Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Autism and Gluten-Free Diet

There has been a long-running debate in the Autism and Neurological Disorders community about whether adherence to a gluten-free and/or casein-free and/or whey-free diet is truly helpful to Autistic children and patients. We may soon finally see some definitive proof, or disproof, of whether the wheat-free, gluten-free, milk-free diet concept is advantageous or not, thanks to a clinical study underway at the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at Houston, TX.

UT Houston researchers are studying diet in Autistic Children to discover whether there is a possible link between gluten and/or dairy products. This is supposedly the first double-blind clinical study to determine whether science can back the anecdotal claims of parents that posit how removal of gluten and/or dairy products from their kids' diets brings about positive change and improvement in symptoms. The study employs some investigative experts in the fields of gastroenterology, psychiatry, and behavioral sciences.

Researchers acknowledge that a lot of children with autism present with gastrointestinal problems as well, but they currently lack any definitive scientific proof that these issues are directly related to brain development and resulting autism symptoms. So, this study will, in its first phase, enroll 38 autistic children between 3 and 9 years of age and try to elucidate the impact and influence that gluten and milk proteins effect on these children - if there is any correlation. Cosomorphin (a milk peptide) and gliadomorphin (a gluten peptide) are targets of the investigation, as they are thought to perhaps be related to behavioral changes in autistic children. Another aspect of this research will look into the intestinal permeability (leaky gut) issue to see how that concept interplays with autism and gluten / casein proteins.

I find this all quite encouraging, as it will certainly help shed some light on the impact, or lack thereof, a gluten-free diet (and/or milk-free diet) for a "treatment" for autism. I tend to favor science fact over just observation, though I give credence to both, and I especially find *proper* scientific study (like this one, which is using a double-blind placebo controlled approach) useful in understanding and assessing the prospects of any treatments for any conditions.

I have had a fair amount of our gluten-free dessert recipe books sell to parents that say they are trying a gluten-free diet for their children and to (or through) medical professionals, especially allergists (wheat and/or gluten allergy treatment), dietitians, and doctors that treat autism. Just the anecdotal evidence of a fairly strong correlation between autism and celiac disease, as shared between families that have claimed successful outcomes and improvements in autism symptoms by applying a gluten-free diet, has been enough to create demand for our recipes book among this group of people.

And, though I certainly enjoy selling our books to people with autism, so their kids can enjoy great desserts while being free of gluten, I would love for there to be some scientific proof (by way of this and other double-blind scientific diet studies) to back their decision to implement a gluten-free diet for their autistic children too. I'm sure parents of kids with autism feel the same way. Well, stay tuned and hopefully the study results will be forthcoming in the next few months!

8 comments:

Janet said...

I'd be interested to see what the study really shows and what the response is. Having had worked with children with Autism, two were on a gluten-free diet, I saw a significant change in them. One of the kiddos was on the diet already while the other was put on it half way through the year- and the change in him was DRASTIC! He was calmer and had a better attention rate then before. Can't wait for the results.

Karen said...

I'm glad they are conducting the study, but from my own experience, I say if a gluten free diet works, then do it. I have not been diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac, but I have had the symptoms of celiac for years. When my cousin was diagnosed, I stopped eating gluten and my health has improved immensely. I don't need a diagnosis to tell me that I am gluten intolerant.

Anonymous said...

I could not believe the difference in our child. It is like the fog was cleared from her head. Early into the change to GF we thought it wouldn't be a big deal to let her have a doughnut...BIG no no!! within 30 min. we saw a different child. We now have the whole family GF. we just hope research will prove it so people don't think we are crazy. i am sure you have heard the line "it's all in your head". all we know is we see the difference and won't go back!

skinner said...

This is very interesting! Our son, now nine, has been on a gfcf and sf diet since he was dx'd at 22 months. Yes, it's challenging but when he gets something with gluten it takes up to two weeks to get through some very difficult behaviors and loss of focus. He's non verbal so he can't tell us clearly if he's in pain or anything else. There is definitely a fog though. It's so awesome to find site like this! I just got Gluten Free Girl for Christmas and am being reinspired to try some new recipes. That's how I found this site. Thanks!

kari said...

i would love to talk with some parents of autism childern since im reading never even was this brought up to me but im begining to think my daughter needs to be tested that is now 4yrs old still cannot commuinicate with me or anyone yet you cannot understand her some words such as papa or ma ma she is very very demanding of me is very clingy to me. i have had her tested with intermediate school district and shes like at a 24 mo age span nothing up to her age so they have started her at 4k and seeing a speech theropist and i have an appt with a new peditrician and occp theorpy and physcial theorpy and speech therpist on wednesday just really bugs me that today i was watching judge judy and autism was brought up and how kids of autism dont speak well and my daughter has been very slow with all her month to month age to age stuff and i knew some devolpmental problems i thought were there i went threw a very hard situation when i was pregnant with her and my 3 other kids found out there father was cheating on me at 3months preg with her and than i went did the whole pregnancy and birth experience alone and was on anti depressents also after i had her still was physcially and emotionally abused by my ex husband, i am now divorced but am dealing with her problems on my own pretty much anyone have advice?sorry i was looking at gluten free diet also

David Marc Fischer said...

While we wait for study results, I strongly encourage families considering gluten-free diets for autism to do a full blood panel for celiac disease first, while the patient is still on gluten, and to spread the word about this through autism communities. The chance of having undiagnosed celiac disease is at least comparable to the chance of having autism, and the pediatric symptoms of celiac disease can be similar to those of autism. Furthermore, neurological conditions may be traceable through celiac disease tests for anti-bodies results even if the diagnosis does not turn out to be celiac disease. A positive diagnosis can also lead to other family members taking measures to improve their health.

Lars said...

James Watson, the guy who helped discover the structure of DNA, thinks that two extremely intelligent parents shouldn't marry each other because it often produces an autistic child due to DNA. The guy has been called sexist, racist... he has a video on Google Videos by the way if anyone interested in checking his stuff out. He calls it the "male brain" which is why it's considered sexist by some. His claim is that DNA is responsible for most of autism.

GSMom said...

Several members of our family have celiac and we enjoy Gudernoobs by WooHoo Foods as a tasty snack or breakfast. They are great for anyone even if you're not sensitive to gluten. They are raw and have 375mg of omega-3s too.