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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
April 2012

Gluten Free Diet May Benefit Some Children with Autism

A gluten free diet or casein free diet may provide benefits for some children with autism spectrum disorders, according to a new study.

A gluten free diet is a diet completely free of ingredients containing gluten, a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye and triticale. Gluten constitutes about 80 percent of the proteins contained in wheat and is responsible for the flexibility of kneaded dough. Those with celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis (characterized by chronic, extremely itchy rash consisting of bumps and blisters), who are gluten intolerant, must strictly follow this diet. Casein is the principal protein of cow's milk and the main constituent of cheese.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data from questionnaires completed by 387 parents or caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorders. Parents reported the effects of a gluten free or casein free diet on stomach symptoms, food allergies and autism symptoms, as well as the duration and adherence to the diet.

The authors found that the children with reported stomach problems and food allergies had significantly greater improvements in their behavioral and autism symptoms when compared to children without any reported food allergies or stomach problems. The researchers also found that more improvements in autism and behavioral symptoms were seen for the parents who were stricter in assuring that their child adhered to the gluten free or casein free dietary guidelines.

The authors concluded that dietary interventions should be investigated further to evaluate their potential roles in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

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For more information about a gluten free diet, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.

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  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Pennesi CM.; Klein LC. Effectiveness of the gluten-free, casein-free diet for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: Based on parental report. Nutritional Neuroscience.
The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright 2013 Natural Standard Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited.