might suspect a food sensitivity if they experience abdominal pain or bloating after eating a given food, but test negative food immune-mediated allergies. There is mixed evidence about ASD and food sensitivities. For example, with a few exceptions, a gluten-free and casein-free diet has little impact on ASD symptoms.


There are many online tests that claim to diagnose food sensitivities. Most tests assess the levels of IgG, and claim that eliminating foods with high IgG results can improve symptoms. However, due to lack of evidence to support their use, many organizations (including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology) recommend against using IgG tests.


If you choose to take a food sensitivity test, it is important to work with a health provider to understand the results. For example, a dietitian can help you decide whether or not you should eliminate certain foods, including gluten and casein for Autism management.


Want to learn more? Schedule an appointment with our dietitian via email at info@lwell.com or phone at (833) 516-0454! Scheduling is managed by LWell, Inc.


*Note: We aim to use language that reflects the preferences of our clients. Thus, we use both "Autistic people" and "people with Autism" in our print materials. In your session, we will gladly use whatever language you prefer.

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