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Diet Treatments Questionable for Autism

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Approximately 20 percent of autistic children are on a gluten- and/or casein-free diet to treat a digestive problem referred to as "leaky gut" or "autistic enterocolitis," in hopes it will lessen their pain and abate their symptoms.

boy clutching stomach

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: But, according to a recent Pediatrics report discovered by the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog, an expert panel has found: "There's no rigorous evidence that digestive problems are more common in children with autism compared to other children, or that special diets work, contrary to claims by celebrities and vaccine naysayers." The study goes on to say, after 25 medical expert panelists gathered in Boston to review research, the existence of leaky gut "has not been established."

The article says: "Painful digestive problems can trigger problem behavior in children with autism and should be treated medically." It says more research is required to establish an autistic predisposition toward digestive problems, and confirm if these diets really work on some kids.

The post provides a response from Lee Grossman, president of the Autism Society: "I think we still have a lot to learn about the gut and how it contributes to behavioral symptoms."

It would be so amazing if something as simple as a modified diet could help children with autism. Actress Jenny McCarthy is a huge advocate of this modified diet. She wrote Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism, about her autistic son Evan and how this modified diet helped him. She also established Generation Rescue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a biomedical treatment for autism.

What about you guys? Have any of you seen or heard of these diets working?

We'd love to hear your story!

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129 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny January 6, 2010, 5:27 AM

I think that people should try it and if it works for their kids than great. What harm can it do? As long as they are still getting a balanced diet than go for it. The article said that the painful digestive issues should be treated medically but what it doesn’t say is that some children, while not Celiacs, are gluten intolerant and there isn’t a test for that other than elimination. Also some kids can’t break down Casein, a protein in milk, different from lactose and that can cause stomach issues. If the child had either of those things going on than eliminating gluten and/or casein would be treating the problem medically, would it not?

Cheryl January 6, 2010, 11:02 AM

This is a confusing article. Is the question “do children with autism tend to have more digestive issues” or “do special diets help alleviate the symptoms of autism?” Are you suggesting that if a parent has a child with autism and digestive problems it would risky to try a special diet? Wouldn’t most gastrointestinal doctors give a special diet anyway?

Jane January 6, 2010, 2:15 PM

The GFCF diet *cured* my child of autism. Yes, CURED. I think the key was starting it before her third birthday (before permanent brain damage set in), and doing it very, very strictly (we eventually had to cut out almost all processed products because they are cross-contaminated with gluten — tiny amounts but enough to cause symptoms and delay healing).

I’ve read this consensus report, and all it says is that there’s no evidence either for or against special diets in autism. It doesn’t say they don’t work … and it can’t, because the studies haven’t been done. But parent surveys show they *do* work in many children.

If your child is autistic, go GFCF and do it strictly — there’s a very good chance you’ll see huge improvements. I saw a difference in my child within 48 hours.

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