In honor of the upcoming World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, I wanted to share some information regarding autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and food allergies.
IgE-mediated allergic diseases (e.g., allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, atopic asthma and food allergy) are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide, and are continuing to rise each year. In addition to easily recognized symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing, allergic diseases can cause neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as irritability and hyperactivity, in otherwise healthy individuals. This is also likely to occur in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Moreover, the discomfort and pain associated with allergic diseases could aggravate behavioral symptoms in ASD children.  This may be due the child’s inability to communicate or fully understand or explain his or her discomfort.
Autism spectrum disorder children are known to suffer from additional issues, with gastrointestinal (GI) and sleep disorders being the most common. It may be useful to test for food allergies to confirm or rule out allergies as a cause for GI issues. Allergy testing can be done by skin testing or blood work. Many times these tests indicate that children do, in fact, have true allergic responses to foods. Other times, the tests come back “negative” for food allergies.
If a patient tests positive for food allergies, they can be treated with sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops), by avoiding the allergy-inducing foods altogether, or a combination of both.
For more information about World Autism Awareness Day, please go to: https://www.autismspeaks.org/. Wear blue on April 2 to show your support of the Light It Up Blue national campaign.
Top Tips for celebrating with family if you have some dietary restrictions.
Gathering with family is an important part of the holidays for most of us. If you suffer from food allergies or eat a restricted diet due to a health conditions, here are a few tips to consider.
- Talk to the host prior to the event – Ask ahead of time what is on the menu and if the host would like you to bring something. If possible you might ask them to prepare the main course in a way that fits your dietary needs. You should also figure out if there will be enough dishes that you can eat to fill you or if you will need to bring your own food. By all means, do offer to bring a dish or two that you know you can eat and then share the love with everyone! I’m always tickled if family raves over my grain-free paleo-style dishes.
- Know what it’s swimming in – I’ve found that most of the common food allergens come in the sauces, dressings or marinades. These culprits frequently contain gluten, dairy, egg, soy, or sugar. You may ask the host to hold aside a portion of undressed salad or fix your piece of chicken or fish with no marinade or sauce. I usually ask for olive oil, salt and garlic …It’s delicious every time and I know I’m not getting any hidden gluten or dairy in the sauce.
- Send a package ahead of you – if you’re traveling to an area where there is no Whole Foods or natural grocery nearby to accessorize your diet, you can often ship ahead a small box of essentials. You can either pack them yourself or you can use a service, like Amazon or Vitacost and have them ship the necessary items. I frequently do this with non-perishables, like coconut milk, sunflower nut butter, chia seed, and high quality coconut or olive oils. Plus you can leave any of the gourmet leftover items with your host to enjoy! Better yet, order enough to get free shipping and include a hostess gift of some special gourmet food item that he/she cannot purchase locally. Organic dark chocolate or specialty cooking oils are a wonderful gift idea!
- Don’t go hungry – When we are hungry our brains may bypass the filter of what we know to be a better choice. We’ll often we end up eating too much and pick foods that we’d normally avoid. This is why I vow never take my husband grocery shopping on an empty stomach… you just never know what will make it’s way into your shopping cart! 😉 Eat a small protein snack prior to heading out, like nuts/seeds, guacamole or jerky. If you know there will not be any safe options, it’s ok to eat your entire meal before you go and just enjoy the company and not the food.
- BYOBF (Bring your own back-up food) – whether traveling by plane or car or just driving across town for a holiday get-together, you can never go wrong by having a few nonperishable snacks or options with you. You never know when you’ll get stranded in the car or in the airport for longer than expected. I carry things like packets of sunflower nut butter, coconut butter and shredded coconut, a piece of fruit, dried organic beef or bison jerky, Alter Eco 85% dark chocolate bar, and/or packets or tins of wild salmon or sardines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stranded somewhere longer than anticipated and hungry and so thankful for my little stash! As the true saying goes, “Fail to plan and plan to fail…”
Wishing you a most delightful and delicious holiday season making many memories with your loved ones!
Sources: 5 Tips to Safely Celebrate the Holidays with Food Allergies , All-American Allergy Alternatives, LLC