A well-chosen diet is key in the treatment of autism.
The most common dietary intervention in autism is abstaining from milk and casein.
Often parents bringing their children decide to use gluten-, diary- and sugar-free diets WITHOUT KNOWING the reasons for such a diet. They often confuse milk allergy with milk intolerance or milk indigestion, and gluten intolerance with celiac disease.
However, the diet needs to be properly adjusted to each case, and understanding its rules is the key to success. The word “properly” holds several important ideas.
Excluding gluten and milk from your diet right at the very beginning is an oversimplified method, which can lead to many mistakes. Also, it is not always a correct decision.
The effectiveness of milk- and gluten-free diet in treating autism is not always directly related to milk or gluten allergy. This intervention has been suggested by researchers because in many autistic children, milk and gluten form so called opiates in the GI tract, which affect the brain similarly to morphine. They are called gliado- and casomorphins, and they have psychoactive properties. Obviously, people under the influence of such substances have problems with cognition, learning and may be “out of touch.” Therefore elimination of these toxins plays an important role in the treatment.
HOWEVER YOU SHOULD NOT introduce this diet without the appropriate tests.
Before introducing the diet, child’s blood must be tested for celiac disease. Not doing proper tests for anti-gliadin antibodies, anti-smooth muscle antibodies, and tissue transglutaminase antibodies, they will disappear within 6-8 weeks after the diet is introduced, and it will be difficult to determine if it is a diet for life, or will it be possible to return to gluten after some time.
It is also possible to perform a genetic testing for celiac disease.
If the celiac disease is not present, we usually do not recommend a complete removal of gluten from diet, since it is very difficult (true gluten-free diet requires even separate cooking utensils, and all of the products, including medicines, needs to be checked for possible gluten content).
At the same time we need to remember that despite some restrictions, our child’s diet should be not only well balanced but also varied (we cannot introduce everyday monotony).
We also need to take into account the fact that as each of us is a unique individual, so our menu should be unique as well. What is good for one person might not be good for another, even if both of them suffer from the same diseases.
Additionally, the child must not be malnourished: the amount of nutrition needs to be properly calculated, since harmful limitations may lead to permanent damage.
Therefore in our work we strive not to repeat the same patterns, and to get to know each patient as much as possible. Before we introduce a new diet it is really important to at least somewhat get to know our child’s body. This is why we suggest all parents to perform tests not only for celiac disease, but also for any potential allergies or intolerances.
Only 2% of the society suffers from food allergies, however when discussing intolerances, the number surges to nearly half of the population. The symptoms of intolerance usually appear after some time, and not instantly after consuming a particular product. This sometimes leads to high difficulties of conflating the consumed products with visible symptoms.
As mentioned above, the diet is an integral part of the treatment, so we always try to give the most exhaustive answers for any possible questions. We assume there are no “stupid” questions. The practice shows that ideas not only about how to substitute a given nutrient but also how to find it are very important. We always persuade to carefully read the labels of food products, most importantly the ingredients, because they are a valuable source of information.
Most popular method seems to be the connection of following diets:
– exclusion of cow milk and products containing it (IT IS NECESSARY TO SUPPLEMENT CALCIUM)
– limiting or excluding gluten (depending on test results)
– limiting disaccharide sources (such as sucrose and lactose) while providing an adequate amount of monosaccharides in order to provide proper energy supply (some people suffer from sugar-digesting enzyme deficiency including lactase, which may lead to atrophy of iIntestinal villii and enteropathy, and, as a result, to a so-called “leaky gut” (“leaky gut” is a colloquial term, yet it clearly illustrates the mechanism, where unwanted proteins and other toxins enter the bloodstream via a damaged intestinal wall)
– naturally, we also take into account any possible allergies or food intolerances of the patient.
The effectiveness off a diet can be measured by performing urinary peptide testing. Proper peptide test cannot be limited only to caso- and gliadomorphins, it should also take into account other gastrically produced opioid peptides.
The above-mentioned tests can be performed by our clinic.