Could some cases of autism really be celiac disease?

Posted on January 5th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Autism, Celiac Disease | Read 6 Comments - Add Your Own »

There is controversy about whether or not a gluten-free and casein-free diet can “cure” autism. My personal opinion is that anyone who has a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder should try the diet. I am not saying it will be easy — but what if your child’s condition could be improved, or yes, even “cured” by changing what he eats? As someone who experienced radical changes in my health, both physical and mental, by eliminating gluten, I can’t help but believe that many autistic children would also benefit from dietary intervention.

If you want to know about how autism could really be undiagnosed celiac disease, click on the link to an article in the Journal of Child Neurology. The article, “Celiac disease presenting as autism,” discusses the case of a 5 year-old severely autistic boy who actually had underlying celiac disease. It was the nutritional deficiencies caused by celiac disease that led to his neurological problems. The authors of the article explain how nutritional deficiencies can cause certain behaviors.

In one paragraph, they state: “The brain is a biological organ that requires complex interaction of numerous biochemical nutrients to carry out physiological processes. Emerging evidence confirms that deficiency of assorted nutrients such as folate, vitamin D, or essential fatty acids may impair various biological processes required for normal metabolic and neurological functioning. Just like digestion and respiration, moods and thoughts have biochemical substrates; deficiency of nutrients required to carry out biological functions in the brain may result in neuropsychiatric syndromes like autism, characterized by disordered moods, thoughts, and behaviors.”

It makes sense!

This particular article references only one boy, but you can find many personal stories about the successes of the gfcf diet in treating autism in the Success Stories on

Another important thing to remember is that many people who test negative on the blood tests for celiac disease may still have a gluten sensitivity. I don’t believe that anyone should rule out a gluten-free diet just because of a negative blood test. That goes for everyone with symptoms or health issues, not just autistic children.

Related reading:
Autism and diet – what’s the connection?
Is the Media Fueling the Gluten Free, Casein Free Autism Controversy?
Gluten-Free Guide
Casein-Free Guide

Is the gluten-free diet torture?

Posted on December 5th, 2008 by Alison | Posted in Autism, Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, News & Research | Read 37 Comments - Add Your Own »

I am extremely annoyed by a recent article in Newsweek online where Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, is quoted as saying, “I don’t think people should torture their children unnecessarily,” referring to people who put their children on a gluten-free diet without a diagnosis of celiac disease.

While I highly respect Dr. Green and Dr. Fasano, both quoted in the article, I really think that doctors need to start thinking outside the celiac box when it comes to gluten. They know that 1% of the population has celiac, defined by a blood test and biopsy. But can they know for sure that the other 99% of the population does NOT have a problem with gluten? No, they can’t know this, and they don’t know this.

Perhaps the celiac blood tests are actually doing more harm than good to a segment of the population that has some form of gluten intolerance but not the strictly defined celiac disease. Here’s why: Someone goes to his doctor, gets tested for celiac, tests negative, is told he doesn’t have celiac and therefore can eat gluten, and is sent on his merry (unfortunately, not so merry) way. How sad for those people who would feel better on a gluten-free diet — but won’t try it because the tests and the doctors tell them they don’t need it, and shouldn’t go on a gluten-free diet… because it is torture! Because fibromyalgia, headaches, sleep disorders, learning disabilities, and rashes are much better than a gluten-free diet.

I really don’t understand why a doctor wouldn’t say, “Sure, try it. See how you feel and let me know what happens.” What could it hurt? And how about autistic children? Dr. Fasano is quoted in the article as saying, with regards to autism, “I don’t think there’s too much scientific basis to justify [the] broad intervention of a gluten-free diet.” So what? It’s not like autism is scientifically based in the first place… the medical community doesn’t know why it happens or why it is increasing, but it is. Why not try the diet? If it helps any autistic children, doctors should suggest it or at least not discourage it.

“I’d rather have chemotherapy again than do a gluten-free diet.” This is what a 65 year old man said to me today after I suggested that an autoimmune disease he has (polymyalgia rheumatica — the same one my mom had before going gluten-free) could be helped by a gluten-free diet. He had been through chemotherapy for prostate cancer. What? Someone would choose chemotherapy over giving up wheat? That sounds absolutely crazy to me… I guess people have different ideas of torture!

Want to read more? Here’s another opinion on the article from a mother of a child with autism.

Autism study finds no link with vaccines

Posted on January 9th, 2008 by Alison | Posted in Autism, Babies & Kids, News & Research | ADD A COMMENT »

Autism is triggered in children by mercury in a preservative that is used in vaccines — this is one theory about the cause of autism. Although never proven by any studies, the preservative in question, thimerosal, was removed from all childhood vaccinations in 2001. Now a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry concludes that exposure to mercury is not responsible for the increase in autistic cases. You can read more about the study in many recent news articles, including this one from the SF Chronicle.

What do you think? I know many parents do believe that vaccines can trigger autism. My personal opinion is that it is related to diet – see my past post Autism and diet – what’s the connection? And a related post that addresses the effects of the increase in processed food on our children – Why are food allergies on the rise? Whatever the cause, I hope that we as a society figure it out soon.

Autism and diet – what’s the connection?

Posted on August 1st, 2007 by Alison | Posted in Autism, Babies & Kids, Dairy Allergy, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

gfcfdietblue1.jpgI 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:

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