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The Link Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Diet

The Link Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Diet

Imagine a world where the soft whirring of a breeze makes you feel uncomfortable, as if you’re being hurt.

Imagine not being able to bear the sound of laughter. Imagine not being able to dip your toes in cold waves because the temperature, texture, and other sensations are just too overwhelming.

This is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Being a neurodevelopmental condition. SPD causes disruptions in the normal processing of sensory stimuli. Individuals with SPDs may find sensory modulation, discrimination, or integration very challenging. 

SPD can manifest in various ways such as heightened sensitivity (hypersensitivity), reduced sensitivity (hyposensitivity), or difficulty filtering out irrelevant sensory input like touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. 

Read more about the types of SPD here.

Although the primary treatment for SPD is sensory integration therapy and occupational therapy, research indicates that diet may also play a significant role in managing symptoms. Let’s explore this link between sensory processing disorder and diet, as well as sensory diet strategies for both children and adults.

What is a Sensory Diet?

A sensory diet is a carefully crafted program featuring sensory-rich activities and experiences that have been designed to meet a child or adult’s sensory needs and support optimal regulation. 

Just like how a balanced diet replenishes and nourishes the body, a sensory diet provides the essential sensory nutrients to support neurological development and sensory processing. 

Let’s look at the two main types of sensory diets for SPD:

  • Sensory Diet for Toddlers
  • Sensory Diet for Adults

Sensory Diet for Toddlers

A sensory diet for toddlers with sensory processing disorder offers a variety of sensory experiences, including tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular, and oral-motor activities. It also incorporates nutrient-dense foods that support sensory regulation and healthy brain development. 

Research indicates that whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and good fats provide essential nutrients to support healthy sensory processing in toddlers.

Sensory activities for toddlers

  • Tactile activities: Playing with textured materials like sand, clay, oobleck, slime, playdough or even tactile balls can help desensitize the sense of touch.

Our favorite messy play: Sensory bins filled with materials like coloured rice or beans, water, sand, or shaving cream. Little explorers can squish, squeeze, and explore different textures with their hands.

  • Proprioceptive activities: These include heavy works that require maximum toddler effort. Pushing or pulling heavy objects, using resistance bands, jumping on a trampoline, and other similar activities help improve balance and coordination. 
  • Vestibular activities: Swinging, spinning, rocking, and other similar activities provide great movement input, and support the development of balance and coordination/

Our favorite proprioceptive and vestibular activities: Make an obstacle course with tunnels, balance beams, and climbing structures. Toddlers can get down on their fours and explore.

  • Fine motor refinement: Art is the best way to improve fine motor skills. Let toddlers explore various types of art materials such as finger paints, playdough, etc. to engage their senses of touch. These activities also foster creativity and self-expression.
  • Food: Offering a variety of foods with different textures, temperatures, and flavors for toddlers is a great way to better their sensory regulation. When they use their senses of touch, taste, and smell it offers them rich sensorial experiences.
  • Stories: Touch-and-feel books, lift-the-flap books, and other rich-sensory books that have interactive elements can promote language development while also engaging children’s senses of hearing, sight, and touch.

Here are some more child-friendly activities for sensory processing disorder.

Sensory Diet for Adults

Sensory diet for adults encompasses a wide range of experiences that focuses on managing sensory overload, relaxation, stimulation, and self-expression. Let’s take a look at a few examples of sensory diet activities that adults can incorporate into their daily routines:

  • Mindfulness practices: Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided meditation can help reduce stress, promote relaxation,and enhance sensory awareness.
  • Sensory workouts: Sensory-friendly workouts such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi have been known to improve body awareness, balance, and coordination. These also provide vestibular and proprioceptive input.
  • Creative expression: Like children, adults can also benefit from painting, drawing, or playing a musical instrument to engage the senses and express emotions. Different textures, colors, and sounds can promote sensory integration while stimulating creativity.
  • Sensory self-care: A nice and warm bubble bath, aromatherapy, and massage with textured massage are some of the many ways to promote relaxation and reduce sensory arousal.
  • Nature walks: Leisurely walks in nature can engage the senses and promote relaxation in the most natural and peaceful ways. We learn to pay attention to the sights, sounds, and textures of the natural environment.

At Plexus, we take into account every child and adult’s unique sensory preferences, sensitivities, and developmental milestones. Our sensory parks and sensory integration therapy programs offer a variety of sensory activities in a safe and supportive environment. 

Sensory Diet Food

Brain-boosting foods that have been shown to support sensory processing and overall neurological function include: 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts) supports brain health and cognitive function.
  • Antioxidant-rich (berries, leafy vegetables, and bell peppers) helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.
  • Protein-rich foods (eggs, poultry, lean meats, and legumes) offer essential amino acids that support neurotransmitter production and regulation.
  • Whole grains (oats, quinoa, and brown rice) offer energy as well as help stabilise blood sugar levels. This improves focus and attention.

Diet can play a significant role in sensory integration. By providing essential nutrients to support brain health and sensory processing, along with sensory-rich foods and activities, individuals with SPD can better regulate their sensory systems and improve overall functioning.

If you wish to know more about sensory integration therapy programs, please reach out to our teams in Bangalore or Hyderabad today.

WhatsApp +91 89048 42087

Call +91 78159 64668 (Hyderabad) | +91 82299 99888 (Bangalore)


What foods should you avoid with sensory processing disorder?

Individuals with SPD should typically stay away from foods that trigger sensory aversions or sensitivities. These foods can vary greatly among individuals but generally include foods with strong flavors, textures, or smells. Additionally, processed foods high in preservatives, colors, and artificial additives can aggravate sensory issues.

Can you live a normal life with SPD?

With appropriate and timely interventions, SPD need not hamper the individual’s quality of life. Occupational therapy, sensory integration techniques, and lifestyle adjustments have proven to be extremely beneficial in managing symptoms and promoting sensory regulation.

Can diet help sensory processing disorder?

Diet can definitely support in managing symptoms. Nutrient-dense foods that promote brain health and overall well-being can also help regulate sensory processing and improve attention and focus. Individuals with SPD are also advised to avoid foods that trigger sensory aversions or sensitivities.

Will sensory issues go away?

For some, sensory issues may improve or become more manageable with time. But this is subject to receiving timely and ongoing therapy and making the requisite lifestyle adjustments. Early intervention, sensory integration therapy, and exposure to a variety of sensory experiences can help regulate sensory responses and support individuals while they navigate their environment. 

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