Autism & Food Allergies

Autism involves both genetic and environmental risk factors. That is a basic fact about autism. It’s really not disputed anymore. Healing from Autism is possible, currently, 9% of those diagnosed with autism heal completely.

That’s a scientific reported fact. It is not controversial. It is pretty well accepted in the scientific and medical community, that healing from autism is possible, and it’s quantified at 9% currently.

Immunologic dysfunction is a potential link between environmental risk factors and autism. So we are going to delve into that a little bit more.

Autism & The Environment

This is a quote from a published scientific article, and it says,

‘’Available evidence has shown that early-life immune activation can adversely influence certain neurodevelopmental processes, such as neuron growth, through multiple pathways, including altered expression of cytokines and chemokines.’’

Immune activation is really important to understand relative to autism. If your child has autism, understanding their immune system is really important because the immune system affects how their brain develops. It’s a vital link that is often missed.

One of the largest environmental factors is food. With food, we actually take the external world and consume it, and we use the external world to actually build ourselves. Especially a growing child, they’re literally building themselves with what they eat.

To go into the research a little more, studies have shown that food allergy in mice can induce autistic-like behavioral changes, including:

  • Reduced social interaction
  • Increased repetitive behavior
  • Impaired spatial memory

These three characteristics that are the cornerstones of autism can be induced in mice in animal studies via food allergies.

Gastrointestinal disorders are more common in those with autism. Again, that’s a basic fact. Researchers wanted to understand food allergies and autism in humans.

The Method

I’m going to zero in on a publication that was written in 2017. It involved analyzing a lot of US data.

Since 1957, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives an annual health survey to those in the US. The survey is a nationally representative sample of the US civilian noninstitutionalized population collected via an in-person household interview. This is where the researchers are going to get their data.

The Sample

They included all children aged three to 17 years in the NHIS whose information about allergic conditions and autism was available.

Allergic conditions were defined based on positive responses to the following questions:

During the past 12 months, has your child had:

  • Any kind of food or digestive allergy
  • Any kind of respiratory allergy
  • Eczema or any kind of skin allergy?

These are what are classified as immune system responses. This is what the researchers really wanted to understand, was that association of food allergies and autism.

We have evidence in animal models that food allergies can trigger autistic-like behaviors, so it was really trying to understand, in humans, what is the association.

For autism, it was just simply asked if the child had received an autism diagnosis by a professional.

The Results

The table below is from the research article. You can see the information for children with autism, children without autism, the sample size that they were able to gather, the average age is about the same and the distribution of boys versus girls.

This is a typical representation of the autism population now, more prevalent being in boys than in girls. They looked at race and ethnicity, they looked at the highest educational level for the family for those with autism and without, and they also looked at income level.

They looked geographically, and then here’s the information about food allergy. Those with autism and had a food allergy represented 11% of the sample size. Whereas, children without autism and a food allergy was only 4% of the sample size. You can see respiratory allergy breakdown here as well, as well as skin allergy.


What conclusions did the researchers make? This is straight from the research article,

’In a nationally representative sample of US children, we found a significant and positive association of food allergy, respiratory allergy, and skin allergy with autism.’’

The association persisted after adjustment for demographic and socioeconomic variables and other types of allergic conditions. This research was done by epidemiologists and statisticians. They love numbers, so they’re really looking to make sure that there is an association, and it’s not just anecdotal.

This was a very important statement from their research article. In addition, the association between food allergy and autism was consistent and significant in all age, sex, and racial/ethnic subgroups. They found an association, so it’s not causation. This research isn’t saying that if someone has a food allergy, then they might get autism or vice versa. No, it’s an association. The association was found between food allergy and autism, and it was consistent across the board.

As a parent, the conclusion is, what your child eats matters. It matters on a whole variety of levels, but especially in regards to their immune system, and in regards to if they have an allergy to a food that is either ignored or not known, autistic behaviors can result.

The best first step in healing autism is making sure your child’s diet is nourishing them, and not activating their immune system. In healing autism, it’s absolutely vital that your child eats food that only nourishes them. You don’t want them to eat any food that is going to cause an immune system reaction.