A gluten-free, casein-free diet is definitely recommended for children with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism. Here’s why:
The molecular structure of partially undigested proteins, called peptides, resembles opiates. These peptides have an effect much like opiates (i.e., morphine, heroin) in the brain and nervous system. Long-term exposure to these opiate peptides can have many damaging effects on the developing brain and also affects behavior, just as any narcotic would. The opioid peptides involved are identified as casomorphines from casein, and gluten exorphines and gliadorphin from gluten.
Children with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism usually have gastrointestinal problems (e.g., reflux, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, hiccups, etc.). Proteins found in wheat, rye, oats, barley and dairy products (gluten and casein) aren't completely broken down in the Aspergers child’s digestion process. These undigested proteins can leak into the bloodstream, potentially interfering with neurological processes by having an opiate-like effect upon their systems. These undigested proteins (peptides) can reach toxic levels, with the youngster seeming to "crave" milk and wheat products.
The results produced by the diet vary – but you can expect to see some result. Parents report a variety of outcomes such as:
- improved fine motor skills
- improved focus and attention span
- improved intestinal function
- improved personal hygiene habits
- improved sleep patterns
- improved social skills
- improved speech and communication
- increase in affection shown
- reduction of tantrums and irritability
With results like this, why would you NOT want to try it! A gluten-free, casein-free diet is definitely worth considering. You don't have to feel overwhelmed by the restrictive nature of the diet. Simply start slowly and eliminate one group (either gluten or casein) at a time. Once you're comfortable without wheat or dairy products, then you can tackle the next element. If you see a desirable result from eliminating one component, you may decide not to go any further. Simply substituting gluten-free flour in all recipes can be a highly effective action.
Many parents worry about removing wheat and dairy because these foods are the only ones their child will eat, and because prevailing attitudes in Western culture consider them an essential staple. However, Aspergers children who eat mostly wheat and dairy products may show remarkable improvement once a gluten-free, casein-free diet is implemented. Many families have found from experience that their children's menu options actually increase after the effects of eating gluten and casein have subsided.
A gluten-free, casein free diet usually has a detoxifying effect – not only on Aspergers children – but on the entire family. The benefits will be obvious. Some Aspergers children experience immediate improvement (although it may take as long as six months for gluten to clear out of the system - and one month for casein to clear). Advocates of the diet recommend trying it for at least a year, because it can take this long for some children to show improvement. The diet tends to make changes in the body at a cellular level and promote healing of the stomach and intestinal lining, both of which can take time.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook