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.