Editor, momstown Belleville
It is often a great debate as to whether autism is connected (or caused) by food allergies, vaccines, prenatal environmental factors, or otherwise.
For myself, I have had children with anxiety disorders (which, by the way is on the spectrum), so, i can definitely say, without hesitation, that our girls have had anxiety, along with hyperactivity, that is accompanied, or worsened, by ingesting certain foods. You see, anxiety comes with physical and somatic complaints, such as stomach-aches, headaches, exzema, diarrhea – all of which are related to food intolerance (ie. lactose). Our daughters (and myself) can also have hyperactivity, trouble focusing, and mood swings after consuming certain foods or drinks (ie. dairy products, chocolate, processed foods, soda, coffee, salty foods, carbohydrates like pasta or wheat. Therefore, i do agree with research that says that there is a connection between the characteristics of children who are on the spectrum and Gluten (wheat) and Casein (milk) products.
One of the primary steps in the Defeat Autism Now! (DAN) Protocol (reference below) is that the autistic child be placed on a Gluten Free, Casein Free diet for at least three months. Many parents have been reporting a link between Autism and diet for years, but it’s now being found that children who consume gluten and casein regularly have more severe autism symptoms. It is speculated that these food proteins (from gluten and casein) are broken down into smaller proteins, also known as peptides. The two peptides, glutenin and gliadin, and leak into the gut and attach to the opitate receptors of the autistic child’s brain. This is very similar to the body being on a morphine drip. The peptides act as a Narcotic to the autistic body.
However, these behaviours in the autistic child may be viewed as more of an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten and casein, rather than an allergy, since their bodies become addicted to these food types, but cannot properly digest the proteins.
However, research into the effects of gluten and casein and children with autism is not entirely substantial. Also, there are many other foods are blamed for worsening autism as well, including eggs, tomatoes, eggplant, avocado, red peppers, soy and corn.
In order to be fully aware of how different foods are affecting your child's behaviour, and to be able to identify a true food allergy, a prescribed diet would have to be given to you by your healthcare provider.
This typically includes a four-day sequence, wherein your child would have to eat a specific food one day, and then repeated every fourth day afterwards. Then, if in that timeframe, your child begins to develop a rash, hives, or something more serious (ie. difficulty breathing), a food allergy would be suspected. Since food allergies can be fatal, it is important to proceed with a diet based on your family doctor's consent and plan.
A diet log needs to be kept on a regular basis for a person, so that food allergies are completely always known. When food is eaten all of the time, it has to be written down and paid attention to, so if an allergic reaction occurs, you will know what could be making it. Other tests need to also be done, like skin tests and blood tests, as well as close observation. Immediate Immune Response, and Delayed Immune Response are different blood tests that are often times more accurate than skin tests. You may make a few observations that go against the test's result, which may surprise you.
So, if you have a child on the spectrum, it may be a good idea to mention the idea of food allergies or sensitivities to your healthcare practitioner. It may be in the best interests of your child, and may lessen your child's discomfort and hypersensitivities.
Lana Kelly( B.A, SSW, ECE, Montessori). For 20 years, Lana has been dedicated to helping children and families. In 2010, she published a book (The Sheepish Lamb) , aimed at building resilience to childhood anxiety. She is a mom to four daughters, and values her faith and family solidarity.