Recent research has suggested that a gluten and casein-free diet can result in behavioural and physiological improvements for children with autism spectrum disorder.
The research, carried out by Penn State College of Medicine, discovered that autistic children with gastrointestinal symptoms experienced an improvement in behaviour when following a gluten and casein-free diet (casein being the protein found in milk and other such dairy products).
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder were asked about their child’s gastrointestinal symptoms, food allergies and diet.
It was discovered that children with autism spectrum disorder who follow a gluten and casein-free diet had notably improved gastrointestinal symptoms. Other behavioural symptoms also seemed to show improvement when compared to children whose gluten and casein intake was not depleted.
The experts suggest that gluten and casein-derived peptides cause an immune response in children with ASD, with others proposing that the peptides could very well trigger gastrointestinal symptoms and behavioural problems.
Parents who only implement this diet on their child for 6 months less, however, will find that the diet is less beneficial. This will also apply to parents who only eliminate either gluten or casein from their child’s diet and not both.
It is also possible that there are other proteins, such as soy, that are problematic for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Despite these positive findings, researchers admitted that more research needed to be done. Whilst some individuals and parents of children with autism report benefits from following special diets such as these, caution should still be exercised as there has not been enough scientific research investigating the link between autism and food intolerances, with benefits ranging from individual to individual.
Parents should exercise caution when thinking about changing their autistic child’s diet, asking themselves whether the invention is for the symptoms or actually providing their child with a better quality of life.
Casein-free foods consist of the milk protein casein being removed from dairy products, whilst gluten-free foods contain no wheat, barley, rye, oats or other such food products made from grains.
In children with gastrointestinal problems, ‘casomorphines’ can reduce the desire for social ineractions, block pain messages and encourage confusion. Milk proteins can be a key source of these casomoprhines, The idea is that by eliminating them, autism spectrum disorder may improve as a result.
Written by Dane Cross on behalf of Autism Care UK.
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