About 9 months ago, I found out that I cannot tolerate eating gluten or dairy. The news was devastating at the time. Most of my favorite foods contain both gluten and dairy!! How could this be?? Well, turns out the foods that you are allergic or intolerant to a food are often the foods you like the most because your body releases endorphins when you eat them to fight them off, but it also gives you a little bit of a high. So all these years I’ve been pigging out on gluten and dairy and destroying my gut!
I followed the doctor’s orders and got rid of the gluten and dairy and starting feeling so much better! I also started taking thyroid medication due to hypothyroid symptoms as well. I started learning more about my health and about nutrition and came across the paleo diet. I tried it for 30 days and now I’m hooked! I’m amazed at how many of my medical problems seem to have disappeared since going paleo. I always just assumed I had unlucky genes and was just destined to suffer from these things the rest of my life, things like asthma, frequent respiratory infections, dry/sensitive skin, digestive sensitivity, etc. My husband also went paleo with me and started losing weight for the first time in a long time despite trying several other diets.
So I got to thinking,
If cutting out foods like grains, sugar, and processed foods can do this much for my health, could it be possible that it could help our children with speech delays or language delays as well? Do special diets help children with speech delays?
I started looking for research.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find any studies about the effects of changing a child’s diet on speech and language development in particular. It seems that we require more research to be done in this area! However, even though there is currently no research which specifically links diet with speech delays or language delays, there is much information that supports why changing your child’s diet could help improve his ability to learn and develop better speech and language skills. Keep in mind, these suggestions have not specifically been backed by research so there are no guarantees that this would work for your child. These are merely ideas if you are searching for other ways you can help your child.
Undetected Food Sensitivities and Speech Delays
Many people have food sensitivities that are not discovered until they get severe enough to be noticed or warrant testing. However, a 2004 study indicated that children with undetected food sensitivities or allergies may be at a higher risk for frequent ear infections, which often causes speech delays and language delays.
Source: Aydogan, B. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, June 2004; vol 130: pp 747-750.
Diet Changes and Autism
James Adams of the University of Arizona reviewed 150 studies about diet changes and autism. He found that the studies showed that changing the child’s diet improved the child’s condition in many cases. Here is the data he put together:
Source: Adams, J. B. (2013). Summary of dietary, nutritional, and medical treatments for autism based on over150 published research studies. Informally published manuscript, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Retrieved from http://www.laurapower.com/AutismTreatment 2013.pdf
Making Dietary Changes for Your Child with Speech Delays
If you would like to change your child’s diet to see if it impacts his/her speech/language development, there are many different ways to do this. Richard Layton, MD, a doctor who has more than 30 years of experience in pediatrics and integrated medicine, suggests taking a step-by-step approach to making dietary changes to help children with speech and language delays. Here is what he wrote for Advance Magazine:
“Biomedical interventions can help not only children with autism, but those with expressive and/or receptive language disorders, associated sensory integration (SI) issues, and allergies/hypersensitivities. Through the assessment of diet, environmental pollutants, SI, possible allergy testing and immunotherapy, it is possible to treat developmental delays through a biomedical approach.
Parents could begin by evaluating their child’s diet and noting reactions and improvements. An initial recommendation would be to avoid all casein (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream) for one month, followed by a more restrictive gluten-free diet (no wheat, oat, barley, rye, spelt) over the course of a three-month period. A helpful book for implementing these dietary restrictions is Special Diets for Special Kids, by Lisa Lewis, PhD (Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, 1998).
In addition to a casein-free, gluten-free diet, some children respond well to a soy-free diet and others to a preservative-free diet. Additionally, one might experiment with a corn-free diet. The key is to take a stepwise approach by starting with casein, gluten and then considering soy, preservatives and corn as foods that could harm a child’s development and behavior.
Environmental pollution is also a major contributor to the rise in children with behavioral and developmentally impairments. The fact that allergies, breast cancer and diabetes have also increased make the chemical issue even more convincing. It is important for parents and doctors to evaluate the patient’s environment and eliminate any pollutants that may be contributing to a child’s developmental delays.”
Source: Layton, R. E. (2006, January 9). Developmental delay: Biomedical interventions. Advance Magazine for Speech-Language Pathologists, 16(2), 10-11. Retrieved from http://speech-language-pathology-audiology.advanceweb.com/Article/Developmental-Delay.aspx
Books About Diets:
If you are looking for great books on diet change, I highly recommend the following books. You can click on the name to be taken to the book on Amazon through my affiliate link.
- Special Diets for Special Kids, Volumes 1 and 2 Combined: Over 200 REVISED and NEW gluten-free casein-free recipes, plus research on the positive effects for children with ADHD, allergies, celiac disease, and more! By: Lisa Lewis
- The Primal Blueprint, By Mark Sisson. This is a great book about how to change your diet to a paleo/primal diet which eliminates many of the toxins that cause our children trouble. Nothing about special needs in this one, just the diet.
- Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids and Busy Adults, Second Edition by Connie Sarros. Cute cookbook for kids and adults
- Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen by Julie Sullivan Mayfield. My favorite allergen-free cookbook! So many great recipes!
- Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals by Silvana Nardone
In conclusion, I didn’t find as much evidence as I would like but there was definitely some out there that suggests that diet changes could be helpful for children with speech delays and language delays. This is where I ask for your help. Do you know of other research out there about diet as it relates to speech and language delays or developmental delays in general? Do you have a story about the effects of changing your child’s diet? Please comment below and share what you know so we can compile a list of resources for families who are interested in learning about this topic.
More Resources for Speech-Language Pathologists:
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