Parents’ Top 3 Diet and Nutrition Interventions for Autism


As you now have likely heard, our Autism Nutrition study led by Dr. James Adams was published, and the results were phenomenal: improvements in autism symptoms, increases in non-verbal IQ and development age, and improvements in digestive symptoms and more. The study consisted of 6 diet and nutrition interventions that were layered in one at a time, and the continued for the duration of the study, which was one year.
  • Day 0: Vitamin/Mineral supplementation
  • Day 30: Essential Fatty Acid supplementation
  • Day 60: Epsom salt baths
  • Day 90: Carnitine supplementation
  • Day 180: Digestive Enzyme supplementation
  • Day 210: Healthy, gluten-free, casein-free diet
Let’s discuss what parents in the study considered the top three interventions that yielded the best results. And what you need to know and how you can put these interventions to practice in your family. Multivitamin/mineral supplementation On day one of the study a multivitamin/mineral formula was introduced. Nutrient deficiencies are common in autism. And supplementation has been shown to be very helpful replenishing deficiencies and improving symptoms of autism. Folate and B12 have been shown to increase glutathione to increase antioxidant status and reduce oxidative stress. There are studies on B6 and magnesium in autism. And studies showing a multivitamin/mineral formula are helpful. In this study, the dose was adjusted based on the child’s weight and split into 3 doses (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). So, which multivitamin/mineral formula? In this study, a product formulated by Dr. Adams was used. He has included this multivitamin formula in several studies and continues to adjust the formulation based on the results. That product in ANRC Essentials. Dr. Adams does not make any money from the sales of the supplement. There are a number of good ones on the market that use high quality and absorbable nutrients. When you are looking for a multivitamin/mineral formula. Look for good quality forms of nutrients like: methyltetrahydrofolate, methylcobalamin and/or hydrocobalamin.  The benefit to ANRC is that it also includes additional nutrients that many supplements don’t typically have such as: lithium orotate, choline, inositol, coQ10, N-acetylcysteine, and carnitine. Make sure that whichever supplement you choose it does not contain additives, fillers, or gluten. And avoid gummy supplements: you’ll notice there are fewer nutrients and smaller quantities, and lots of sugar. They will not yield the same level of nutritional benefit. Compare them yourself and you’ll see the difference. Essential fatty acid supplement On day 30, an essential fatty acid supplement was added. The study used a supplement that was a combination of omega 3s (EPA and DHA) from fish oil combined with GLA (an omega 6) from borage oil. Essential fatty acids, as the name implies are… essential, meaning we must consume these fats from foods in our diet. Omega 3 is important for brain development and brain function, as well as mental health. Looking at the results of multiple studies on omega 3, we see deficiencies of omega 3 in many neurological conditions such as ADHD, depression, and bipolar disorder, and improvements in these conditions when supplemented with omega 3. And case study meta-analysis shows that omega 3 levels are low in children with autism compared to neurotypical children. Omega 3 is also important for cell membrane integrity and function, and in the gastrointestinal tract this is particularly important. One study showed that individuals with Crohn’s disease were low in omega 3, and that supplementation deduced relapse rate considerably. Most American’s don’t get enough omega 3, and get too much omega 6 (particularly the processed, oxidized type), except for a particular omega 6 fatty acid, GLA. This omega 6 fatty acid, GLA, has anti-inflammatory effects. The GLA used in the study came from borage oil. The product used in the study was ProEFA-Xtra by Nordic Naturals (the name as now changed to ProEPA™ with Concentrated GLA). The EFA capsules contained 609mg omega-3’s (425mg EPA, 110mg DHA, 74mg other omega 3’s), 198mg omega-6 (including 128mg GLA), and 15mg omega-9. The participants started with 1 capsule daily and then increased to a maximum of 4 capsules daily depending on their weight. Healthy gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free On day 210, the participants started a healthy, gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free (GFCFSF) diet. That means no gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, barley and other grain), no casein (the protein in animal milk), and no soy. Participants did not consume any wheat- or gluten-based: breads, pasta, crackers, pizza, or baked goods. Nor any milk, butter, yogurt, cream, or cheese made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or other animal milk. Also there was no soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, or any other soy-based products. It is intended to be a healthy diet. One of the most common mistakes parents make while doing a GFCFSF diet is to use lots of processed and packaged crackers, chips, cookies, candy, muffins, etc. These “foods” are routinely devoid of nutrients, and can contain artificial additives and preservatives (that can cause further problems). There are many candies, junk food, and sugar-filled foods that are gluten-free and dairy-free, but that does not make them healthy to consume on a healing diet. For participants in the study, as part of their healthy diet we recommended keeping their sugar consumption low and avoiding all artificial ingredients. The other big issue I see with special diets is the consumption of non-organic and GMO containing foods. These foods can contain large amounts of pesticides, glyphosate, GMOs, and other toxins. A healthy diet should be as organic as possible, and GMO-free. Participants were free to choose the GFCFSF options they liked best. Meals consisted of dishes with meat, vegetables, fruit, fish, egg, avocado and other fats, nuts and seeds (if not allergic), and substitutes (hopefully limited amounts) like gluten-free bread and dairy/casein-free milk and ice cream (made from coconut for example). In closing – the top 3 In a one-year study that convincingly demonstrated that comprehensive nutrition intervention is widely advantageous to those with autism, these were the top three interventions parents said were most beneficial. These “interventions” are straightforward and well researched food and nutrition approaches that everyone has access to and can do at home. And Dr. Adams’ has stated, and I agree, these are “safe and effective” recommendations. Free GFCF Guide For more information and a step-by-step guide to getting started with a GFCFSF diet, download my free GFCF Success guide. It contains foods to avoid, foods to include, meal ideas and more. (This was not the exact guide we used in the study)   SaveSave SaveSave

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


  1. We own a raw dairy near Houston and milk 100% grassfed Jersey cows (A2 type), hundreds of parents told us the raw A2 milk and raw Kefir… and the fatty grassfed lamb and beef (from our farm) help their children greatly… Because the gut got more beneficial bacteria, in turn better digestion and nutrition break down, and thus the brain gets the nutrients it needs and begins to heal.
    Don’t forget HYDRATION of the brain and body with a pinch of Himalayan pink salt to re-mineralize the filtered water. Drink (in ounces) half your body weight (in lbs) of quality filtered water.

  2. Julie,
    My husband and I are desperately looking for a nutritionist that works well with adults dealing with Autism. We are in the Phoenix, AZ valley (Peoria to be specific) and would really like any recommendations you may have. I feel we are learning a lot from your seminars, now we need more specifics from a qualified person we can consult with directly on specifics.

    Thank you so much!
    Elaine Larsen


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