Ask DR ELLIE: Can I wean my autistic son of his awful diet?

Ask DR ELLIE: Can I wean my autistic son of his awful diet?

Ask DR ELLIE: Can I wean my autistic son of his awful diet?

My adorable 11-year-old son is autistic, and until four years ago he survived on only porridge. Now he eats pizza, fish fingers, waffles and broccoli. Fortunately, he also likes berries, pineapples and oranges. But I worry about his diet – and I feel as if I’m failing my son.

Children’s eating habits are a common worry for parents as we are so aware now of how important diet is in terms of long term good health. However, health is not merely down to diet alone – it is a part of a bigger picture. Exercise, sleep, genetics and lifestyle contribute to our risks of developing physical and mental health issues.

Some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have a restricted diet. This can be related to sensory issues: the sight, smell, taste and texture of food. Even the sound can have an impact for a child with ASD.

Rigidity around food can also be related to a desire for routine, the social circumstances of eating and the environment.

Rather than the focus being on what is being omitted, parents are encouraged to concentrate on what is being eaten with a food diary. This helps to make a true assessment and is worth doing over a two-week period. If there are more than 20 different foods on the diary, there may be little to worry about. Even a small number of fruit and vegetables will deliver vitamins and fibre.

Processed food choices can be fortified with vitamins and minerals, and processed fish will still contain omega-3 fats as well as protein.

health is not merely down to diet alone – it is a part of a bigger picture (stock image)

I’ve had terrible eczema for years and recently read about a link between an overgrowth of candida and skin problems. Friends tell me candida is also linked to other infections. How do I treat it?

Believe it or not, many kinds of fungus live on the human body, usually quite harmlessly. Candida is one of them: it’s a type of yeast that tends to live in warm, moist environments such as the gut, mouth and on the skin, in crevices, between the toes and in the armpits.

For much of the time, this isn’t a problem. But given the right environment, the yeast can get out of control. This is known as candidiasis, and leads to thrush in the mouth or genitals. This is simply treated with antifungal medication, and would rarely cause a widespread infection or condition unless the immune system is severely compromised from illnesses such as cancer or due to HIV, for example.

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In eczema, the skin can become cracked and broken, and not be the strong barrier to infection that it should be, so it is vulnerable to bacteria and yeast infections.

Candida skin infections in eczema can be treated by adding an antifungal treatment cream to the usual eczema-specific moisturiser.

A bacteria known as staph aureus is far more likely to worsen eczema than anything else. This bacteria is found on everyone, but with eczema an overgrowth can make the condition worse.

Dermatologists may recommend the use of ‘bleach baths’ to decontaminate the skin. This is usually done by adding 125ml of the baby sterilising fluid Milton in a bath containing about 60 litres of water.

Overgrowth of candida in the digestive system is commonly spoken of in alternative medicine and cited as the cause for many conditions, including skin and stomach problems. However, this is rarely backed up by scientific testing and is considered questionable.

Camilla’s right over fad fears

Can a high-fat diet of sausages and pork scratchings cure erectile dysfunction? Of course not. But when did scientific facts ever get in the way of a good celebrity fad diet.

Last week, advertising watchdogs slapped down radio host Jon Gaunt’s Simple As Fat plan for over-promising on the health front.

But this is just a drop in the ocean, as the Duchess of Cornwall recognised last week when she expressed concern about ‘Skinny Lizzies’ peddling fad diets to young girls.

Regular policing and tougher rules are needed if there is any hope of protecting the most vulnerable from this nonsense.

Therapy not an easy cure for the elderly   

Doctors were criticised last week for being too heavy-handed with antidepressant prescriptions for older people.

A study showed that the over-65s are twice as likely to be prescribed the pills as younger patients, rather than being referred for psychotherapy.

But this is not a case of doctors simply dishing out tablets – many of my older patients will not engage in therapy. It is not a comfortable idea for them, especially if they have other, complex health problems.

There are long waiting lists for therapy and many patients are desperate to relieve their symptoms immediately.

What to do about… 


An ulcer is a small break in the lining of the gums or cheeks. They clear up on their own after a few weeks, but in the meantime avoid spicy or salty food, and acidic drinks. Do not ignore ulcers that go on for more than three weeks – in rare cases they are a sign of mouth cancer.

Helping HAND 

Gadgets to make life with joint pain easier 

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Joint pain can make typing painful, so this easy system allows for a totally hands-free computer experience.

Speech recognition allows users to browse the internet, edit documents and post to Facebook via voice instructions.


Ever wonder why… 

It’s fun to feel frightened? 

It’s not only daredevils who are programmed to enjoy a scary movie – we all are. Scientists recruited almost 300 people who visited an extreme haunted house experience and measured their brainwave activity and performance on cognitive tasks before and afterwards.

Not only did mood improve significantly, but brain activity was dramatically reduced too, proving that the extreme fear had temporarily ‘shut down’ areas of the brain involved with computing negative emotions.

Researchers concluded that the attraction produces a brain response similar to running a 5K race or tackling a climbing wall. The challenge distracts the mind from any troubling thoughts.


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