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Food Matters for Autism & Giveaway

This post is the second in a series of guest posts from my friend Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant and Autism Diet Specialist. You can read her first guest post, Nourshing Hope for Autism, here. For more information about Julie and her services visit www.NourishingHope.com.

Guest Post 2: Food Matters for Autism
For every disease or disorder—diabetes to heart disease, celiac to IBS—food matters.


Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine taught us to “let food be thy medicine” and informed us “all disease begins the gut.” To help heal autism, we must remember these principles and relearn the use of healthy food and nutrition for our children.

Parents report positive changes to health and behavior when applying special “autism diets” which involve removing offending foods and boosting the nutritious foods children eat. They are realizing that they can affect their child’s health through these calculated omissions and additions to diet. Since parents determine what their children eat, implementing a diet is an empowering step parents can take to help their child(ren) feel better, reduce their autism symptoms and help them pursue their full potential. 

Here is some current knowledge about food, diet and autism:
  1. Children with autism have problems with certain foods that affect their behavioral, cognitive, and physical symptoms.1,3,5
  2. Food has a direct effect on the gut, intestinal inflammation and digestive capacity—which in turn affects physiology and brain function.2, 4
  3. Nutrient deficiencies are common with autism.6,7,8 
  4. Gut problems and insufficient digestive enzyme function are common.9
  5. Digestion, detoxification and immune function are often affected.
  6. Dietary intervention influences these disordered systems seen in autism:
  • The gut is considered the “second brain” and the “gut-brain" connection has been studied in autism.10 
  • Healing the gut positively influences the brain.
  • Addressing digestive issues increases nutrition absorption. As nutrient status improves, systems function better—including the brain.
  • Removing foods containing toxins (such as artificial additives) that adversely affect brain chemistry relieves a burden on the liver and detoxification system and affects improvement in brain function and behavior.11
  • By avoiding inflammatory foods (gluten, casein and others) we support immune and digestive systems.

When you see how much food matters, it’s easy to understand why most people who try dietary intervention benefit! The Autism Research Institute (ARI) surveyed thousands of parents and found that 69% of those applying the Gluten-free Casein-free Diet (GFCF) saw improvement. For the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), 71% noted improvement. In recent autism diet research funded by Autism Speaks, 82% of parents reported “definite improvement” in their child's skills. Parents report improvements in eye contact, language, attention, diarrhea, constipation, sleep, hyperactivity and more. 

While “dietary intervention” (change) can seem overwhelming, with learning and focus, even busy moms and dads can, and do, make it work. As a child feels better, parents often have more quality time with their children and cooking becomes more enjoyable. And nutritious meals needn’t cost a fortune. While quality, whole foods involve more expensive ingredients; you’re buying fewer expensive processed foods. A healing diet empowers you to support your child’s health and improved well-being. 

This is why I titled my book, Nourishing Hope. We need to nourish children’s bodies with healthy food, and nourish our minds and souls with hope. Food nourishes the body, and the positive changes we see nourishes hope. Healthy food preparation even transfers healing energy through the loving intention of the chef. With virtually no downside, everyone should give this a try. 

Join me in nourishing hope.


By Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant and Autism Diet Specialist with www.NourishingHope.com

  1. Jyonouchi H, Geng L, Ruby A, Zimmerman-Bier B. Dysregulated innate immune responses in young children with autism spectrum disorders: their relationship to gastrointestinal symptoms and dietary intervention. Neuropsychobiology. 2005;51(2):77-85.
  2. Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M. A randomised, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Sep;5(4):251-61.
  3. Lucarelli S, Frediani T, Zingoni AM, Ferruzzi F, Giardini O, Quintieri F, Barbato M, D'Eufemia P, Cardi E. Food allergy and infantile autism. Panminerva Med. 1995 Sep;37(3):137-41.
  4. Millward C, Ferriter M, Calver S, Connell-Jones G. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2):CD003498.
  5. Reichelt KL, Knivsberg AM. Can the pathophysiology of autism be explained by the nature of the discovered urine peptides? Nutr Neurosci. 2003 Feb;6(1):19-28.
  6. Tapan Audhya, presentation at the Defeat Autism Now! conference, San Diego, October 2002. Audhya reported his measurements of vitamin and mineral levels in the blood of over 150 children with autism compared to 50-100 controls of the same age. He found that the children with autism on average had much lower levels of most vitamins (vitamins A, C, D, and E; all B vitamins except choline)  and some minerals (zinc; magnesium; selenium). 
  7. MA Landgreme and AR Landgrebe, Celiac autism: calcium studies and their relationship to celiac disease in autistic patients, The Autistic Syndromes, Amsterdam:  North Holland; New York; Elsevier, pp. 197-205
  8. Alberti A, Pirrone P, Elia M, Waring RH, Romano C  Sulphation deficit in "low-functioning" autistic children: a pilot study.  Biol Psychiatry 1999 Aug 1;46(3):420-4.
  9. Horvath K, Papadimitriou JC, Rabsztyn A, Drachenberg C, Tildon JT. Gastrointestinal Abnormalities in Children with Autistic Disorder. J Pediatr. 1999 Nov;135(5):559-63.
  10. MacFabe, et al., Neurobiological effects of intraventricular propionic acid in rats: Possible role of short chain fatty acids on the pathogenesis and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders. Behavioural Brain Research. 176 (2007) 149–169
  11. McCann D, Barrett A, Cooper A, Crumpler D, Dalen L, Grimshaw K, Kitchin E, Lok K, Porteous L, Prince E, Sonuga-Barke E, O Warner J, Stevenson J. “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.” Lancel. Published Online, September 6, 2007. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61306-3.

