Many families of children with autism spectrum disorders are interested in dietary and nutritional interventions that might help lessen some of the symptoms of the disorders. The removal of gluten (a protein found in barley, rye, oats, and wheat) and casein (a protein found in dairy products) from the diet, also known as the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet (GFCF), is a popular dietary treatment for symptoms of autism. It is based on the hypothesis that these proteins are absorbed differently in children with autism spectrum disorders and act like false opiate-like chemicals in the brain. The hypothesis is not based on an allergic response. To date, neither the hypothesis nor the effectiveness of this dietary intervention has been demonstrated in scientific studies. Studies are ongoing in a number of centres. However, many families report that the elimination of gluten and casein from their child's diet has helped regulate bowel habits, sleep, activity, and habitual behaviours and enhanced overall progress in the child's development. No specific laboratory tests can predict which children might be observed to have a positive response to dietary intervention. For that reason, many families elect a trial of dietary restrictions with careful observation by the family and intervention team.
A trial of dietary restrictions requires attention to basic nutritional guidelines. Dairy products are the most common source of calcium and Vitamin D in young children in the U.S. Many young children depend on dairy products for a balanced protein intake. Finding alternative sources of these nutrients requires substitution with other food and beverage products, paying close attention to nutritional content rather than solely looking for a milk-substitute beverage. Substitution with gluten-free products requires attention to the overall fibre and vitamin content of a child's diet. Vitamin and supplement use may have both positive effects and side effects. Consultation with a dietician or physician should be considered and can be helpful to families in the healthy application of a GFCF diet. This may be especially true for children who are picky eaters.
(Information from Autism Speaks)
Dr. Coombs is a physician practicing functional medicine. He has been focusing on the biomedical treatment of autism spectrum disorder in children, a complex disorder of neurological development with genetic, environmental, biochemical, and immune factors all contributing to its development.
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Chart with Parent Ratings of Behavioural Effects of Biomedical Interventions - data collected from 27,000 parents click here