Rates of autism spectrum disorders have been increasing. In fact, rates have increased tenfold over the past forty years!
According to the organization Autism Speaks, ASD affects more children than diabetes, AIDS, or cancer combined. The increase in diagnoses may be due in part to better diagnostic tools, but many believe that the increasing rates are caused by increasing levels of environmental toxins during pregnancy.
Current research suggests that what we eat during pregnancy can help to boost our immune defence system to protect our body, and our baby from environmental toxins and may help reduce your baby’s risk of developing autism.
In today’s article, I’m going to provide you with seven evidence-based dietary tips that may help in preventing autism during pregnancy.
Before we get into this, I’d like to clarify a few things upfront.
- Firstly, if you already have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, this is not to make you feel guilty or to blame. We can all only do the best that we can with the knowledge that we have at the time.
- And, secondly, whether our children have diabetes or an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or a freckle on their right pinkie finger, they are still special, unique and to be loved just the way they are.
But, as parents, we all want to gift our children with the healthiest and easiest road possible. And there is now a lot of evidence behind what we eat during pregnancy and our children’s risk of developing autism, so this video is to help empowers you so that you have the knowledge to do the best that you can give your unique circumstances.
What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders are a group of conditions characterised by social impairment. Symptoms such as lack of eye contact and lack of facial expressions are usually obvious during infancy.
ASD can have a range of side effects though, such as gut problems, difficulties in school, decreased rates of employment and higher rates of depression.
There is no single cause for autism, and given the fact that symptoms and severity differ, it is believed that there are many different causes – especially genetics and the environment that our baby is exposed to during pregnancy.
As I mentioned earlier, our diet during pregnancy has a big impact on our baby’s environment during pregnancy, so let’s look at 6 dietary tips that current research suggests may help in preventing autism during pregnancy.
7 dietary tips to prevent autism during pregnancy
#1 Eat antioxidant-rich diet
Eat an antioxidant-rich diet by including plenty of fruit and veggies each day. A recent Canadian study found that mums who had more exposure to nitric oxide from traffic pollution during pregnancy had a high risk of having a baby with an Autism spectrum disorder.
Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals from environmental toxins. The best source of antioxidants is vegetables. It’s wise to consume a variety of different-coloured vegetables during pregnancy to receive a range of different antioxidants.
Just like you need a range of different players on a netball court to defend the ball against the other team, a range of different antioxidants from different vegetables will help to diffuse free radicals and hopefully minimise the risks of conditions caused by environmental toxins.
#2 Take adequate omega 3
Number 2 is to ensure adequate omega 3 intakes during pregnancy. Omega 3 is essential for our baby’s brain development during pregnancy, and it also plays an important role in minimising inflammation, so research suggests that omega 3 rich foods, such as fish and eggs, may play an important role in fighting infections during pregnancy which could have otherwise increased the risk of autism.
Now, I’d also like to point out that some people believe that mercury, which can also be found in fish, can also increase the risk of autism, so make sure that you choose low mercury, high omega 3 fish.
#3 Take adequate levels of vitamin D
The third strategy is to ensure that you maintain adequate levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. An increasing amount of evidence points to vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy being linked with autism spectrum disorders.
According to Dr John Cannell, founder and executive director of the Vitamin D Council, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders increases in “regions of greater cloud cover and rainfall”, as we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight.
Vitamin D plays a key role in regulating our immune system, which is believed to help reduce the oxidative stress that can cause autism, so make sure that you get your vitamin D levels checked during pregnancy.
#4 Overcome micronutrient deficiencies
Fourthly, there has been a range of micronutrient deficiencies that have been linked to increased risks of autism, including vitamin B6, folic acid, iron and magnesium. To me, this highlights the importance of a nutrient-rich diet during pregnancy. There’re not many micronutrients in a chocolate bar, which is why it’s so important for us to focus on eating a nutrient-rich diet during pregnancy.
#5 Optimise your weight
Number five is to optimise your weight – before pregnancy if possible. Mumma’s who are underweight or overweight during pregnancy are more likely to have babies born with a low birth-weight, and babies born with a low birth-weight for age have twice the rate of being born with an autism spectrum disorder. So it’s something that you might not be able to do anything about now, but maybe you could work on before your next baby.
#6 Optimise your gut microbiome
Strategy number six is to optimise your gut microbiome (and your baby’s) with pre and pro-biotics. Evidence has been increasing that our gut microbiome, which we pass on to our baby during pregnancy and breast-feeding, may play an important role in our baby’s risk of autism. So, do your best to optimise your gut microbiome during pregnancy by including plenty of nutritious prebiotic foods such as onions, cashews, garlic and nectarines.
#7 Avoid smoking and alcohol during pregnancy
And, finally, number seven is to avoid smoking and alcohol during pregnancy. Cigarette smoke and alcohol are toxins to our body, and both cross our placenta, so it’s important to avoid toxins like these during pregnancy. So, let me ask you….how are you going with these seven dietary strategies?
Honestly. I find that most mums-to-be have great intentions, but discover that it’s harder than they thought to eat well during pregnancy – especially when you’re exhausted. That’s why it’s essential to put together a pregnancy meal plan and to get support to keep you on track during this incredibly important time.
I’m here for you, so don’t feel like you need to do this alone. Make sure that you connect with me for support to eat well during your pregnancy.
And, as this is a really important topic, can I please ask you to share this article with any of your friends who are pregnant or trying to conceive? They need to know about this too. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.