Autism Diet and Nutrition Tools Giveaway!

There is still time to enter to win a set of my Julie's autism diet and nutrition tools! This set includes:


 Nourishing Hope for Autism handbook
 Cooking To Heal cookbook
• Cooking To Heal DVD

To Enter: 

Leave one (1) comment at the end of this post. Share your story if you feel comfortable doing so.

Double your chances by "friending" Julie Matthews Nourishing Hope on Facebook [click the +1 Add as Friend button] and telling me you did so in the comment you leave on this blog. If you already are her friend, just say that you are in your comment and that will qualify you for another entry.

Deadline: To qualify, entries must be received by 5:00 p.m. (CST) Monday, February 28th.

Reader Comments (24)

Thanks for this great information. My nephew has autism and his mom and dad are working so hard to help him out! They've cut out most dairy and now they're working on gluten. I'd love to share these resources with them.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

I really do believe that the gut and brain are connected, and that by changing the foods we eat, that we can heal gut inflammation. I have also friended Julie Matthew's Nourishing Hope on Facebook.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette

Love that photo, Lexie! Ah, the beauty of real food.

Julie, you present this info so clearly and concisely. Food definitely matters. I love the name of your book and the explanation behind it. Thanks for all you are doing in this arena; it's huge!


February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShirley @ gfe

I've not yet heard of these books - am quite interested in learning more in how to help both myself and my family :)

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdeb from p.s. bohemian

What an informative post. This is really important information that every parent who has a child on the spectrum should have. We have cured our son's anxiety using a GFCF diet and biomedical treatments. The protocol Julie advocates works, and kids are saved by it. Thank you for posting this information, Lexie.

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Couldn't agree more!!! With diet alone Ashley stopped head banging, stimming, finger flicking/twisting, and screaming. I could kiss you for posting this. Smooch!

February 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

I would love to learn more about the autism and diet connection. I am just starting out with nutrition counseling, so this would be tools to add to my set!

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlena Mack

I have a son that I am always wondering if he has a form of autism. I took him off of gluten and most dairy (he gets yogurt and occasional string cheese). Thanks for this giveaway.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Oops. And I did "friend" you on FB.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I have a daughter with autism. She's 10 now. We've been on some form of the GFCF diet for almost 8 years now! Diet has been a huge factor for her from the beginning. I'm always looking for ways to improve on just GFCF, to add more nutrition and bring her even further ahead. I've looked at Julie's materials before... they look awesome! I would LOVE to win this set.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSharmista

I friended Julie on FB. :)

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSharmista

This is great. Just found your blog and I love it.
I am curing myself from a rare neuromuscular disease - and doing well with diet changes ;)
I would love this giveaway ;)

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterella@lifeologia

My son has autism and has benefited greatly from a GF/CF diet. He has done so much better since we went GF/CF free. His social skills have improved, he has a couple of friends at school that he hangs out with, he is at grade level in his studies, and he seems so much calmer that you can tell that whatever was bothering his system before the change in diet is gone now. Of course, the rest of the family has benefited from going gluten free too. :)

I am also a friend on Julie's FB page

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

I would love to try these books out... my mom is Celiac and my was Gluten free... I would like to try again but I need some help with recipes that taste GOOD! Thanks a bunch!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Lexie, I always find such great information in your blog and FB posts! We have been healing through nutrition for the past almost 2 years. My daughter was diagnosed with ASD (most likely Asperger's), and I was wasting away in bed with migraines nearly everyday, couldn't eat from severe nausea along with other gastro problems, no energy, extreme anxiety that just appeared one day with a panic attack then never left, I had lost 12 pounds and was continuing to lose it (i know most people would love to lose 12 lbs, but I only weighed 108 to start), I was down to 90 lbs at the lowest. We started to see a Naturopath once I decided the medical world was slowly killing withtheir RXs, when they gave me Serotonin syndrome with one medication, I literally though I was going to die. the journey with our Naturopath has been nothing but positive! I began eliminating all processed foods, and we have an amazingly healthy diet, just this past December I started to actually gain weight and keep it! This giveaway would be absolutely perfect!!!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

