The Autism Diet

The paleo diet helps treat the medical aspects of autism like inflammation.

The foundation of biomedical treatment is using diet to improve autism symptoms by reducing inflammation. While there are many special diets recommending for treating autism, the research on which foods help reduce inflammation in the brain is very clear. For example meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and eggs help reduce neuroinflammation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have funded two transformative research projects that clearly identify that our gut, brain and genes are all intricately connected.  As a result, The Human Genome Project and the Human Microbiome Project are changing the way we understand human health and the food that we eat.

What is the Autism Diet?

The Autism Diet is essentially the “paleo” diet with lots and lots of healthy fats. Although this dietary intervention is sometimes referred to as the “modified ketogenic diet” or the “SCD-DF diet”. Above all these dietary approaches recommend removing grains and dairy products from your child’s diet leading to a reduction in brain inflammation. Dietary intervention in autism is one of the CORE 4 biomedical treatments.

Changing your child’s diet helps to transform gut health and brain health in a number of different ways and as a result children with autism are more present, experience fewer behaviours and have improvements in developmental skills.

Firstly, lets focus on why removing grains helps to reduce brain inflammation:

Grains, also called complex carbohydrates feed the opportunistic or “bad” microbes in the gut microbiome. Starving the “bad microbes” and feeding the “good microbes” in the gut improves brain function by reducing inflammation.  To put it another way, grains contribute to inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and methylation impairment.

Grains are fortified with synthetic folic acid which is subsequently converted to active folates. Children with autism and their families typically have methylation impairments that significantly slow the folate cycle resulting in developmental delays and autistic behaviours therefore removing complex carbohydrates from the diet improves helps methylation. As a result brain function in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders dramatically improves.

Secondly, let’s examine why it is important to remove all dairy products:

Dairy contains a protein called A1 beta casein. A1 beta casein causes inflammation and has been consequently linked to autism symptoms. Casein also decreases the body’s ability to make glutathione which is the body’s master antioxidant. Up to 80% of the body’s glutathione is deficient in autism and as a result children with autism experience higher levels of glutamate and a biochemical abnormality termed IMMUNOEXCITOTOXICITY. Removing dairy reduces inflammation and improves glutathione production and as a result autistic behaviours diminish.

The medical issues in autism include:

Biomedical Diet Intervention for Autism:

90-95% of the autism diet should include:

  • Meat
  • Fish – see healthy fish guide
  • Vegetables – no white potato and minimize sweet potato
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Eggs

5-10% of the autism diet can include:

  • Lentils
  • Beans including chickpeas
  • Starchy seeds like quinoa and buckwheat
  • Sweet potato
  • Starches for baking – tapioca, arrowroot powder

Remove 100% from diet:

  • Grains including gluten, corn and rice
  • Dairy including all animal milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Less than 6 tsp of sugar daily which is equivalent to 24 grams
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • White potatoes
  • Processed food

Additional suggestions:

  • Most people benefit from removing or limiting beans and lentils for a few months
  • Food should be nutrient dense
  • Focus on low glycemic index foods
  • Fibre is very important to support digestion and detoxification
  • Good fats are the key to brain function

In summary:

Dietary intervention is reduces inflammation, heals the digestive system and results in optimal nutrient absorption.  Removing grains and dairy while increasing good fats creates a modified ketogenic dietary approach that improves methylation, cell danger response, immunoexcitotoxicity and mitochondrial function.  Treating autism with diet improve can improve language, social and cognitive skills while reducing behaviours.


  • The Autism Revolution – Martha Herbert, Phd, MD
  • Grain Brain – David Perlmutter, MD
  • Brain Maker – David Perlmutter, MD
  • Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD
  • Breaking the Vicious Cycle – Elain Gottschall, BA, MSc
  • The Magic Pill: The Magic Pill follows doctors, patients, scientists, chefs, farmers and journalists from around the globe who are combating illness through a paradigm shift in eating. And this simple change – embracing fat as our main fuel – is showing profound promise in improving the health of children diagnosed with autism.