I Ate This And It Made My Stomach Hurt: Foods That Cause Discomfort For Kids With Autism

Does your child have autism and feel discomfort when eating certain foods? If so, you’re not alone; many people with autism have trouble tolerating common dietary items. These foods may cause stomachaches, or they may exacerbate your child’s sensory issues in some other way. By knowing which foods to avoid, you can help ease your child through the digestive process, resulting in better digestion and fewer uncomfortable reactions to food. Here’s a list of five commonly intolerable foods that may cause stomachaches for kids with autism.


There are many foods that can cause discomfort for kids on the autism spectrum, and dairy is one of them. Dairy contains the protein casein, which can be difficult for some people to digest. For those with autism who have a hard time processing milk products, this can result in stomach pain and bloating. Luckily there are plenty of substitutes for milk, including almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk or any other type of plant-based milk.

Gluten and Grains

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and all their products (breads, cereals, pasta) can be difficult to digest. The most common symptom of gluten intolerance is abdominal pain. Grains such as oats, rice and corn are also difficult for many kids with autism to digest. They often contain gluten-like proteins called prolamins that are hard on sensitive digestive systems.

Nuts, Seeds, Eggs and Wheat

Nuts and seeds have a high fat content and an allergy to nuts has been linked to developmental delays. Wheat is often contaminated with gluten, which can cause an autoimmune response. Eggs are also a potential allergen, as well as other types of protein found in meat or beans, depending on the individual.

Soy Products

Many soy products contain high levels of isoflavones, which can be difficult for some people with autism to process. These include tofu, tempeh, edamame beans and miso soup. I am personally quite sensitive to this ingredient and can experience digestive distress if I consume too much soy in a single sitting. As always, it’s important to try new things in moderation to see how your body reacts.

Chocolates and Sweets

-Kids with autism often have a limited diet, and those that do eat may have dietary restrictions.

-That being said, there are still some foods that should be avoided at all costs. 

-Chocolates and sweets are the big offenders on this list. They contain ingredients like artificial colors, preservatives, and flavor enhancers that can make symptoms of autism worse.

Fast Food (high in fat and sugars)

Fast food is often high in fat and sugar, which can be a major cause of discomfort. The foods can also have additives such as tartrazine, a yellow food dye that some children with autism may be sensitive to.

Artificial Colors, Flavors and Preservatives

A common side effect of autism is sensitivity to certain types of foods. Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives can cause discomfort for kids with autism because their bodies are not used to them. One way to avoid this is by reading the ingredients list on food packaging.

Citrus Fruits (Grapefruits, Lemons, Oranges, Tangerines etc.)

Grapefruits are a problem for many kids with autism because of their high acidity. Lemons, oranges, and tangerines can also be a problem for some kids due to the acidity. 

In addition to citrus fruits, other fruits that are common allergens are apples, bananas, kiwis, mangoes, pears, pineapple and strawberries.

Spices & Herbs (Chili Peppers, Cinnamon, Curry Powder etc.)

Many kids with autism have a heightened sense of taste and smell, which means that they are more sensitive to the flavors in food. In addition, children with autism may not tolerate spicy or acidic foods as well as other kids do. Some common triggers for stomach discomfort include chili peppers, cinnamon, curry powder, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Experiment with these types of foods by adding them to meals slowly and monitor your child’s reaction.


A child’s stomach is a very delicate and sensitive organ. When it comes to food, the stomach has two purposes. The first is to break down food into tiny pieces so that the body can use it for nutrients. The second purpose is to protect the body from things like bacteria, toxins, and viruses that are found in food. The stomach does this by producing strong acids that get rid of these harmful substances.

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