Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other developmental disorders possibly affected by gluten

It is already documented that the autistic spectrum consists of a number of known causes ranging from genetic, head injury, infectious & metabolic diseases all of which can manifest themselves in autism as the final common pathway. Recent research suggesting that foods containing gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, oats, rye), and casein (found in dairy products), should be avoided by many autistic children is also gaining credibility.

Developmental disorders that have been found to, in some cases, lessen with the application of dietary and environmental intervention together with medical treatment include:

  • Autism
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Non-verbal learning disorder (NLD)
  • Pervasive development disorder (PDD)

Eating habit changes:

When some children start to slide into autism they become picky eaters unconsciously modifying their diet. They begin to limit the foods that they eat, and those foods that they will eat they will eat to excess. The foods that usually fall into this group are bread, pasta, chicken nuggets, yoghurt and milk. These foods contain gluten and casein, the two food groups that are considered major offenders in exacerbating the condition. This dietary change is also significantly noticeable because these children have often enjoyed a varied, normal and healthy diet from birth.

Physical problems that may also be displayed:

Please note that this list does not constitute diagnosis and should not be used as such.

  • Allergy in the family e.g. asthma, eczema, hay fever, migraine
  • Bloating/swollen tummy
  • Breaking wind frequently
  • Constipation
  • Craving/dislike for certain foods
  • Dark shadows under the eyes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Eating non-food items e.g. earth, paper, sand, soap
  • Excessive sweating, especially at night
  • Giggling/screaming for no apparent reason
  • Gut disorders in the family
  • Inability to control body temperature
  • Pale skin/pasty face

The gliadorphin link:

Gliadorphin (also called alpha-gliadin or gluteomorphin) is a substance that resembles morphine.

It is normally a short-lived by-product of the digestion of gluten, however in children with autism it has been found to still be present in unusual quantities in their urine. It is this presence that is believed to be a possible major contributor to the causes and effects that cause autistic development. Hence the reason for withdrawing gluten from the diet of an autistic child.

The codex alimentarius:

This is an international food guideline that allows foods to be labelled gluten free while they still actually contain traces of gluten. However the super-sensitive nature of those autistic children that respond to removal of gluten from their diet means they are unable to tolerate even the smallest trace of gluten in any food products.

For more information on the codex alimentarius refer to their website.

Real life experience:

This is a particularly interesting real life experience sent to us on the topic of the possible gluten link to petit mal.

Josie's experience:

"My son was tentativley diagnosed with petit mal (or epileptic absences) and the hospital were using medication to confirm the diagnosis - in other words, when the dose didn't make any difference they just kept increasing the dose."

"My son (then 9) was turning into a zombie. When a brain scan didn't show any irregularities we went to a homeopath/nutrition expert who did some muscle testing and said our son should cut out dairy and wheat."

"The effect was almost instant - his extreme daydreaming stopped, he could actually wake up in the mornings, his temper improved and so did his school work."

"We have continued with wheat free bread, pasta etc, finding new recipes all the time and I think the whole family is benfiting from a more varied diet."
End quote

This page is not to be taken as medical advice:

The contents of this page are not meant to indicate that going gluten & casein free is the magical cure for autism and associated developmental disorders, however it may be worth discussing with your General Practitioner and/or Paediatrician the possibilities of this approach.

No information on this page or website should be taken as medical advice. Before starting any food exclusion diet you must consult your General Practitioner and/or Paediatrician together with a registered Dietician.