The University of California Davis Health System conducted a study with autistic kids born in the 1990s and noticed that they tended to suffer gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, food allergy, vomiting and the like. It is felt that persons suffering PDD (pervasive developmental disorders) and autism may have problems digesting gluten and casein as these substances form peptides that act much like opiates within the body.
It is not an allergy or sensitivity to these foods. It is largely due to their inability to properly break down certain proteins. This results in altered behavior, perception and responses. These findings have recently been confirmed by researchers at Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho Clinical Diagnostics. In fact research done in the US and Europe reports that in a significant number of autistic children, their urine was noticed to contain peptides.
When children with autism are given a diet free of gluten and casein, they are likely to show reduced symptoms and improved social and cognitive behaviors and speech. Eliminating gluten and casein from the diets of autistic children has shown improvement, ranging from mild to tremendous. But there is a lot of skepticism about whether a gluten and casein free diet (GFCF diet) can help at all since clinical trials have not been conclusive. While there are reports of parents having reported improved eye contact and better behavior, others have noticed minor or no difference at all.
Gluten is found in wheat and most grains, starches, malt etc. Casein is found in milk and milk based products like cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt and whey. It is indeed a hard task to work on a diet that is completely free of gluten and casein. Check for products that are gluten free targeted at those who suffer gluten intolerance as in Celiac Disease. These days the products also come in casein-free options.
Consult your physician before you embark on a GFCF diet. Ensure that the child gets sufficient fiber, vitamins and minerals. Foods that come within a GFCF diet include eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, rice, quinoa, potato, soy, fruits, vegetables, oil and corn, among others.