Why Some ASD Children Benefit from a Gluten & Casein Free Diet

"I have a recently diagnosed son and have just joined this site. Why all the talk about a gluten free and casein free diet for children with ASD? Just curious."

There is a body of research that suggests that diet can affect a child's behavior. Allergic reactions to certain foods and sensitivities can make it worthwhile to monitor your son's diet and his reaction or subsequent behavior. Gluten and casein are two ingredients that are getting a lot of attention in the autism community.

Some parents, doctors and researchers say that children with ASD have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behavior after these substances were removed from their diet. Some parents report no benefits from the diet.

Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains, including oats, rye, barley, bulgur, durum, kamut and spelt, and foods made from those grains. They are also found in food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, soy sauce, flavorings, and artificial colors and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins.

Casein is a protein found in milk and products containing milk, such as cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, whey and even some brands of margarine. It also may be added to non-milk products such as soy cheese and hot dogs in the form of caseinate.

The theory is that some kids with autism can't properly digest gluten and casein. As a result, this may alter the child's behavior, perceptions, and responses to his environment. Research in the U.S. and Europe has found substances with opiate activity in the urine of a significant number of children with autism. A doctor can order a urinary peptide test that can tell if proteins are not being digested properly in a child.

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