Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dietary Considerations and Communication for the Person with Autism

Surprisingly one of the things parents tell me may help a person with autism is monitoring and adapting their diet. Of course not all people with Autism will benefit from restricting some foods but the possibilities are worth looking into.

The explanation is that some foods turn into opioid peptides when digested. These opioid peptides then can cause problems with normal brain functions. This is especially significant when you look at research showing 70-80% of people with autism have very high levels of this substance in their urine.

Cow’s milk and other milk products have casein in them. Casein is one of the foods that change into opioid peptides when digested. Casein is also added into other products so be sure to check the labels! Wheat and grains have gluten in them.

Once again gluten is one of those foods that seem to give people with autism problems. This includes breads, pastas, some snacks, and the list goes on. It also takes a long time for gluten to completely work out of a person’s system. You should plan on trying it at least 6 months before you will be sure you are seeing improvements.

Although we did not use it, some families have started to use gluten and/or casein free diets. Some families have done it with the entire family and have noticed improvements in all of them. Parents, including Jenny McCarthy, have described improved eye contact, less stomach problems, less anxiety, clearer speech, and improved behavior.

One of my children takes medication for behavior problems associated with people who have autism. Although we do not like a lot of medication it was important to controlling some of her aggressive behaviors. I continually review the reasons she is taking a medication. It is also important to our family to look at whether it is working or is still working. Over the years some of the side effects have been more of a problem than what the medication was supposed to help. That was a whole different conversation with her doctor. Just like gluten free or casein free diets, medication is not the answer for everyone.

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