Gluten Free, Casein Free Diets and Autism
Where does the gluten free casein free diet fit in to Autism treatment? This diet is often recommended as the main thing to do for autistic children. My experience is that the gluten free, casein free diet fits into the yeast-free diet and is much more successful as part of that larger diet.
Milk and dairy contain a protein called casein and wheat contains a protein called gluten. This diet comes from research on schizophrenia, in which fragments of gluten and casein proteins were found in the urine of schizophrenic patients. Similar urine tests in children with Autism later showed the same types of protein profiles.
Gluten and Casein involve chemicals called opioids. Inside of both casein and gluten proteins are structures which are difficult for the body to digest completely. The structures or peptides remaining after digestion of casein and gluten react at certain places (“sites”) in the brain called opioid receptors. These are the places in the brain where opiate drugs such as morphine act. The internal chemicals which react at the opioid receptors in the brain are called endorphins. These peptide structures from the diet have several names, one of which is “opioids”.
In experimental studies, opiate drugs such as morphine have been found to bind to brain opioid receptors and this binding leads to decreased glucose (sugar) utilization and decreased metabolic rate. In other words structures which bind to opioid receptors in the brain slow the brain down. As already noted, the one finding that stands up in the brains of autistic children is that the brain is slowed down (metabolically less active) as shown by decreased blood flow, especially in speech areas.
Presumably these casein and gluten protein fragments also slow the brain down. This has led to the treatment of excluding casein and gluten from the diet of autistic children. There are many commercial products available to support such treatment.
How good is the gluten free, casein free diet for Autism?
The main studies of this diet show that children do better in school. In my experience as a doctor, some children improve, some only modestly and some barely at all. Why? The gluten free, casein free diet has some benefits, but allows a lot of foods in that cause major problems for people with autism. Some examples are vinegar, pickles, chocolate, peanut butter and corn. Both peanuts and corn are often contaminated with mold. Chicken are fed much cottonseed and cottonseed is contaminated with mold.
So if a child is taken off gluten and casein but is continued on vinegar and is put on more chicken, peanut butter and corn, what will happen? Whatever benefits there are from removing gluten and casein can be taken away by adding other bad foods to the diet. These foods cause problems with intestinal yeast, which will still be there making toxic chemicals. The child will show only minimal improvement and the improvement and behavior will fluctuate, depending on what the child has eaten.
Based on this information, I recommend the gluten free/casein free diet only after the anti-yeast diet has been started. Removing gluten and casein is part of our Feast Without Yeast diet. A pure gluten free, casein free diet allows eating of vinegar, pickles, and other foods containing toxic yeast chemicals which are quite toxic to the brains of autistic children.
I would be happy to see you or your child as a patient. Contact me for more information.