Dietary interventions and Autism
In an effort to do everything possible to help their children, many parents continually seek new treatments. Some treatments are developed by reputable therapists or by parents of a child with ASD. Although an unproven treatment may help one child, it may not prove beneficial to another. To be accepted as a proven treatment, it should undergo clinical trials, preferably randomized, double-blind trials that would allow for a comparison between treatment and no treatment. Some of the interventions that have been reported to be helpful to some children, but whose clinical efficacy or safety have not been proven, are mentioned below.
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Dietary interventions are based on the belief that 1) food allergies cause symptoms of autism, and 2) an insufficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral may cause some autistic symptoms. If parents decide to try a special diet for a given period of time, they should make sure that the child’s nutritional status is measured carefully.
A diet that some parents have found to be helpful to their autistic child is a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Gluten is a casein-like substance that is found in the seeds of various cereal plants – wheat, oat, rye, and barley. Casein is the principal protein in milk. Since gluten and milk are found in many of the foods we eat, following a gluten-free, casein-free diet is difficult.
A supplement that some parents find to be beneficial for an autistic child is Vitamin B6, taken with magnesium (which makes the vitamin effective). The result of research studies is not conclusive; some children respond positively, some negatively, some not at all or very little.
In the search for a treatment of autism, there has been discussion lately about the use of secretin, a substance approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a single dose normally given to aid in diagnosis of a gastrointestinal problem. Anecdotal reports have shown improvement in autism symptoms, including sleep patterns, eye contact, language skills, and alertness. Several clinical trials conducted in the last few years have found no significant improvements in symptoms between patients who received secretin and those who received a placebo.
Karyn Seroussi, the mother of a formerly autistic boy, researched how dietary changes can affect autism, and used dietary exclusion to improve her son’s condition. Such treatments are part of the controversies in autism. She is known for her parent support advocacy efforts, and is the author of a book entitled Unraveling the Mystery of Autism & PDD: A Mother’s Story of Research and Recovery.
Seroussi’s work primarily addresses the debate between parents and professionals about what causes autism, and advocates the belief that in most cases it is a medically treatable disorder, through dietary and behavioral interventions, which needs to be diagnosed early and investigated appropriately.
Author Karyn Seroussi says her son now has no traces of autism, due in large part to a strict GFCF [gluten-free, casein-free] diet. Some parents report improved eye contact, less constipation or diarrhea, and better behavior. However, other parents do not notice a difference in their children.
Besides gluten and casein, some parents report that removing corn or soy led to equal or greater improvements in their children. Because soy protein is similar to gluten and casein, some diet proponents recommend removing it if the child seems sensitive.
Dietary and Other Interventions
In the past several years a great deal of emphasis has been placed on using a diet to control a number of conditions, including autism. There has been much talk about whether food sensitivities and allergies are the underlying cause for the severity of some symptoms of autism or, indeed, the symptoms themselves.
Although some people claim results of diet changes to be as dramatic as complete recovery from autism, most people agree that a change of diet isn’t a cure for autism because, in fact, there is no cure. However, proponents of dietary management of autism agree that many symptoms will decrease in severity and some may even disappear.
The most widely used diet for autism management is the Gluten Free/Casein Free (or GFCF) diet.
In addition to the theory of dietary management of autism, some believe that autism can be managed through the use of supplements to replace nutrients that are lacking.
Tagged as: Dietary interventions
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