Autism: How to cut out gluten and casein

Autism: How to cut out gluten and casein

Last week, I talked about how a gluten- and casein-free diet could help a child with autism. Today, I’m talking about what that can look like in practice. At age four, Karen was diagnosed with autism and her mother Gladys immediately put her on a gluten- and casein-free diet. Both gluten (found in wheat, oats, barley and rye) and casein (found in dairy produce such as milk, cheese and yoghurt) are types of protein that autistic children appear not to digest very well.

Karen improved over time; she made more eye contact and was more communicative, even though she was still only speaking the odd word. Her grasp of the alphabet seemed to be better too. However, despite these improvements, she was still pretty hyper and complained of tummy aches. She also wouldn’t go for a bowel movement on her own as she was scared of toilets and, even though Gladys didn’t give her any fluid after 5pm, she’d still wet the bed twice a week. This is when I first saw Karen.

My first suggestion was to eliminate sugar and refined foods. Most children with autism and/or hyperactivity don’t breakdown sugar as they should and, as a result, literally ‘go crazy’ when they eat sweet things. I also asked Gladys to cut out foods that contained a substance called salicylate, which can have a similar effect in an autistic child’s body to gluten and casein. Salicylates are found in apples, berries, cucumbers, grapes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, raisins, tangerines and tomatoes. Low-salicylate, low-sugar options include pears, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kiwis, coconuts and papaya.

Karen was to have more soups (without the use of stock cubes, which can contain several nasties) since they are a wonderful way of delivering pre-digested nutrients to the body, and an omega-3 supplement, which play a fundamental role in regularising brain function.

Four weeks later the difference was incredible. Not only had Karen stopped wetting the bed, but she was calmer and had an increased awareness of the things going on around her. The school actually couldn’t believe the difference as she was now talking to other people and the teachers were now able to start teaching her to read. And finally, she could now go the bathroom without being scared. Gladys was over the moon.