Nutrition & Food 04 May 2022

5 Lesser Known Health Conditions in NDs You Can Improve via Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes

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Do you get brain fog over parts of the day? Ever wondered why there seems to be a trend where autistic kids tend to have digestive issues like bloating, constipation or poor appetite? Most of these are health conditions caused by nutritional deficiencies and can be improved by nutritional and lifestyle changes. Read on to discover some health conditions in NDs that can be improved by nutrition.

Neurodivergence impacts not only how our brain works and learns. Its symptoms can also manifest as physical health conditions due to nutritional deficiencies. Often treating neurodivergence should encompass an all round health approach, where we should look at our mental, physical, emotional and psychological health in a holistic manner to increase the chances to find successful treatment strategies. 

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Below are some common (and lesser known) physical health conditions that can occur in neurodivergents. Symptoms to look out for and the nutritional deficiencies that cause this as a starting point to devise treatment strategies. 

1. Pyrrole Disorder (Pyroluria or Pyrroles)

When our blood over-metabolises hemoglobin and creates more hydroxyhemopyrolin-2-one (HLP), it absorbs extra zinc and vitamin B6, which leads to higher levels of copper. 

Some common symptoms: Anxiety, depression, nausea, light and noise sensitivity, irritability, anger and explosive tantrums, skin issues, early graying hair, insomnia, trouble with recalling dreams, digestive symptoms such as IBS, irregular bowels, tummy pain, bloating, poor appetite and and more.

Deficiencies: Zinc and vitamin B6 deficiencies, as well as heightened levels of copper (higher levels of copper are important because of its balance with zinc. That imbalance must be corrected by raising zinc and vitamin B6 while lowering copper to treat Pyrroles’ symptoms).

Linked to: ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, dyslexia, anxiety, depression, Down’s syndrome, schizophrenia, learning differences, bipolar, and others. Not exclusive to neurodivergents. 

2. Eating Disorders

Restrictive food consumption, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other eating disorders are biologically based and accompany an extreme focus on body shape, weight, and food choices. They are a serious threat to life, and impair daily functions.  

Some common symptoms: Drastic weight loss, distorted body image, secretiveness about food consumption, fatigue, anxiety, organ failure, changes in hair, skin, and nails, infertility, and more. It’s important to remember that different eating disorders can have very different symptoms

Deficiencies: Both macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies, including fats, proteins, carbohydrates, zinc, folate, Omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin B12, probiotics, thiamin, and more. 

Linked to: Autism, sensory processing disorder, dyslexia, anxiety, depression, learning differences, ADHD, and others. Not exclusive to neurodivergent individuals.

3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A long-term condition with a range of symptoms, particularly extreme tiredness. It can impact anyone, although it’s more common in women and often starts between 20 to 40 years old.

Some Common Symptoms: Concentration and memory problems, reduced cognitive function, trouble sleeping, feeling tired even after resting, heart palpitations, headaches, body aches, exhaustion all the time (especially after exertion), and more.

Possible Deficiencies: Zinc, B vitamins, sodium, vitamin C, magnesium, L-tryptophan, L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, essential fatty acids, and others.

Linked to: ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression and others. Not exclusive to neurodivergent individuals.

4. Anemia

Red blood cells struggle to carry oxygen through the body with hemoglobin, whether it’s due to insufficient iron or B12 and folate, sickle cell anemia, or other related conditions. 

Some common symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, lack of energy, headaches, food tastes unusual, issues with vision, red or sore tongue, pale skin, heart palpitations, hair loss, pins and needles, muscle weakness, and more.

Possible Deficiencies: Iron, B12, and folate

Linked to: ADHD, autism, learning differences, and more. Not exclusive to neurodivergent individuals.

5. Gastrointestinal Issues

A wide range of health conditions both functional and structural in this category, but they all bring together the gut-brain-microbiome relationship.

Some common symptoms: Constipation, diarrhea, alternating between constipation and diarrhea, bloating, gas, pains and cramps, distended abdomen, intolerances and allergies, and more.

Possible Deficiencies: Magnesium, fiber, and iron 

Linked to: Autism, eating disorders, ADHD, anemia, depression, anxiety, and more.

Tips to Manage Physical Health Conditions

  1. Work with Specialists: Work with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying causes for the symptoms your child or you experience, whether it’s a stool, blood, or urine sample analysis. These biochemical tests can often give you the information you need if you know what to look out for specifically.
  2. Nutritional Supplementation for Mineral Deficiencies:  Bringing the nutrient levels back up to the expected range can make a big impact. For example, many ADHDers have iron deficiencies and can experience symptoms increasing in severity with the disparity of iron levels. Keeping a balanced diet with iron, such as eggs, nuts, fish and beans can help combat symptoms of ADHD. For the learning differences and other conditions that are impacted by deficient essential fats and Omega-3s, it is important to make sure we are getting the right amounts of these fatty acids. Whether directly through foods like flax seeds, organic milk and certain fish, or through vitamins and oils.
  3. Adopt Holistic Lifestyle Changes: There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so a tailored all round nutritional plan mapped out with professionals is crucial to reducing stress and symptoms of neurodiverse conditions. Nutritional deficiencies can accompany or contribute to symptoms of neurodiverse conditions in the school, the workplace, or in everyday life.

More Resources and Support

Take a look at our resources and community to find what steps you can immediately start. An holistic health and nutritional outlook, with the help of your doctor or provider, is a great way to help counter symptoms of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. 

Do you have any questions or tips from an experience with neurodivergence or with nutritional deficiencies you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about them! We’d also love to know if there are any particular tools you’d like to read or have added. Check out our article on nutritional supplementation in different neurodivergence too. 

Join the Community

Download the app to access more specialist advice, community support and wellbeing tools.

Join today as a Contributor member to gain free* access!

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*Free access, in return for contributing to Aybe on a weekly basis, for example by commenting, liking, responding to feedback requests. See Terms & Conditions.

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