Autism and Gluten Free Diet - Does It Really Work?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

 

Autism is a disorder that affects children and leads to difficulties with communicating and interacting in social situations. In order to combat Autism, parents of children with this disorder often turn to alternative treatments for a solution. One alternative treatment is the gluten free, casein free diet, which some parents claim has helped to decrease the symptoms of autism in their child.

The gluten free, casein free diet, also known as GFCF, involves eliminating all sources of gluten and casein from the diet. The belief is that these two components, which are found in many foods, are causing an allergic reaction in the child with autism and exacerbating their symptoms. By eliminating gluten and casein from the diet, the parents hope to see an improvement in the symptoms of autism.

Though there is no conclusive evidence that following a GFCF diet will result in an improvement of autism symptoms, many parents still decide to try. The theory is that children with autism do not process the peptides and proteins found in foods with gluten and casein the same as everyone else. Because of this difference, it is believed that the body reacts by treating these proteins like “false opiate” chemicals, resulting in certain behaviors in the autistic child.

Eliminating gluten and casein from the diet can be difficult because they are present in so many different foods. Gluten is typically found in many grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Many baked goods also contain gluten because it works well as a binding agent. Casein on the other hand is typically found in dairy and soy products. While it may seem difficult to avoid all of these products, it is possible with careful planning and knowledge. Many supermarkets and specialty stores for example now have entire sections devoted to gluten free products.

It is important to remember that when children are put on a GFCF diet, they are going to be missing out on key nutrients and vitamins. However, these deficiencies can often be made up with the use of supplements so that the child remains healthy. Parents who are interested in placing their autistic child on a GFCF diet should always consult with their child’s physician and a licensed dietician in order to be sure the planned diet meets all of their child’s nutritional requirements, otherwise this can lead to additional health issues.


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