Have you heard that there are an estimated 700,000 autistic people in the UK? Of those 700,000, many are children: 1 in every hundred under-18-year-olds is thought to be living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While we certainly aren't autism experts, we do know a lot about supplements. So, to try and support parents this World Autism Awareness Day, we wanted to share some helpful information on the supplements that could be beneficial for autistic children. Helping you to keep their nutrient levels topped up, and in some cases, target autism symptoms.
Food aversions and sensitivities are very common if your child has autism, and research shows that mealtimes can often be difficult. Kids with autism are five times more likely to have tantrums, extreme food selectivity, and ritualistic eating behaviours. If that wasn't enough of a challenge to deal with, having a tricky relationship with food can then lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Which is where supplements could come in handy…
Why is eating a balanced diet difficult for children with ASD?
Autistic children aren’t just being 'fussy eaters’. According to research commissioned by Autism Speaks, extreme sensitivity to the flavour, colour, smell, and texture of foods is one of the most common autism symptoms. Lots of children with autism also favour carbohydrates and processed foods, and can often refuse fruit and vegetables.
Eating a limited range of foods can mean your body isn’t getting all the different nutrients it needs to thrive. Introducing a wide range of foods might seem like a good way to address this. But if your child has ASD, you'll know that the 'new' can lead to meltdowns. Especially if your child finds it difficult to explain what they dislike about the things they don't want to eat. So, it's not surprising that many parents and children opt for ‘safe’ foods.
Why are vitamin and mineral deficiencies common autism symptoms?
Levels of vitamins B1, B6, B12, A, and D, and calcium are often reported to be low in ASD children. And children with (and without) autism generally don't get enough vitamin E, potassium, and choline in what they eat either.
Taking a supplement is a great compromise if you can't get your child to eat vitamin and mineral-rich foods. It's definitely not a substitute for nutritious food, but can give you the peace of mind that some of the gaps in your child's diet are being plugged. Our Kids Multivitamin patch contains B1, B6, B12, A, D, and E, plus minerals including potassium, choline, and calcium.
It's also worth knowing that clinical trials have also shown that supplementing with vitamins B6, B9, and B12 can actually improve autism symptoms. So a multivitamin could help to support your child in other ways too.
Which other supplements could help with autism symptoms?
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found in oily fish and certain seeds, you probably already know that Omega-3 Fatty Acids are crucial for a healthy brain and body. Getting a regular Omega-3 fix can help to reduce inflammation, support your brain function, improve your mood, reduce the risk of heart disease, and much more.
Worth taking for these benefits alone, Omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to be helpful in managing autism symptoms. Scientists think this is because Omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce neuro-inflammation. This is an inflammatory response in the brain, often seen in people with ASD. Reduce the inflammation and you could see a decrease in symptoms.
And that's not all, Omega-3 can also help to improve general mood and happiness levels. This is because the fatty acids play a key role in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine.
Your body can make vitamin D itself when exposed to the right amount of sunlight. But if you're (very sensibly!) slathering your child in a high-factor sun lotion, they might need to supplement.
Getting enough daily D is essential for your general health. You need it for the function of your brain, and nervous system. And it’s also essential for optimum immunity, bone strength, and cardiovascular health.
If you have autism, vitamin D could be even more important. Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency and autism can often go hand in hand. And low levels of vitamin D have been linked to lower language scores and more behavioural challenges in autism. The good news? Supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to improve autism symptoms and reduce the risk of new ones developing.
Just so you know, the Kids Multivitamin patch contains the optimum daily dose of both vitamin D and Omega-3. Plus, all the goodies we discussed earlier, so it's a really helpful "catch-all" supplement.
Calcium isn't the only mineral that's often lacking in autistic children. Research shows they are also much more likely to be deficient in iron. Childhood iron deficiency can affect growth and make your child feel constantly tired and low in energy. It might also affect brain function and potentially have a negative impact on behaviour and ability to communicate.
Iron supplementation is tricky for younger children as they can only tolerate small amounts of iron before it becomes toxic. You could top up their levels by including some type of red meat in meals. As well as iron-rich veggies like beans, spinach, jacket potato with skin, peas, and leafy greens. Or, if that just won't fly, try cooking what your child will eat with a cast iron skillet. This can also boost their iron levels.
For children over 12, our Iron Plus patch is a gentle formulation that doesn't cause any stomach upsets.
What else might help with autism symptoms?
It goes without saying that every child and their needs are very different. So, it's worth trying out a range of supplements to find the ones that best support your child. There's also evidence to suggest glutathione, zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, and co-enzyme Q-10 are worth investigating. Studies have shown they can all have a positive impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of children with ASD, and, in some cases, improve autism symptoms.
Why could a patch be an easier way to give a child with ASD a supplement?
Our patches work by delivering the nutrients transdermally through the skin. This can be helpful if your child has sensory-motor or coordination difficulties. Or if they have sensitivity to taste and texture, or anxiety about swallowing pills.
All ingredients are gluten, lactose, and sugar-free, ideal if your child has is intolerant of any of these things. From a sensory point of view, they are designed to be as unnoticeable as possible; made from soft, hypoallergenic, 3M medical grade tape, which doesn't feel as 'sticky' or noticeable as traditional sticking plasters.
We've had some excellent feedback from parents of autistic children who have used our patches. So if you’re looking for an alternative way to take vitamins with less stress and upset, they could be worth a try. Any questions about our products and their suitability for your child? We’re happy to help, get in touch here.