What Foods Should Be Avoided With Autism?

Medically Reviewed on 7/21/2021
foods to avoid with autism
Is there a link between autism and diet? While there is no conclusive evidence to support this claim, here are 7 foods you may want to avoid

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects brain function. It usually shows up during a child’s first three years of life, with delayed speech being one of the early signs. 

Despite the fact that autism is quite common, there is no known cause for autism, and questions still remain regarding best treatment methods. And studies have shown that diet does not really address behavioral issues or other primary symptoms.

However, if you notice that your child’s symptoms get worse when consuming certain foods, talk to your pediatrician or dietitian. They may recommend an elimination diet to see if removing certain foods from their diet helps.

7 foods to potentially avoid with autism

It’s important to note that while these foods have been reported to have the potential to make autism symptoms worse, there is no conclusive research or evidence to support these claims. 

  1. SugarSince children with autism may show signs of hyperactivity, it may be best to avoid sugar to maintain balanced sugar levels.
  2. Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Similar to sugar, MSG can cause overstimulation in the brain, leading to hyperactivity.
  3. Artificial ingredients: Avoid foods with artificial dyes, artificial flavors, additives, and preservatives, as some studies have shown potential links between autism and ingredients found in processed foods. 
  4. Toxins: Avoid large fish that contain mercury, which is an immunotoxin that can impair the immune system. Avoid meat and dairy products that contain toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, pesticides, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
  5. Dairy products: Dairy is pro-inflammatory, which can impair immune function. Some people have also experienced brain fog and the inability to concentrate when consuming dairy products. 
  6. Gluten: Gluten may cause inflammation and decrease cerebellum function, which is involved with motor and thought coordination.
  7. Corn: According to the USDA, corn has been the foremost crop in the U.S. that uses pesticides. A 2013 study has suggested that there is a potential link between exposure to the herbicide glyphosate and autism risk.


Autism is a developmental disability. See Answer

What are risk factors for autism?

Risk factors for autism may include:

  • Genetics: Various genetic factors appear to be involved in the disorder, although the genes themselves rarely directly cause the condition. Rather, some genetic variations may predispose the child to become sensitive to the increasing environmental stressors associated with modern life and leave them ill-equipped to respond.
  • Environmental stressors: Research is underway to explore whether viral infections or exposure to environmental pollutants are linked to autism.
  • Medications: Increased use of medications such as antibiotics and acetaminophen can cause negative changes to gut flora and oxidative stress, especially in the developing brains of young infants.
  • Fertility treatments: Studies have shown that there is some correlation between autism and certain fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
  • Prematurity: Extremely premature babies may be at greater risk of developing the disorder.
  • Advanced age of parents: More research is needed regarding this, but there may be a link between autism and babies who are born to older parents.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/21/2021
Ansel K. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Diet. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/autism/nutrition-for-your-child-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-asd

Augustyn M, von Hahn E. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evaluation and Diagnosis. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/autism-spectrum-disorder-evaluation-and-diagnosis