I like Julie Matthews Nourishing hope on FB!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

I am Julie's FB friend :-)

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Please enter me in the giveaway :-)

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

I am a HUGE fan of Julie Matthews! I have been her friend on facebook for some time now. I found her through the Autism Research Institute website, where you can watch several of her tutorials at DAN (Defeat Autism Now) conferences. I have been dying to get a copy of her cookbook and DVD , but I can not afford to do so. If anyone is interested, you can access her webinars for free on her Nourishing Hope website.

My daughter Annabelle is going to be 4 this Saturday. I am so thankful to God for every year she is still with me. She has taught me and inspired me more than anyone I know. She still goes undiagnosed, but she has a severe speech delay, speech apraxia, hypotonia, and eating difficulties. I try to sneak as much good nutrition and healthy fats in her as I can (thanks to Julie). Over time I have learned that Annabelle's life is not in my hands and that I just have to trust God. Someone once said something very wise to me when I was depressed about the situation. They said, " Laurin, as hard as it is for you to believe, God loves Annabelle more than you do." I remind myself every day. He loves Annabelle more than I do and I can trust him.


Okay Laurin. You're comment touched me deeply ... I think because I can re-echo it. What Annabelle has taught you is exactly what Miles has taught me. God has given me a lesson in control. My son was fashioned in the womb EXACTLY as he was to be. I too, remember the dark times in the last couple of years ... but I think things have stabilized. He has no diagnosis ... which is a blessing and a curse : ) -- as well. I was just sitting here filling out in-take forms for a new integrated holistic doc that we will be trying. I am at the point I feel all we can do is fine-tune his diet and make sure we are not missing anything.

My son, too, has speech delays. He will be 4 in September and now is speaking in 2-word phrases for the most part and they aren't understandable to most people. Cognitively he is intact and he's smart, he just can't get it out verbally. Then his gross motor and kind of shaky fine-motor keep him from keeping up with kids his age. He falls alot ... well that's getting better actually, but will be clumsy for a while. Just started running (still flails his arms) 4-6 months ago. His hypotonia diagnosis was "moderate." We are looking into custom orthotics now for his pronated feet. Hard to get reflexes in lower extremities. He seems to eat fine, but just has some allergies. We have him GFCF and that has cleared up the 1.5 years of awful diarrhea!

Am I speakin' your language. I have yet to find a mom whose child shares similar symptoms. And let me TELL YA, I've been looking? ; )

If you want to talk more, I am here : ) Wonder what you feel the causes could have been? Not that it matters, but my suspicions:

My age (38 at birth)
Lived near a freeway (signs about birth defects were posted on our neighborhood gate!)
Cortisone shot during pregnancy
Close pregnancy (17 mo apart)
Big baby, 10lbs: Shoulder dystocia, pressure and traction used
Knot in Cord
Vaccines: One month after 6mo vaccines his eyes went lazy and we noticed he wasn't holding his head up in carseat.


February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurin Flowers

My nephew is autistic. I've been urging my sister-in-law to look into the nutritional aspects, I'd love to be able to give this to her!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

My son with autism has been GFCFSF for two years. He's made wonderful progress. He's a straight A student with great social skills.

I'm friending or liking on Facebook, too. Thanks!

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

I am a huge believer in special diets for autism. Our son is a completely different child thanks to being gluten-free and casein-free. He is so much more focused now and does not have nearly the level of gut problems he had before the diet. I'm discovering that I have several food intolerances as well that contribute to joint pain, brain fog and many other symptoms, so I'm benefiting from some of the same things that we're using to help our son. Autism is much more than a "brain disorder". Special diets are definitely worth looking into.

February 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Hi! I've been a friend of Julie's on FB for a while now. I have borrowed her book once from TACA, but its something I could use regularly. I'd love to have Julie's resources to refer to. My child has been off gluten, casein, and several other foods for quite some time. Please include me in the giveaway. Thanks!

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeepa

I am looking forward to reading your website and download ebook to start with. We have learned that my son has autism and we are starting to figure some foods and ingredients that he is sensitive to. We have a lot to learn. I followed you on FB. I couldn't friend you for some reason.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

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