Why is my child a picky eater and what can I do to improve his diet? I hear this question all the time. In fact, it’s one of the most common questions I get so let’s dive into some of the reasons why and what you can do about it.
Diet can be tricky to transition for our picky eaters, especially those with autism, but there is hope. My own son was once a very picky eater and today he is not at all, and I’ve helped hundreds of parents transition their kids to healthier diets over time. Children and adults with autism can be stuck in their routines and have some obsessions around food, but there’s even more to this.
Some of the reasons why your child with Autism is a picky eater:
- The bad bacteria in their gut such as candida or yeast overgrowth thrives on the sugars and processed carbohydrates he eats. This makes him crave those foods. The problem is that when we feed the bad bacteria they get stronger. They are contributing to our child’s gut staying ill and something called ‘leaky gut’ which is where they have holes in the lining of their gut that allow undigested foods into the bloodstream. The immune system sees these and thinks they are a foreign agent to attack so each time it sees them it creates an allergic response and our child becomes allergic to that food. Leaky gut also contributes to poor absorption of nutrients from the food they are eating.
- Bad foods are inflammatory and keep the lining of the gut weak and easily permeable to breakage and more leaky gut issues.
- The gut controls the brain and up to 80% of the immune system, so we must heal the gut to heal many of the behaviors our kids have like irritability, sleep issues, lack of ability to focus, and poor immunity so they’re not sick all the time.
- Gluten and casein are the proteins in wheat and dairy. They create opiates in the body so our kids are literally addicted to these foods.
- PANS is an autoimmune issue that many kids with autism have. You may notice high anxiety, fearfulness, and obsessive compulsive behavior (OCD). The OCD is also an obsession with the way they eat food or what foods they will eat.
- Target the root triggers. Viruses, mold, Lyme, candida, parasites, and toxins all contribute to keeping the gut ill, so all must be worked with. They also contribute to a PANS flare-up which keeps the OCD happening.
- Histamine intolerance is very high in people with autism. Histamines are released by the digestive tract and the brain in defense as an allergic reaction. In histamine intolerance the body is over producing histamines and there are too many for the body to break down. This stress type response is a trigger for mast cell activation which creates a strong inflammatory response in the body.
There are also many environmental triggers for histamine release that are far lesser known. A common one is chlorine. We see anxiousness and mast cell activation sometimes after swimming in chlorinated swimming pools. Chlorine is also in tap water so if a sensitive person drinks unfiltered tap water or has a hot shower in chlorinated water and the steam opens the pores then the body absorbs it, as well as inhaling the fumes. A quality water filter is crucial to overall health. Use the link provided and get 10% off of your order with code “KTHOMAS”.
By reducing stomach acid histamines contribute to further issues with digestion working against your efforts to heal the gut, and is a common reason for GERD or acid back up.
Symptoms of histamine reactions also include, but are not limited to: Anxiousness, discomfort with food, sleep issues, rashes, and sensitivity with food. The mouth becomes itchy and uncomfortable when they eat so they become averse to eating.
Tips to help your child eat and feel better
How to improve picky eating issues
Once the gut has begun to heal then the picky eating gets much better. This is a process that takes time so be patient. Besides working with all of the coinfections and toxicity that contributes to the leaky gut, we want to change the diet to help your child eat more nutritious foods, but also to improve absorption of nutrients from the food they are eating. Of course, there are many factors affecting their gut health but it does begin with diet.
The key can be to make small changes over time instead of huge transitions all at once. Kids with autism are also used to routine and become stressed with change so take our time.
- Calm the sensory overload in the mouth: Sensory issues affect the mouth and how food feels. This makes them uncomfortable. Do lymphatic drainage. Massage the front sides of their neck downward. This helps open up lymphatic drainage but also reduces the sensory overload for the jaw and mouth. It helps all of us feel more alert too as it assists the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Very helpful for autism!
- Reduce Sensory Overload with “Stress Reducer” a natural elixir made for this.
- Until the liver is eventually working better, and many toxins have additionally been gradually eliminated, the body is not able to handle too fast a detoxification or too big a die-off. If either happens, symptoms or behaviors change for the worse. Adding a toxin binder to your regimen will help immensely. This helps the body sop up the extra toxins from the candida dying off (hence the term ‘die off’).
- Eating low histamine foods like organic fresh poultry, grass fed beef, eggs, and line caught fish can be good. Tip: If you give good oils (coconut oil, Extra virgin olive oil) with protein it helps with nutritional absorption and keeps us full longer.
Avoid high histamine foods like beans, corn, fermented foods, avocados, smoked and aged foods, including dried fruit. Avoid leftovers, especially of animal protein, broths simmered longer than 3.5 hours, Tip: freeze leftovers.
- Allergy Relief Elixir assists in calming histamine reactions and reactions to allergic foods.
- Offer the reward system: a bite of something you want your child to eat for a bite of something they want to eat.
- Begin to remove the top most inflammatory foods from your child’s diet. If you don’t have my free food guide please get it now. Slowly begin removing the bad foods as you mix very small amounts of some good foods in. For example, cauliflower ‘rice’ is now sold in most health food stores. I have a member in my program who began adding in just a tablespoon or so of cauliflower rice into her son’s regular rice and over time added more of it, with less regular rice and eventually over time he ate the cauliflower rice and didn’t even mind.
- Make smoothies with some good food and some berries which will sweeten and help hide the flavor of anything they don’t like. Try not to overdo fruit due to its high sugar content which feeds the candida and bad bacteria, but a small handful or about 6-10 berries can really hide other ingredients. Almond butter can be a nice addition to a smoothie to get some texture and good fat along with protein too.
- Collagen helps heal the lining of the gut and it provides a source of high protein. It’s great for smoothies. Collagen powder can be purchased with a healthy natural sweetener such as stevia and in various flavors like this one flavored collagen powders are at, https://perfectketo.com/Karen. Use code Karen for 20% off all Perfect Keto individual products (one-time use).
- Hydrochloric acid with pepsin can be helpful if GERD or acid back-up is an issue.
Any recipe can have an exchange of 1:1 ration for a healthier flour such as coconut flour or almond flour in a recipe where it calls for wheat flour. Stevia and monkfruit are the only two healthy natural sweeteners to use. Monkfruit is great for a sugar replacement in baking.
Get creative, be consistent and be patient. Every small step leads to a big difference over time.
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This is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat.