I find the possible connection between autism and diet fascinating. Because of my own experience with celiac disease, I know what food can do to one’s (my) brain. Many parents, researchers and doctors report that children with autism have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behavior after gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley & rye) and casein (a protein found in milk) were removed from their diets.
Autistic behaviors can include:
- Poorly developed or delayed language skills, or speech pattern abnormalities
- Failure to follow directions or respond to own name
- Lack of need for socialization, prefers to play alone, seems to be in own world
- Inability to make friends, not interested in other children
- Repetitive or odd body movement patterns (hand-flapping, rocking)
- Ritualistic behavior; child gets “stuck” doing the same thing over and over
- Lack of, or poor, eye contact
According to studies, autistic children appear to have more gastrointestinal symptoms than children without autism, and that these problems improved on the diet. Researchers found that these children have permeable intestinal tracts (often referred to as ‘leaky gut’), and cannot properly digest gluten and casein proteins. The proteins enter the bloodstream before they are fully broken down and act like morphine in the body. These drug-like substances alter the person’s behavior, perceptions, and responses to his environment, thus causing behaviors which have been classified as autism.
The medical community is still researching the effectiveness of the gluten-free, casein-free diet in the treatment of autism, but there are many stories from parents who see the changes occur in their children. While this dietary treatment may not be effective for all autistic children, it certainly seems like a good idea to try the gfcf diet. Whether you have a personal experience with autism or not, you won’t believe these incredible diet success stories written by parents of autistic children.
For more information on autism and diet, visit these website pages:
- Autism Research Institute – ‘Leaky Gut’ and the Gluten- /Casein-Free Diet
- Autism Network for Dietary Intervention – Dietary FAQ
- AutismInfo.com –Diet and Autism
- AutismWeb – The Truth About the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet for Autism and PDD
- TACA – Gluten Free / Casein Free (GF CF) Dietery Intervention
There are lots of other websites and blogs dedicated to the topic of autism, as it is a growing problem. Feel free to add a comment with other sites you recommend.
Related reading: Gluten Affects Learning and Behavior