It has been hypothesized that autism can be aggravated by food products of gluten and casein. Based on this hypothesis, diets that eliminate foods containing either or both, are widely promoted, and many testimonials can be found describing benefits in autism-related symptoms, notably social engagement and verbal skills.
Science, unfortunately, has yet to obtain the same results.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats, as well as in some food colorings and flavorings.
Casein is a protein found in milk, butter, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. It is also in many processed foods.
The theory behind the GFCF diet for autism goes back to the 1960’s. It’s based partly on the notion of food sensitivity or food allergy, and partly on the ‘Opioid-Excess Theory’.
When it comes to gluten or casein sensitivity, the philosophy is that sensitivity creates digestive discomfort and pain. Nonverbal children are unable to say that they are in pain, so they communicate it in the one way they know how – behavior. Highly verbal children can also have this pain and may be equally as unable to articulate any discomfort they may be feeling. The theory is that by eliminating the pain, overall health and behavior improves.
The Opioid-Excess Theory believes that the peptides our intestinal system produce from gluten and casein may leak out of the intestine and into the bloodstream, where it has a ‘drug-like’ effect on the brain. By decreasing the intake of gluten & casein, which then decreases the opioids reaching the brain, detoxification and improved behavior & health may occur.
While some physicians consider a change in diet as one of the most accessible things a parent can try, other physicians feel strongly that diet change offers few or no positive benefits.
Sometimes, allergy testing can confirm a gluten or casein allergy or sensitivity.
Families that have put this into practice have reported either significant improvement, or no noticeable change.
Anyone considering such changes should discuss these options with a physician, and / or a nutritionist.
Here is a balanced article we found that explains more.
Here is information on preparing to implement a GFDF diet.
Here is information on dietary changes, as presented by WebMD.
Please note: This information was compiled by a parent volunteer from public sources, and is not intended to be medical or legal advice.