The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that one in every 110 children living in the United States has a placement on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) of one form or another. Many in the autism community believe that changes in diet can lesson symptom severity. Some of the diets followed are the rotation diet, antifungal diet, gluten- and casein-free (GFCF) diet, and the Feingold diet. Another regimen that has become popular is the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD).
What is a Specific Carbohydrate Diet for Autism?
Registered dietician, Elizabeth Strickland, explains that an SCD diet is suggested for those with autism that have not responded well to other elimination diets or who may have gastrointestinal (GI) trouble. GI problems result in intermittent constipation, gas, bloating, chronic loose stool and abdominal pain. The concept of the SCD diet is that multi-unit carbohydrates (disaccharides and polysaccharides) are harder to digest than single unit carbohydrates (monosaccarides).
How a Carbohydrate Diet Works
Research has suggested that undigested carbohydrates remain in the GI tract, allowing fungi and bacteria to form and cause intestinal discomfort. It is believed that they cause neurological problems as well. "Starving" the microbes by not providing complex carbohydrates flushes them from the body. Parents of children with autism who have implemented the SDC diet have described improvement in their child's behavior and GI problems.
Carbohydrate Diet Details
The SDC is extremely limited and care must be taken to plan meals to avoid dietary deficits. The diet consists of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. It eliminates starches and nearly all sugars. The SCD is normally followed for a period of about a year to allow enough time for the gut to heal and for GI tract health to re-establish.
Benefits of a Carbohydrate Diet
Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) reports that results of the SCD diet are acceptance of a healthier diet that consists of more fruits and vegetable and decreased "carb addiction." Improvement in behavior, better eye contact, increased mental function and better sleeping habits are also reported.
Expert Insight about Autism and Carbohydrate Diet Plans
Strickland believes that there are few that actually require the SCD and that implementing the GFCF diet is preferred as a first step to elimination diets. Parents can move on to the SCD if the others prove ineffective in illuminating GI problems. If you are considering an elimination diet for your child with autism, you should always speak to your physician, an experienced dietician and a doctor with Defeat Autism Now (DAN).