Until a few days ago, if one told me that gluten and autism were connected, I would say, “Yes, as tightly knit as a fish and a bicycle need each other.”
Honestly, this is because my brother is autistic, yet I have never heard a thing about gluten (or casein) and their relationship with autism over the last fifteen years while watching my brother grow up. Anyways, now that we are done with the surprise bit – this relationship was first discovered by Kalle Reichelt when in his notes he made a mention of finding links between malabsorption and autism while similarly noticing that celiac children had psychiatric issues. However, evidence to suggest that going on a gluten-free and casein-free diet causes a relief from the symptoms of autism as well as improves social and cognitive behavior and speech is far from complete despite the ever-increasing popularity of this diet.
With all this in mind, one cannot help but ask the questions: Is there a relationship between autism and gluten? If so, how does the GFCF diet help in improving conditions in an autistic child?
The Relationship between Autism and Gluten
Some sources (such as several parents of autistic children) cite that the GFCF diet shows results whereas skeptics say that sufficient proof to indicate these improvements have not yet been proven. Yet despite the fact that there is no proof to substantiate these facts, several recipes that follow this diet have been published in newsletter, cookbooks and over the Internet.
However, there still is no proof that the relationship exists, other than a theory that autistic children process peptides and protein differently (while also showing higher levels of these peptides in their systems), which lead up to the symptoms of autism. However, despite conducting several randomized clinical trials, conclusive proof has not been found to substantiate the benefits of following a GFCF diet nor have they been able to establish the link between the two.
The GFCF Diet
In a nutshell the GFCF diet eliminates all forms of gluten (food containing wheat, barley, oats and rye) and casein (milk, yoghurt and butter) from the autistic child’s diet, which according to skeptics, involves eliminating almost every food available for consumption making it difficult for the subject to follow. In short, they say that the restrictions are impractical despite the fact that parents are finding changes in the social and cognitive behavior of their kids.
In a recent study conducted in 2007, there was no link to be found between autism and celiac disease. The results of these clinical trials has led experts to conclude that perhaps some autistic children suffer from gluten intolerance just as much as some normal children are, and the link between the doesn’t really exist.
On a personal note though, it would be interesting to see what my younger brother’s family doctor has to say about this at the next checkup, since we’re on a mission to help him further improve his skills that have improved so strongly over the last few years.