Skip to content

Free 7 Day Gym Pass

Impact of Gluten on Autism

Impact of Gluten on Autism GFCF Diet

Recent research continues to find out that both gluten and casein are not the best things to include in our diets. Studies are finding that they may have an even bigger impact on those who are on the autism scale. If you are interested in learning more about the impact of gluten on autism, please continue reading.

Lower Digestive Enzymes

According to some studies, autistic children tend to possess lower levels of digestive enzymes and antioxidants. As a result of this, they may be more susceptible to food ingredients such as gluten and casein. Gluten is a protein found primarily in wheat, barley, and rye while casein is a protein found in dairy products.

Both of these proteins can cause digestive distress in even the healthiest of people. But for those who are gluten or casein sensitive or allergic, consuming these proteins can be dangerous or lethal. Gluten and casein can cause specific complications in the immune systems, nervous systems and digestive systems of those with autism.

Inability to Digest May Help Explain the Impact of Gluten on Autism GFCF Diet

Those with autism do not properly digest casein and gluten. You can find gluten in many foods that contain:

  • Wheat and oats
  • Rye
  • Bulgur
  • Durum
  • Barley
  • Spelt
  • And all foods made from any or all these grains

You might also find gluten in a range of prepared foods such as:

  • Malt
  • Couscous
  • Semolina
  • Soy sauce

Casein is a naturally occurring protein found in dairy milk. It makes up approximately 80% of the protein in cow’s milk. All humans need a balanced diet that includes certain levels of proteins. However, casein may not be the right one for your child. Among the many foods you might find casein are:

  • Milk
  • Whey
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream

You may also find casein in a variety of non-milk-based products. Be sure you read the labels of any food you are not familiar with. In fact, even if you are using foods you are familiar with, you should still read the label. You are looking for an ingredient that goes by the name caseinate.

GET RESOURCES FOR SPECIAL NEEDS

An Autism Research Institute Study on the Impact of Gluten on Autism

In a 2007 – 2009 study, the Autism Research Institute conducted a study regarding a gluten-free casein-free diet. In particular, the study’s main focus was on the impact of gluten on autism.  What the study found was that “substantial evidence indicating that contemporary autism is associated with systemic oxidative stress and neuroinflammation.” The study found that eating a diet that is high in either gluten, casein, or both could further aggravate these conditions.

These proteins cause systemic inflammation, but also interrupt neurotransmitters in the brain, which carry signals for thought and action. Doctors believe that children on the autism spectrum process the proteins and peptides in gluten differently. Research indicates that the brain may treat both these proteins like an opiate. This may cause a child to exhibit certain behaviors, especially those associated with autism.

From this and other studies, many doctors and parents believe a GCFC diet MAY help children with Autism experience advances in speech and performance. These changes occur after gluten once you remove gluten and casein from their diet. Moreover, they must follow a strict gluten-free, casein-free or GFCF diet. Not ALL children will have the same experiences, results will vary depending on the severity of your child’s ADD/ADHD. The good news is that gradually reducing and then eliminating gluten and casein MAY produce improvements in your autistic child.

Despite the Impact of Gluten on Autism a GFCF Free Diet is Not a Cure

It is important that you understand that a GFCF diet is not any type of cure for Autism. However, you may find it lessens the symptoms of Autism. You must also follow the diet for several months. Following it for only a few weeks will fail to produce the best results. It takes the human body a long time to remove all traces of gluten. Some children do experience measurable improvement in the early stages. The impact of gluten on autism varies across the spectrum. However, you should do your best to avoid it to stay on the safe side.

A Few Important Facts About a GFCF Free Diet

  • In an online survey from 2006, parents of approximately 27% of autistic children fed their children special diets, including one that is gluten and casein-free.
  • A 2012 study involving over 3,000 autistic subjects found that approximately 17% ate a special diet.
  • Approximately 7% of those living in the United States are gluten sensitive. This translates to approximately 20 million people.
  • The number of people in the United States who have Celiac disease stands at approximately 1%, which is about 3 million people.
  • The number of companies making gluten and casein-free products has been steadily increasing over the last few years. Today, you can buy cereals, breads, cookies, and many types of flour that do not contain any traces of gluten.
  • Many restaurants (including popular fast-food) now offer a gluten-free menu.

If you decide to follow this approach in an attempt to lessen your child’s symptoms, many have found the best way to start is by removing one food at a time. This may also help you identify specific foods that are causing the most problems. Many also suggest that you eliminate milk first, then begin eliminating gluten 2-4 weeks after you have eliminated all dairy products. This entire process can take up to 6 months to complete and remove the stored offending proteins completely.

The impact of gluten on autism may seem overwhelming at first, especially when you try to eliminate it from your diet.  That’s why we have a team of nutrition professionals who can guide you through this process.  Contact us today to set up a consultation.

Special Strong provides fitness and nutrition for special needs children, adolescents, and adults with autism and other disabilities. Through our online training platform, we also provide special needs fitness certification courses for personal trainers and service providers who want to work autism and other disabilities.

GET RESOURCES FOR SPECIAL NEEDS