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Children With Autism Should Pass on the Wheat and Gluten
Approximately 1 in 250 children will be diagnosed with autism, and the frequency of diagnosis is growing by about 10 percent each year. With this disorder growing at epidemic speeds, doctors and parents alike are searching for new ways to combat and prevent autism. While the causes of this disease are vague and outcomes of conventional treatments are also uncertain, many are turning to a gluten/casein free diet as an answer to autism. In her book, Louder Than Words, actress Jenny McCarthy talks about her son Evan, his diagnosis with autism and her search for answers. Jenny has employed a gluten free diet (accompanied by medication, therapy and supplements) to help Evan overcome autism with amazingly positive results. Once communicating with only one word at a time, Evan is now fully conversational. He holds eye contact and enjoys life as a normal little boy. How is it that a gluten/casein free diet can help children with autism? No one knows for sure, but one school of thought is that gluten (a protein found in wheat and some other grains) and casein (a protein found in dairy) act in a way that’s similar to morphine on some children. Children with autism often have permeable intestinal tracts, or “leaky guts.” The weak membranes in the intestine allow these broken-down peptides from digested gluten and casein (which act like morphine) to basically get loose in the bloodstream. It either makes them lose control, or become zombie-like. How can a person know if the gluten/casein free diet will help their autistic loved-one? Research is still inconclusive about how this works - or even if it works. But there’s no reason not to try it and see if it helps. Because there are good food substitutes for the food that would become off-limits, there isn’t a risk of malnourishment by eliminating gluten and casein. It is recommended, however, that no child under the age of 5 go on a cold turkey gluten and casein-free diet, because it could cause withdrawal and worsening of the symptoms of autism. It would be better to slowly wean the child off of the newly blacklisted foods and introduce replacement foods over time. Begin by eliminating one source at a time, and give the new diet at least six months for results. A person suffering autism can also be examined for “leaky gut” first, but again, because a gluten-free or casein-free diet is not inherently unhealthy, it’s fine to try it and note any positive changes. Many parents who have incorporated a gluten/casein-free diet into their autistic child’s healthcare plan are swearing by the positive results they’re seeing. Children are communicating better, interacting more and functioning at a higher level. The medical community is looking closely at this alternative treatment option for autism and many doctors are adding it to their treatment plans for autistic patients. But it’s not a guarantee for everyone.