4 Reasons Why Protein Shakes Are Perfect for Autistic Children
Why Protein Shakes Are Beneficial for Children With Autism
Children on the autism spectrum tend to exhibit challenges with behavior, social interaction, sensory awareness and communication. Aside from these developmental issues, they often experience some physical symptoms too. Among the most prevalent symptoms are those related to gastrointestinal challenges, such as constipation, diarrhea and inflammatory bowels, according to a report from Frontiers in Nutrition.
The report explains that many children with autism have “fragile” intestines, which means it’s hard for them to digest solid proteins. As a result, their bodies are malnourished from a lack of essential amino acids, while their GI tracts are overloaded with undigested protein, causing the illness and discomfort.
As the parent of a child with autism, it can be frustrating to find a balance between getting them adequate protein intake and helping them mitigate these painful symptoms. A protein shake could help mitigate these challenges because they’re easier to digest, according to Lisa Gatti, owner of Culinary Therapy, LLC.
Digestion is just one reason why protein shakes may be helpful for your child with autism. Consider the other important benefits, and as always, we recommend checking with the pediatrician about whether this is a good solution for your child.
Protein Shakes Can Boost Metabolism
Children with autism are 5 percent more prone to metabolic dysfunction than children who are not on the spectrum, according to Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience. Since the metabolism converts food into energy that keeps their bodies functioning, a metabolic imbalance contributes to both physical and neurological issues.
These issues might include aggression, hyperactivity, impaired speech or motor-skills, behavior regression and GI abnormalities. This imbalanced metabolism is shown to often be the result of amino acid deficiency (lack of protein), suggests the Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease. Mitigate these challenges with the added nutrients and amino acids in a protein shake.
Protein Shakes Can Have Detoxifying Benefits
Many proteins have antioxidant properties, which means they enhance immune function and help the body become stronger against sickness and disease. Due to genetic coding, children with autism can suffer from oxidative stress - an out of state balance between antioxidants. The accumulation of oxidative stress in the GI tract has been linked to modifications in brain chemistry and increased severity of autism behaviors, suggests Frontiers in Psychology.
This can then obstruct the cognitive areas responsible for mastering basic psychosocial cues like eye contact, language, and empathy or emotional intelligence. For children with autism, oxidative stress will compound these issues, explains Behavioral and Brain Functions Journal. The antioxidants in protein can help with this detoxification process, though it’s always recommended to work with your doctor on a specific plan.
Protein Shakes Can Ease Anxiety Levels
Children with autism are highly sensitive to light, noise, touch and other forms of stimuli, which often makes them more anxious than children who are not on the spectrum. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 40 percent of children with autism struggle with an interconnected anxiety disorder. This can manifest through antisocial tendencies, irrational phobias, obsessive compulsions, fear of sensory overload, or depression.
One potential cause of children with autism’s susceptibility to anxious habits is an excess of the neurotransmitter serotonin. While serotonin chemical is necessary for balancing the mood state, too much of it, known as hyperserotonemia, makes it difficult for these children to process stimulation, according to the Journal of Neuroscience.
Protein smoothies can be of help here too because vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids have been found to help with and control serotonin synthesis. Many foods that are rich in these nutrients are perfect for adding to protein smoothies, like chia seeds, spinach, walnuts, cow’s milk and other fortified dairy products like yogurt. If you want to try smoothies, check out our awesome list of protein smoothies your child will love.
Please check with your doctor before supplementing with protein to improve anxiety levels.
Protein Shakes for Children with Autism
Children on the autism spectrum have unique physiological and developmental needs, but these don’t have to slow your child down. Check with your child’s doctor to see if supplementing their diet with protein shakes and smoothies can make a difference in their behavior, function and interactions with the world around them.
The key is choosing the best protein powder for your child’s shakes. Healthy Height is an ideal choice thanks to its healthy ingredients and lack of additives. Dive into the Healthy Height ingredients before purchasing your first bag and remember: even moderate strides in a positive direction will be major “wins” for you as a parent.