Digestive function is the key to physical and emotional health. If your Aspergers youngster has gluten intolerance and/or autistic symptoms, chances are he has something called “leaky gut syndrome.” In a youngster with leaky gut, the stomach lining is more porous than it should be, allowing protein molecules to slip through the gut and enter the blood stream where it causes an autoimmune and behavioral response. The most common causes of leaky gut are parasites, low stomach acid, prolonged chronic antibiotic use and food additives and preservatives.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Aspergers kids with undiagnosed and untreated gluten intolerance commonly show these symptoms:
1. Difficulty in group games or sports: Your youngster may appear to be “cheating” on a board game or sport when, in fact, he can’t figure out the rules despite repeated explanations.
2. Inability to read tones of voice and body language: Your youngster doesn’t seem to “get it” until you’ve reached the end of your rope and begin yelling or punishing. This is because he is not picking up on your more subtle attempts at correction. After your repeated reprimands have been ignored, you finally yell to get through to your Aspie.
3. Non-sense talk: Your child’s attempt to communicate with you comes out in a string of unintelligible sentences, causing frustration and anger in both the youngster and parent.
4. Obsessions: Your youngster may go on and on and on about the same subject for hours.
5. Physical symptoms: Stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, chronic burping and/or passing of gas, chronic nasal congestion and/or postnasal drip, allergies and or “vague” or “drugged” look in the eyes are all common symptoms in a youngster with food allergies.
6. Poor coordination: Your Aspie may bump into and/or break things, but when this is pointed out, he insists he didn’t do it. This is true for your youngster as he may lack body awareness due to the brain fog caused by gluten allergy. He literally doesn’t notice his arm or leg hitting that priceless vase that is now smashed to pieces on the floor.
7. Self-destructive behavior: Frustration with being misunderstood and/or not understanding others may cause the youngster to hit or cut himself.
8. Social difficulties (e.g., lack of eye contact, inability to read social cues, nonsense talk, etc.) can be symptoms of gluten intolerance.
9. Staring off into space: Gluten has an “opiate” effect on the system of an allergic or intolerant person causing open-mouthed staring and disassociation. You may notice this is especially true a couple of hours after eating.
10. Trouble communicating: Your youngster may become frustrated when he can’t find the right words to describe something and needs to resort to pointing to an object he is talking about.
How your child's doctor can test for food allergies:
I. Obtain a detailed history and perform a complete physical examination
A. Formulate suspicion of food allergy based on history and physical findings
B. Rule out other causes of symptoms
II. Evaluate for IgE-mediated food allergy with skin prick-puncture tests or radioallergosorbent tests
A. Test are negative
1. Reintroduce the food to the diet
2. If the child has a history of significant reaction or a non¬IgE-mediated reaction is suspected, reintroduce the food to the diet in a physician-supervised or challenge setting
B. Tests are positive
1. Eliminate food
2. If the child has multiple sensitivities or an unclear history, perform open or single-blind food challenges
a. If the challenge test is negative, reintroduce food
b. If the challenge test is positive, challenge
1. Eliminate foods (if only a few foods)
2. If multiple foods are implicated, consider double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenges
a. If the challenge is positive, eliminate food
b. If the challenge is negative, reintroduce food
III. Diagnosis established
A. Educate parents about treatment and avoidance
B. Re-evaluate at appropriate intervals if tolerance is likely
How parents can eliminate the cause:
Get your Aspergers youngster on an elimination diet. An elimination diet is an easy method of figuring out what foods your youngster is reacting to.
For one week, serve only:
- Bottled or distilled water
- Brown rice (not enriched white rice which has wheat flour in it), Quinoa or Amaranth
- Fresh fruit (excluding citrus and any fruit that is eaten more than twice per week)
- Fresh vegetables (excluding corn, peas and beans)
- Organic chicken and turkey
For one week, avoid:
- All dairy products (use rice milk instead)
- All processed foods
- Bacon, sausages, tuna and any “prepared meat”
- Caffeine in any form
- Citrus fruit
- Food colorings and dyes
- Peas, beans and corn
- Soda or cola
- Sugar and sugar substitutes of any kind
- Wheat, oats, rye or barley
It is very important that there is no “cheating” during this one-week period. The culprit food has to be completely eliminated from the body and chances are, if your youngster has a compromised digestive system, it will take longer for allergens to fully exit the body so you’re left with a “clean slate” on which to reintroduce foods.
The best way to find the foods that will get you through this challenging diet change is to consult your local health-food store. Most specialize in gluten-free diets and will prove most helpful in this process. Once the one-week period is over, you’ll want to reintroduce foods. Remember to do this one at a time.
Continue to follow the elimination diet but now, reintroduce a food such as cheese and make a list of any symptoms your youngster has exhibited. If none, good deal! Two days later, introduce another food, say, wheat and note the reaction, if any. Then, try eggs. A couple of days later try nuts and so on. When you find the problem food, you’ll KNOW. The symptoms will return with a vengeance.
Just remember, your youngster may be allergic or intolerant to several different foods so when you notice a reaction, remove that food from the diet, wait a day or two more and reintroduce the next food. The most common food allergies/intolerances are wheat/gluten, diary, eggs, soy, nuts, citrus, sulfites and fish so you may want to reintroduce those foods first.
The elimination of food proteins is a difficult task. In a milk-free diet, for example, parents must be instructed not only to avoid all obvious milk products, but also to read food product ingredient labels for key words that may indicate the presence of cow's-milk protein, including "casein," "whey," "lactalbumin," "caramel color" and "nougat." When vague terms such as "high protein flavor" or "natural flavorings" are used, it may be necessary to call the manufacturer to determine if the offending protein, such as milk protein, is an ingredient.
Parents must also be made aware that the food protein, as opposed to sugar or fat, is the ingredient being eliminated. For example, lactose-free milk contains cow's milk-protein, and many egg substitutes contain chicken-egg proteins. Conversely, peanut oil and soy oil generally do not contain the food protein unless the processing method is one in which the protein is not completely eliminated (as with cold-pressed or "extruded" oil).
Elimination of a particular food can be tricky. For example, a spatula used to serve cookies both with and without peanut butter can contaminate the peanut-free cookie with enough protein to cause a reaction. Similarly, contamination can occur when chocolate candies without peanuts are processed on the same equipment used for making peanut-containing candy. Hidden ingredients can also cause a problem. For example, egg white may be used to glaze pretzels, or peanut butter may be used to seal the ends of egg rolls.
Fortunately, Aspergers kids often lose their sensitivity to most of the common allergenic foods (egg, milk, wheat, soy) in a few years, particularly with avoidance of the foods. However, positive skin tests may persist despite the development of clinical tolerance. Serial diagnostic food challenges over time are often helpful in managing these food-allergic kids. Unfortunately, sensitivity to certain foods, such as peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, is rarely lost, and sensitivity persists into adulthood.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook