Goal For The Green

Para-education and green living information

What About Diet And Autism?

Aug-17-2008 By Barbara Zak

Autism is a complex neuro-behavioral disorder linked to early abnormalities in brain development.  The baffling odds of autism effects up to six out of every 1,000 children.  To break that down even further, it is one in every 150 children.  The characteristics are impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, and unusual or severely repetitive limited interests and activities.  They are locked away in their own little world, trapped to the world around them.

Expert theorize that it could be a combination of genetics and the environment, that are possible causes.  But, what about diet?

There are known differences in the central nervous system of a child with autism and a normal child.  At this time, there is no solid scientific proof linking autism to any dietary problem.  Some children with autism have gastrointestinal problems and compromised digestive symptoms.  Symptoms can range from constipation or diarrhea to a condition known as leaky gut syndrome.  What this means, is that a person’s intestines are very permeable, allowing extra-large protein molecules to leave the intestines.  Instead of excreting these molecules, some autistic children absorb these molecules into their bloodstreams.  When the molecules reach the brain, they create a state similar to a drug induced “high”.

In theory, when a child’s diet consists of mainly their preferred “kid food”, meaning mostly wheat and dairy, pizza, sandwiches, crackers, milk, ice-cream and yogurt, they are thought to be craving the the molecules that make them feel “high”.  It is thought that these children could benefit from the GFCF diet, (gluten-free and casein free).

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, and casein and whey are the proteins found in milk.  There are peptides found in both of these proteins, that are thought to create behavioral changes in autistic children.  There are neurotransmitters and neurorecepters in both the gut and the brain that respond to each other. Therefore, some scientists, professionals, doctors and parents believe that some children can benefit from the diet.

Gluten and casein allergies are common to many people, and produce the symptoms mentioned earlier.  However, about 20 percent of the autistic population suffers from digestion or gastrointestinal issues.  Many parents have chosen to remove the source of constant discomfort and anxiety.  This can mean removing wheat, dairy, soy, corn and even eggs.  As a result many have seen improved behaviors, better focus, and lower levels of anxiety.

Dietary intervention could be the answer or at least a “piece of the puzzle”, that can help some autistic children get on a pathway to recovery.  Many parents swear to what the GFCF diet has done for for their children.  But, more concrete evidence is needed.   There are at least seven studies currently being done at the University of Texas Science Center at Houston.  Some are double-blind studies and some are only for 4 weeks.  In all fairness, the studies on this population need to be conducted for 6-8 months to determine the best positive results.  All participants should also be tested for allergies, not just ones related to food.

For any of us, dietary change is a “choice” and a lifestyle change.  Dietary intervention for those with autism deserves careful study and consideration, not a quick study or a defeatist attitude!

  1. Linda Said,

    Are they getting any results from a 4 week study. Seems to me that your 6 – 8 monthis is the right way to go to see any results what so ever. Good post!

  2. Barbara Said,

    Hi Linda,

    Ya..I don’t think they are getting as good of result as are needed by only testing this out for 4 weeks. Any kind of change in routine or otherwise takes an autistic person at least 90 days or more to become accustomed to.
    Some parents that have used this diet have seen outstanding results. The problem is the medical community needs documented evidence to stand behind it as a good option.

  3. Janet Said,

    It seems a bit too coincidental that we have MANY more health issues as our diets have become filled with more processed foods, pesticides, and growth hormones in meats, chicken, etc. We might be paying a higher price for convenience than we think. Good info…. thanks!

    Janets last blog post..Dreaming: I’m the Boss of Me

  4. Barbara Said,

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, you are absolutely right. We should avoid all the things you mentioned and eat home grown, fresh or organic. It’s the only way to be sure of what you are getting!

  5. The Anti Hype at Guru Fodder Said,

    One of the challenges is that these children often have very limited diets (won’t try other foods) and removing those they will eat leaves little else!

    I’m convinced diet plays a part – there is certainly a heighten effect with certain foods – most kids exhibit a “high” on things like coke (drink variety) and “e” numbers but the impact on some children on the autistic spectrum appears to be greater than normal. Just a parental observation!

    The Anti Hype at Guru Fodders last blog post..Sylvie Fortin Puts Homer To Bed

  6. Barbara Said,

    Hi Mark,

    Yes, I totally agree with you about the challenges invovled with a very limited diet. When I first met my client when she was 13, (more than 10 years ago) all she would eat was bean burritos and chicken nuggets. Now, she acttually makes choices on where to eat out, what is healthy, and eats very little junk (her choice). She hates soda! It does seem, that removing some of what the diet suggests, would leave mostly chicken and rice, and good luck with the fruits and vegetables! Avoiding, what you know is a trigger, is probably the best choice in the long run.

  7. Teri Said,

    Some people believe it has to do with chemicals in the foods we eat these days. Also vaccinations that contain mercury which damages both the immune system and brain function at an early age for children. Detoxing with chelation has proven to work to clear out the heavy metals that may contribute to autism. It is definitely worth checking into and also juicing which helps get some vital nutrients down …a little easier.

  8. Barbara Said,

    Hi Teri,

    You are right… detoxing, chelation therapy, and juicing are all things that are good options to consider when dealing with autism.

  9. What About Diet And Autism? - Goal For The Green | Peacock and Paisley Blog for Art, Body & Soul ~ Alternative Medicine and Spirituality News, Coaching, and Products Said,

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  10. Barbara Said,

    Hi Peacock,
    Thanks for stopping by!