Autism and Diet


Gluten Free Cassein Free Diet and Autism

Autism is a disease that effects 1 out of every 150 children in the United States. This is a marked increase over the incidents of autism during the 1970s and 1980s. During the seventies and eighties only 1 out of every 2000 children were diagnosed with autism. This leads to the question of whether there are really more children with autism or whether diagnostic tools make the diagnosis more available. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) have broadened the diagnosis of this disease and now call it autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The causes of autism are not readily available and only 10% of children diagnosed with the condition have a causative diagnosis. The remaining 90% of diagnosed children do not yet have known causes.

Does a gluten free, casein free diet help with autism? The answer to that question is not clear. It is clear that many people suffer from GFCF allergies. It is also clear that many autistic individuals suffer from gastrointestinal difficulties that may be caused from sensitivity to wheat and dairy products.

While it cannot be verified that these diets work, it is true that many children suffering from autism also suffer from GI problems that benefit from dietary changes. These dietary changes also relieve stress and offer better health. This may also impact the cognitive abilities of individuals suffering from autism.

The Opiate Theory

There is a theory that when an individual suffering from autism consumes wheat or dairy products they enter the gut and break down into molecules that are similar to opiate-like drugs. According to the theory children with autism have compromised digestive systems known as “leaky guts” that allow proteins to leave the GI tract and enter the rest of the body where they act like opiates or drugs in the afflicted individual’s system. These molecules are not excreted but are absorbed into the system where they cause a condition similar to a “high”. Accordingly, when these foods are removed from the child’s diet their behavior and cognitive abilities improve.

Diets for ADHD and Autism
Diets for ADHD and Autism | Source

Wheat, Dairy and Peptides

Here are a few facts.

Wheat and dairy do break down into peptides which, look a lot like opium-like drugs. These are called gluteomorphines and cassomorphines.
Some children with autism (though not all) do have gastrointestinal issues.Some of these children have leaky intestines.
Some studies show that the peptides in question are found in unusually high amounts in the urine of autistic children, but those studies included only children with existing gastrointestinal issues. A study that included a broader group of autistic children did not show an increased level of peptides in the urine.

In spite of these facts, there is no empiric evidence to support a causative relationship between these proteins and autism. One cannot suppose a child is suffering from an addiction to certain foods just because he craves these foods. However, there is something to be said for the GFCF diet. Allergies to gluten and cassein are not uncommon, and those allergies often manifest themselves in diarrhea, constipation, bloating and other symptoms.About 19 to 20 percent of autistic children seem to have significant gastrointestinal issues.

Gluten free cassein free diets are difficult and expensive to follow. However, some benefit may be shown after three months. And again children tend to learn new skills in three months anyway so it is difficult to tell is that would have happened without the special diet.

Utilizing a special diet is interesting and is certainly being explored by researchers. More information will become available in time.

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Comments 13 comments

Elrey 3 years ago

In theory, yes that shuold be ok, BUT would I recommend you going and getting a big glass of wheatgrass? Probably not. If you do decide to do that, make sure the grass hasn't sprouted any seeds. Again, it is risky and I do believe that the risk outweighs the benefit. Hope this helps.

Sofi 3 years ago

A nutritionist can set you up with all the right tests and then give you the coecrrt diet. Pretty much any hospital has the resources to get you the tests and then some suggestions. Some clinics also are able to do it, you'd just have to ask. I'll warn you though, the tests suck. I had mine done at a clinic, you get like 80 pricks on your back and then 20 shots in your arms.

Ahmad 3 years ago

Mom needs to limit the video games, or take them away for a period of time so her son can catnecnrote on socialization skills. He'll throw a fit, just make sure you have a consequence set up ahead of time and that he is away of that consequence as well. He needs to use polite words, hands to himself and appropriate body language (no spitting). If he doesn't he needs to be isolated for a set period of time. It seems like mom is frustrated and filmed him instead.

Bailey-1 profile image

Bailey-1 4 years ago from Ohio

Thanks for the emphasis on facts and evidence-based medicine. It's so hard to live with uncertainty about the causes of some disorders, but it's better than jumping to conclusions.

It's just me profile image

It's just me 6 years ago from Alaska

The newest studies show that Autism rates in the United States are now at 1 in every 91 kids, 1 in every 50 boys.

DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

DeBorrah K. Ogans 6 years ago


This has really been thought provoking!

I have a grandson that has Autism.

This is certainly something to consider. You have done a thorough job researching how one's diet might factor in on helping Autism.

Thank You for sharing.


Smireles profile image

Smireles 6 years ago from Texas Author

Thank you coffeesnob. I hope something here helps your grandchildren. My nephew has the same problem. Blessings!

coffeesnob 6 years ago


good info. I have had this hub flagged for sometime - because I knew I wanted to get to it and read it. I have 2 Aspbergers grandchildren so I am always interested in what others can tell me. Changing diet for these two boys would be like major surgery. they get "stuck" on certain things to eat. Thanks for this hub -bless you

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

Hi Smireles, I'm also interested in autism and diet, partly because of the MMR controversy, and partly because I've a good friend who has to avoid wheat. I read somewhere that modern day wheat has become far harder to digest than it's ancient counter-parts such as spelt, possibly because it has been bred to be disease and pest resistant to the point where even weevils find it hard to tolerate! If it's own natural pests can't cope with it, it should be no surprise that many humans can't either!

I'm very interested in what Tom has to say. We may not be able to hear the noise in the atmosphere, but that doesn't mean that it's not having an effect on us.

Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Just read this article about a British study that found the same prevalenve in all age groups.

Smireles profile image

Smireles 7 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for your comments Pamela and Tom. Autism is a serious disease. I wrote this hub for a family member who is suffering from autism. Tom your resources about electromagnetic fields are interesting and make sense.

About the gluten free diet, I have recently developed some food allergies that set me back for weeks and the gluten free life is going to be with me a long time. It is not worth the pain and discomfort caused by eating foods that I am sensitive to. I am still eliminating foods from my diet.

Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 7 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Smireles this is a very informative HUB.

I got a technical magazine on line back in July about Nokia developing a self charging cell phone. I thought WOW there is entirely too much ambient electromagnetic radiation. Nokia's ad below:

I began to think of the coincidence of the increase in diseases like autism, ADHD, etc, with the increased use of cell phones. I did research on the internet and found the links below.

DNA damage

Microwave sickness

XVI. Electromagnetic fields - like those emitted by cell phones - have been shown to alter regional cerebral blood flow (Huber et al 2002, Huber et al 2005, Haarala et al 2003, Goldberg G 2006, Aalto et al 2006). In conditions like autism and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) it has been shown via SPECT (Single Proton Emission Computed Tomography) scans that there is an altered flow of blood in the brain (Tomoda et al 2000, Goldberg MJ 2000, Miike et al 2004).

XXII. There has been an exponential increase in autism, ADHD, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Alzheimer's since 1984, the year the first commercial cell phone networks started to spread across the USA. These rates increased even further with the switchover from analog (1G) to digital (2G) in the early 90s (Marshall 2001, Weatherall 2007).

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 7 years ago from United States

This is a very interesting hub. My brother suddenly had to go on a gluten free diet last year (nothing to do with autism), but it takes some work to maintain that diet. I think the food we consume has a lot to do with our health and i would predict that there will be a vast amount of new information concerning diet found through research over the next few years.

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