Digestive health is of primary importance in autism. Common digestive symptoms have further been linked to behavioral changes in autistic individuals. Foods are a common cause of both digestive complaints and behavioral issues. Two major food components shown to play a part in autism are gluten (from grains) and casein (from dairy).
In the 1980’s, many researchers found evidence of food proteins in the urine of autistic children that resemble opioids. Opioids are substances that can cause behavioral changes in people. (An example is the drug morphine, which is derived from opium). The origin of these opioids was shown to be undigested foods containing gluten and casein in the diet. Increasing evidence suggests that these foods can cause changes in mood, behavior and digestion.
The GFCF diet (gluten free casein free diet) for autism was proposed to correct the imbalance in opioids that was seen in about 80 percent of these children. It has been gaining in popularity over the last few years. The basis of this diet is removal of gluten and casein to improve behavior and digestion in autistic individuals.
Many parents who have implemented the diet for their children have noticed remarkable improvements in health and function after individuals are on the diet. Studies have shown that these improvements are real and have been measured objectively. The dietary changes have produced results well beyond the capability of any currently known prescription drugs.
Many parents have also found success using high quality enzymes made specially for children with autism. [Conventional enzymes products are ineffective for this purpose and may themselves contain allergens.] Some children are able to quit the GFCF diet by using these enzyme products. However, we advice parents using enzymes supplements to stick to the diet until the gut has completely healed.
Undigested gluten and casein create problems
Opioid proteins are known to attach to receptors in the brains and guts to create behavioral changes as well as digestive complaints like constipation, diarrhea and bloating. Autistics do not have the stomach enzymes that normally break down the proteins from milk and wheat (and other grains). This allows undigested foods to travel through the stomach and into the intestines, where they are absorbed through a “leaky gut“.
“Leaky gut” is common in autism and implies that the intestines are more permeable than normal. This can play a major role in food allergies and in gluten and casein sensitivity. Gluten and casein can enter the circulation through this “leaky gut” and travel to the brain.
By implementing the GFCF diet, these proteins will not be absorbed and are unable to cause harm. It has been noted in many cases that constipation, diarrhea, self-injurious behavior and “dazed” sensations have all improved simply by removing gluten and casein from the diet.
Results differ among individuals, as does the time on the GFCF diet needed to see the effects. A trial should be under the supervision of a qualified practitioner knowledgeable in the diet to prevent nutritional deficiency.
Below is a list of shops in Singapore known to carry GFCF foods. This list is not comprehensive. Please inform us if you know of others:
Brown Rice Paradise
163 Tanglin Road, #03-15, Tanglin Mall
Tel: 6738 1121
315 Outram Road, #11-03, Tan Boon Liat Building
Tel: 6227 1318
21 Orchard Boulevard, #01-21, Park House
Tel: 6735 4338
The Organic Paradise
62 Temple Street, #01-01
Tel: 6220 8148
Market Place Supermarkets