Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mystical Diets

This is gluten.  It's an important part of wheat used in practically all processed and prepared food due to its uncanny ability to hold stuff together.  Unfortunately, some people have celiac disease, which makes them unable to consume gluten for fear of inflaming their small intestines and causing all sorts of problems.  Jenny McCarthy and others claim that a variant of this diet, the gluten-free / casein-free diet (GFCF), helps children with autism (casein is a protein found in dairy products).  Interestingly, Alanna's favourite foods are bread and cheese.  I have heard some people claim that children with autism crave these foods due to the "opiate" effect or "leaky gut" effect.  While research in this area is on-going, studies have shown that in double-blind trials the GFCF diet does not appear to impact behaviour in children with autism.

I am not particularly a fan of biomedical approaches to autism because I do not see any scientific proof that they work.  However, I recognize that sometimes things work for only a proportion of the population and it's impossible to know before one tries.  For example, melatonin, a naturally occurring chemical in the body, helps us fall asleep.  Most studies I have read indicate melatonin does not seem to help children with autism (or is inconclusive), but for Alanna, it helps tremendously.  She can sleep.  Before she was on it, she took over an hour to fall asleep and can now do so in minutes.

So, we are going to try to go gluten free with Alanna.  She is too in love with her cheese to eliminate casein, so we will start with gluten.  If this helps the autism, great.  But our main reason for doing so is to help her poor digestive tract.  She has smelly gritty diarrhea... I look at it and it's just not normal.  Perhaps Alanna has a co-morbid condition such as celiac disease (that is, the problem is not caused by autism but by something else she has in addition to autism).

So autism aside, there is something wrong down there, and the first thing to try is to eliminate some foods until we find out what it is.  We'll try gluten first and see if it helps.  If not, we'll try something else until we find out what it is.  If Alanna's digestive tract was fine, we'd probably not bother.  I'm not expecting changes in behaviour; I'm just hoping for normal elimination.  Poor girl.


  1. I have a friend who's son has autism, she is a nurse and has done a lot of research and study on the connection with gluten. There is a MARKED difference in her son's display of autism when he has even the slightest bit of gluten. But, like you said, what might work for one may not work for others. It's worth a try. She used to live in London and knows all the hot spots for gluten free. A good start is the Arva flour mill ... have you been there? It's worth the trip and in the spring it's a fun place to take the kids.

  2. We are very similar in views to you. We have been doing this experiment for a year now and the confusion is no where near removed.

    However what has happened as a result is that now my son will even eat salad by (gentle) coercion whereas before he would only eat cheese and breadsticks.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  3. We saw a huge change in Tristan when we took away gluten. Eye contact came back and he was more aware, everyone noticed a difference. BMs where still a bit bad, but after testing we found Tristan had yeast overgrowth which caused the awful BMs. So keep that in mind if eliminating gluten doesn't help.

    I actually just did a post on my blog on tips for the GF/CF diet. I hope it works out!

  4. Good luck! I hope it helps her digestion. And if it helps with her behaviour too, that's a huge bonus.

  5. Some of my recipes are in the "recipe box", upper right hand corner, in the quick reference section of my blog --

    My daughter is a huge responder to the diet.

    See labels "eczema" and "GFCF Recipe" and "diet and behavior" on my blog.


  6. Hi. I have just found your blog. I have a 5 yr old autistic son and am wondering how you are going with the GF diet so far? We started it just after he received his diagnosis and didn't see enough of a change to keep continuing at that stage, however did see a big change when we stopped giving him food with certain preservatives and additives in it. We have been doing that for a couple years now. Am now thinking about trying the GF diet again.

    Ok off to read more of your blog.