Recent studies have shown promise in the altering of certain dietary elements to achieve desired behavioral modification in those on the autistic spectrum. When discussing the gluten-free diet and autism and how they relate, it is important to separate fact from fiction so that conclusions can be based on actual science rather than guesswork and hope. There are no magic bullets in autism treatments but many parents and caregivers have reported successful behavior modification with the introduction of a gluten free diet to those who they care for.
The Gluten Free Diet and Autism
When this diet is selected, the practitioner eliminates the consumption of gluten, which is a protein that occurs in naturally in grains such barley, wheat and oats. In addition to gluten, the diet also calls for the elimination of casein which is produced in diary production and found in milks and cheeses. While there has been no solid scientific evidence that draws a correlation to a gluten allergy autism and its resulting behaviors, this diet has been recommended by The Autism Research Institute.
The gluten free diet and autism have been linked in a positive manner by the fact that many of those who suffer from autism also have gastrointestinal problems. These findings were based on a study performed at the University of Rochester, where researchers concluded a gluten free diet and autism were found to be beneficial.
Studies that concentrate on the testimonials of individual parents and caregivers cover a broad range of results. Some parents go as far as to claim a complete recovery form autistic symptoms, while other report no noticeable changes in behaviors or health. This wide spectrum of results has caused the diet to become quite controversial in the Autism community with many supporters and detractors all voicing equally strong opinions. While most of the evidence to support a claim that the two are related is anecdotal, there is enough of it that the issue is worth further exploring.
Those parents who have found success with the gluten free diet and autism point out that the diet is worth trying as little harm has been attributed to practicing it. One of the fears of the diet is that it can result in brittle bones if it leads to a deficiency on vitamin D. Boys who suffer from autism were already found to be at a greater risk of weak bones than those boys who do not fall within the autism spectrum. This fact along with the bone loss that occurs from eliminating casein has caused some concern.
The Gluten Free Diet and Autism as Related to Other Behavior Concerns
There has also been links drawn between the effects of the gluten free diet ADHD, celiac disease, autism and a variety of other dietary and behavior issues. The gluten free diet has many success stories in treating children who were hyperactive or suffered from oppositional defiance disorder. Again, there is little hard scientific evidence to back up these claims but there is an overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence offered up by parents and caregivers.
While many feel this is giving false hope, the parents who are advocating for these dietary changes claim they have the children and the behavioral modifications to prove their theories. The gluten free diet and autism are obviously linked even if science is not yet able to provide evidence of that link. Science has been able to provide some links between Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy or Celiac Disease which is the medically recognized allergy to gluten. The link is drawn between attention disorders that are the result of improper nutrition caused by the condition.