5 Foods That Can Make Autism Worse

Having seen more than 1,000 patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Amen Clinics, one of the first lessons we learned is that the condition is not caused by one specific thing in the brain; there are actually 8-10 different factors that influence abnormal brain function.

For some with ASD, we see brains that are wildly overactive – often due to an inflammatory process. For others, we see brains with dramatic under-activity, that may be due to a toxin or some type of insult or injury to the brain.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to look at brain function when coming up with a treatment plan for ASD. Throwing medication-tipped darts in the dark can hurt people. But there is one thing that ALL people with ASD should do regardless of whether their brains are overactive or under-active…eliminate anything that can hurt their brain.

Along those lines, it is important to realize that the food you eat is either medicine or it is poison. Here are the top 5 foods to avoid as they can make ASD worse.


When casein (one of the proteins in dairy) mixes with stomach acid, it produces something called an exorphin. Exorphins bind to the opioid receptor sites and can result in a myriad of troubles – brain fog, spaciness, inability to concentrate, and a numbness to pain, just to name a few.

In our experience, when people with ASD removed dairy from their diet, they began talking more, their hyperactivity was reduced, and bowel problems were resolved.


A mixture of proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, gluten can increase inflammation when ingested. In fact, your body can create antibodies to gluten which can fire up, or inflame, your brain.

Gluten seems to particularly negatively affect the functioning of the cerebellum. Through our imaging work, we have discovered that those with ASD already often have decreased functioning of their cerebellum – consuming gluten can just make it much worse.


Eighty-five percent of the corn raised in the United States is raised with pesticide. Additionally, it has the most unhealthy fatty-acid profile of any grain…yes, you read that right, GRAIN. Corn is NOT a vegetable. Corn has been found to be a breeding ground for as many as 22 different fungi. There is simply nothing truly beneficial and many potentially harmful things that can come from eating corn.


Not only is sugar pro-inflammatory, it also increases erratic brain cell firing and it is very addictive. For many folks with ASD, it is likely that they had some type of insulin to their brain so when they consume sugar, the damage from the insulin is just magnified.

Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates and increasing lean protein can dramatically improve concentration and judgment, and decrease impulsiveness.


While these things are not really “foods”, they are unfortunately in so many food products that we wanted to list them here. Avoid all additives, preservatives, dyes and artificial colors, artificial flavorings, and artificial sweeteners.

Autism is a multi-faceted and misunderstood condition; Amen Clinics can help decipher the right treatments and protocols. If you would like to learn more, please visit us online or call 888-288-9834.


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  1. E Mahlmann says:

    Where did those statistics come from on corn? Never heard such ludicrous misinformation and statements after being in agriculture for over 25 years!

    • Lyndsi Nicole says:

      Corn isn’t even regulated by the FDA!! They’ve genetically modified it to have so much pesticide in it that it can’t even be considered food!!!! You should know this since you’ve been in the industry so long…..

      • E Mahlmann says:


        • Julie says:

          Careful, Mihman… your brain malfunction is showing.

          • islandergirl says:

            Mihman, wake up and look at the facts!! As a parent of a child/adult affected with autism, ai am VERY CONCERNED with all of this! Years ago, before all of the GMO crap, this was NOT an issue.

          • Bjorn says:

            As an adult with austism, all of your comments to Mihman are really embarrassing and make me worry for your children.

          • Meg Kapp says:

            brainwashed do some real research and stop believing all the garbage the pesticide industry is selling their in it to make a profit they do not care about anyone’s health

  2. Dee says:

    This article by Dr Axe is a good one on corn Non GMO corn like your corn on the cob (I grow my own) is probably not going to be too bad, (but the article is referring to autism / gut health to avoid all together and I’m certainly not disputing that) but all the over-processed garbage / exploitation that is produced today (corn produce) is where the problem really starts and where it is definitely considered a grain/allergen. Corn products have been a staple in diets in Italy (polenta), Mexico and poorer nations etc for centuries, however how it has been exploited today is a different story which means we have to really exercise our rights as consumers and smarten up with our purchases. Corn products today have become a sneaky ingredient found in so many products unnecessarily. I don’t have autism (compassion to those who do) but I have had gut issues such as leaky gut so avoid most corn products now that I’m (mostly) healed. I may occasionally have a non GMO corn on the cob very rarely and in a social setting, but if my symptoms come back, I make changes and note potential allergens (what triggered it). This is a good article to offer help and awareness to those with autism, or for a carer of someone with autism. I also don’t know if this is correct, but I don’t mind so much when travelling in EU to have a little bit of corn product bcos it’s not like the super exploited grain that it has become in the US. Hopefully, with more people taking a stand on our beautiful planet that things can do a turn around with GMO foods – as in abolish them and nit over exploit. Perhaps we would then see a decrease in the world with autism and the like.

    • Kirstin Mae says:

      Lol all corn is GMO. Real non GMO corn was “at least 7000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte. Teosinte looked very different from our corn today. The kernels were small and were not placed close together like kernels on the husked ear of modern corn.” If that’s what you mean by non GMO, cool. If not then I’m sorry to say all “corn on the cob” is GMO. It was genetically modified by selective breeding. Scientists today is using the very same concept except faster in a laboratory instead of hand rubbing plants together or relying on bees. 🙂

      • MaryEllen Cox says:

        GMO and cross-breeding are two entirely different things.
        Cross breeding can only happen in closely linked plants and animals.
        GMO is done between unrelated species.

    • Denise says:

      Corn protein is a problem as it can cause an autoimmune reaction. That has nothing to do with GMO!

  3. Michael Kingsbury says:

    This sentence above, in item #4 (sugar), “Not only is sugar pro-inflammatory, it also increases erratic brain cell firing and it is very addictive. For many folks with ASD, it is likely that they had some type of insult to their brain so when they consume sugar, the damage from the insult is just magnified.”

    You used the word ‘insult’ twice. Is this really what you meant?

  4. Lorna says:

    Could you please post the references to the publications that support these recommendations.

  5. Pat Bouwman says:

    After we removed gluten from my son’s diet, his emotional al


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