Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It is characterized by difficulty with social interaction, lack of physical balance and repetitive behaviors. Children with Asperger's syndrome may also have difficulty meeting major developmental milestones.
Some medical professionals believe there is a link between diet and Asperger's syndrome. However, nutritional therapy should not replace medical treatment. Talk to your doctor before making dietary changes to manage this condition.
Many medical researchers believe that the preservatives and artificial colors and flavors found in packaged and convenience foods may aggravate the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, according to Dr. James F. Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, oats and rye, as well as casein, a component of dairy products, are thought to contribute to symptoms such as impaired communication and behavioral problems, according to the Asperger Advice website. Yeast may cause nervous system problems and impair brain function, as well.
Several diets have been developed for children with Asperger's syndrome. Dr. Balch recommends a diet of between 50 percent and 75 percent raw foods, consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits, sprouts and gluten-free grains. As the name suggests, the gluten-free/casein-free diet focuses on eliminating foods containing gluten, as well as dairy products and other foods containing casein, according to the Asperger Advice website. The yeast-free diet involves the elimination of numerous foods, including those containing preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, alcohol and sugar. It also restricts the consumption of most fruits, high-carbohydrate foods, nuts, meat, dairy products and soft drinks.
Diets designed for children with Asperger's syndrome are said to have several benefits. They may help reduce disruptive behavior, giving the affected child and his classmates enhanced opportunities for learning. Elimination of artificial flavoring agents and colorants may help improve the brain's ability to receive and interpret nerve impulses. Elimination of yeast-promoting foods may provide benefits such as increased energy, elevated mood, improved concentration and enhanced ability to control behavior, according to the Asperger Advice website.
According to Dr. Balch, responses to dietary changes vary considerably according to each child's symptoms and the severity of the Asperger's syndrome. However, many children experience mild to moderate improvement in symptoms after switching to a diet designed to reduce the effects of this disorder.
Specialized diets designed to reduce the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome may not provide all of the vitamins and minerals needed to support healthy growth. Dr. Balch recommends adding a multivitamin supplement to any diet for Asperger's syndrome. The Asperger Advice website also advises adding a fish oil supplement, which contains omega 3 fatty acids to support brain health.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Asperger Syndrome
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; James F. Balch, M.D.; 1997
- Asperger Advice: Nutrition and Asperger Syndrome