Does Diet Affect Autism?

Nutrition may be an important part of treatment and management of autism.

Behavioral improvements have been seen in some children following a gluten and casein free (GFCF) diet. Early research shows these ingredients may affect neurotransmitters in the brain. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye; casein is found in dairy. About 25% of those with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty processing these proteins. Increased intestinal permeability has also been found in about a 1/4 of people with ASD.

A GFCF diet may improve their digestive symptoms, but not all people on the spectrum benefit from a GFCF diet and for some it may be overly restrictive. Food aversions are common and may increase risk for nutritional deficiencies. The diet should be done under the supervision of a medical profession like a registered dietitian. The GFCF diet isn’t the only one tried by parents of children with ASD.

Others include, removal of:

  • Artificial colors
  • Flavors & preservatives
  • Sugar-free
  • Carbohydrate-free
  • Yeast-free
  • Soy-free

The organization ‘Autism Speaks’ says more research is needed to determine whether any of this eating plans are effective.

Related: 5 Facts You Might Not Know About Autism But Should


About the author

Emily Gelsomin

Emily is a registered dietitian with experience providing medical nutrition therapy as a senior clinical nutritionist on an outpatient basis. She also teaches wellness to hospital employees and has knowledge of foodservice management and recipe writing. She has a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy, helping to blend her view of the science and art of eating into a holistic vantage.

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