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gluten free diet for autism

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  • gluten free diet for autism

    Mr&Mrs poddy66 would like to know are there people who could share there thoughts on this diet for children with autism.
    Look forward to hearing your comments.

  • #2
    Re: gluten free diet for autism

    Well I suppose I could write at length here.

    Its not the autism that is at issue, rather does the child with Autism also have an intolerance to gluten?

    If so, then yes, a gluten free diet is appropriate but Autism is a complex and wide-ranging condition and applying broad rules is entirely a mistake.

    Each person with autism needs (like everyone else) to be treated as an individual - so you seek to meet their needs.

    We have found (for example) that because our son does not like the texture of meat we have to provide him with an additional iron supplement. We noticed improvements in behaviour when his levels of iron intake are about normal.

    This is not unexpected and similar results can be seen in children who are not autistic, but have a low intake of iron - in this case it was the low intake of iron affecting the behaviour rather than the autism.

    What complicates this is that the less appropriate behaviours are typical autistic behaviours (meltdowns etc.) and are sparked by the fact that his sensory dislikes that prevent him from eating meet are also a result of autism.

    I guess what I am getting at is that in our case, the behaviour is the result of iron deficiency. Autism prevents our son getting iron in the usual way that kids get it - our work-around is to supplement the iron.

    You need to determine in your case whether or not Gluten can affect behaviour - i.e is this a nutrition problem?

    Id be interested to hear more of the circumstances. As well as having a child with Autism I also work in the disability sector.


    • #3
      Re: gluten free diet for autism

      our son joshua is 6 years old, and wont eat fruit &vegies because of texture.far as meat goes he loves all types .loud noise upset him and crowds upset him and confined space.not knowing what he is really lacking has made me think .can food play a big part in autism.
      cheers poddy66


      • #4
        Re: gluten free diet for autism

        Hi poddy. Your question, "can food play a big part in autism" seems very broad.

        If you are thinking that diet may be the cause of some of the behaviours you describe, it doesnt seem a bad idea to experiment with the possible variables, in consultation with your sons healthcare professional.

        I used to work with a fairly large number of young adults with autism and the examples youve provided arent uncommon amongst a range of individuals. As grendel says though, it all comes down to the individual eg. where for instance one person might become upset in a confined space, another would find comfort in that space.

        Keep working with your support network poddy; keep asking questions; try small changes, carefully observe the outcomes, and hang in there! All a bit like trying to make a good coffee eh?!


        • #5
          Re: gluten free diet for autism


          I have a son with ADHD. One of the roads we went down was to determine if food triggered his "behaviour". We sought advice via the RPA allergy clinic in Sydney who placed him on an elimination diet. This diet is used to determine if you have issues with not only the additives in food but the naturally occurring chemicals as well (spag bol and pizza being two of the worst for this). The elimination diet is a long and laborious road but is well worth the effort.

          IMHO indescriminately deleting foods from anyones diet without advice from doctors can be an exercise in futility at best and at worst possibly dangerous to the persons health. I implore you to seek medical input before starting on this. It can no doubt be beneficial and you may well find a trigger or number of triggers that exacerbate any condition.

          I congratulate you on continuing to look for alternative ideas to help your child it can be a long and lonely road. I tried many "out there" ideas, mostly futile but, hey, that was one more thing we could cross off the list.

          May I suggest you do a heap of research on the net - there is plenty of information out there as well as lots and lots of forums where you can seek advice from people in similar situations as yourself.


          P.S. We had no luck with the elimination diet for my son, however I did find out that pork triggers headaches for me!!


          • #6
            Re: gluten free diet for autism

            Poddy, our kids are the same age - Junior Grendel Number One is also 6. Hes ok if the loud noises are in an open space, but noisy restaurants really break him down fast and hes none to fond of bright lights. We manage to go out to dinner with the family if we carry along his laptop and a set of over-ear headphones - this allows him to focus on the laptop screen and block out noise at the same time. Naturally however he doesnt eat much when we go out.

            His diet is made up largely of bread although lately Ham and cheese croissants have been added to the usual vegemite or Nutella sandwiches.

            He also loves coffee (go figure!). As for fruit - green apples (they HAVE to be green) are about his only adventure in that direction although at soccer the last few weeks he has tried the oranges - and keeps at them each week so we are hopeful hell like those. Also loves lemon juice (yay vitamin C!)

            Meat - only the ultra salty and firm meats, bacon and ham stand any chance, and then only on rare occasions.


            • #7
              Re: gluten free diet for autism

              Hello All,
              That was a good idea about the computer when going out. We have a couple of portable dvd players so I will try that next time. Joshua is not yet fully toilet trained that is something we are working on and the school he attends is also working on that as well. We had some terrific help from the federal government in regards to pull-ups whilst we are toilet training Joshua. It is called the CAAS scheme, the website is and is a continence program for children aged 5-15 years and over 65 years. The CAAS helpline is 1300 366 455 and you can discuss eligibility with them. Queensland also has a state based continence program, and I would imagine that other states have the same. We have found out the hard way about certain foods which have quite an effect on Joshuas behaviour, flavoured chips in particular, because of the flavour enhancers and also strawberry freddo frogs, make fairly significant changes in his behaviour. One way I have got fruit into Joshua is to make up frozen iceblocks with fruit salad and fruit juice. They have proven to be very popular. We find that if we go out somewhere that ice blocks tend to settle him down. He also recently started to have this thing about salt, so I have had to put my salt grinder and shaker up high.
              Cheers, mrs poddy66


              • #8
                Re: gluten free diet for autism

                The CAAS program is likely to be shifted from the Commonwealth to the states at the end of the year but the conditions of the shift will be that it will be maintained at the same level. This is to improve integration with existing state programs so you should receive the same products as you are now with the same level of subsidy.

                We did iceblocks this year but Junior Grendel Number One spots bits a mile away so we just had to go with fruit juice in them.

                His texture sensitivity even extends to favourite treats like chocolate and if the chocolate has bits (like rice crisps) in it it will not be eaten. Rather perversely he loves chocolate crackles.

                Ive since given up trying to refine his boundaries!

                We are struggling with the school and his aid time at the moment. I hope your school provides a good environment and supports.


                • #9
                  Re: gluten free diet for autism

                  As Grendel noted above, there is potentially a great deal that could be said here.  A few thoughts from Mrs Scorpion to specifically address the initial query of a gluten-free diet for children with ASD.

                  The basis of the gluten free, casein free diet for people with autism is that in some autistic people, gluten and/or casein have been scientifically proven (via spinal fluid samples) to break  break down imperfectly and to form morphine like substances in the body.  These people are almost invariably marked by the fact that they do not appear to react to pain.  In these people, huge improvements may be seen when they are placed on a gluten free and/or casein free diet.  However, improvements in higher functioning people are much more subtle.  To be effective, the diet must be adhered to 100% of the time.  Quite small amounts of gluten and/or casein can remain in the system for up to 3 days, so no judgement can be made as to the effectiveness of the diet, if it is not completely adhered to.  As autistic people do not like change (including to diet) you usually only have one chance to prove to them that it works, so if you are going to try it, do it in school holidays when you can completely control their diet.  It is worth noting that the people who benefit most from this diet have greatly worsened behaviour when they first go on it as they are literally going through morphine withdrawal.  I have some knowledge of other dietary interventions (colours, preservatives, amines, salicylates) with regard to people with autism  if people are interested.


                  • #10
                    Re: gluten free diet for autism

                    Hey Poddy66,

                    (most likely off subject a little)
                    I have not had much to do with Autistic children but i can (you would obviously know this with joshua) assure you that they can do amazing things and they are special in their personality.
                    When they discover what they like best it will become their friend and they can be really happy with it. I went to a conference called Step To The Future and saw some amazing things for e.g a blind girl who was an amazing singer, and we saw a video on youtube about an autistic kid that was the most inspiring person ever and i wish i could meet him.
                    He inspired me a lot. Sometimes i think that children like him find what makes them happy and then cherish it like that kid in the video.

                    Thought i would throw that out there because joshua has yet to discover what he wants to do that will make him happy and never stop loving something he knows he likes. ofcourse the kid in the video had his family and family plays a big part.

                    Like i said i have had little experience with autistic children but that video inspired me and taught me a lot.

                    Thanks Poddy66.


                    • #11
                      Re: gluten free diet for autism

                      great reflections & thoughts HCK  

                      Kiss ya mum for bringing up a fine lad!


                      • #12
                        Re: gluten free diet for autism

                        Hick inspiring clip ,when i saw this emotion took over and i started to cry.Every new thing i see joshua do is just incredible its a never ending yourney.Hick thankyou for your utube awsome.
                        cheers poddy66


                        • #13
                          Re: gluten free diet for autism

                          Ive seen that video before.

                          I just watched it again and it brought a tear to my eye too.


                          • #14
                            Re: gluten free diet for autism

                            There is a reasonable summary on Wikipedia:


                            Despite the theory being around for 20 years there is no good evidence that it works. A Cochrane review of the evidence concluded that most of the studies in the area were badly flawed. A 2006 double blind study showed no benefit.

                            Testing diets is very difficult and expensive. Studies need to have a control arm and be "blinded" ie neither the participants nor the researchers know at the time of the study who is on which diet - it is the only way to remove bias. So you actually have to provide the meals for both arms of the study. Feeding 500 people for 3 months as well as paying for the research is all pretty expensive so the studies tend to be pretty small.

                            Another line of attack is to test some chemical effect predicted by the theory such as the idea that there are increased peptides in the urine of autistic children. That is a lot cheaper. There were early reports that this was true but they have been discredited. Recent studies dont show any difference:


                            Sydney RPA Hospital published a similar small study this year:


                            Some people might say that all this evidence is pretty thin and they want to give it a try just to be sure. Fair enough. But gluten free diets are not easy especially in children that are already fussy eaters. On the other hand if you accept the theory the problem is not caused by an allergy situation (as in Coeliac Disease) but a toxic metabolite then even an incomplete exclusion of gluten should show a benefit - that is you would not need to be as strict as a Coeliac would have to be. Coeliacs have to avoid as close to 100% as possible but maybe 90%+ reduction would be OK for Autism - and it is the avoiding of all those traces of gluten that drive Coeliacs to distraction. I have read suggestions that you need to be on the diet for a year - why is not clear. Potentially a few days would be enough for an effect so a trial of a few weeks seems more reasonable though perhaps starting and stopping the diet twice would be more convincing.



                            • #15
                              Re: gluten free diet for autism

                              Chris, that is a pretty good summary of what i have read over the years. Sometimes anecdotal evidence suggests a behavioural improvement but ALL the research papers suggest that further research is needed, it just seems that no one has yet been able to prove a satisfactory improvement on a consistent sample of children with autism.

                              Prescribing a gluten-free diet for all people with Autism on the basis of a handful of test samples is a bad idea.

                              A gluten-free diet needs to be prescribed when that is required by the individual. Our son has no problem with gluten, that doesnt mean another child might not and I am not going to tell a parent that they cant put their child on a gluten free diet.

                              If you want to try a gluten free diet please do so on an individual approach in close consultation with professionals who can conduct any tests you require.

                              If gluten is a problem for your child then a urine test will indicate this.