Monday, March 5, 2012


Autism is an ever-increasing concern for new parents, as one in every 91 children in the United States is born with autism as of 2011. Although the ultimate causes of all of the various forms and grades of autism are not fully known, there have been many studies of how to best improve the lives of those children that do have autism. Who would have thought that what you feed your autistic child could have a great impact on their symptoms and functioning?

According to an article on, researchers at Penn State have been studying gluten-free and casein-free diets in autistic children, and the improvements this new diet has made to their behavior and physiological symptoms. This study was based on the suggestions by experts that gluten and casein contain peptides that can potentially cause an immune response in children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and thus trigger GI symptoms and behavioral problems.

The reason that gluten and casein were specifically targeted in this study is that they have been identified as the most immuno-reactive food components in children. Often, skin allergy tests will show no allergy to these proteins in children, but a local immune response in the gut can still occur, leading to increased behavior and physiological problems. Soy is another protein that may be researched in future studies.

According to one of the leaders of the study, Laura Klein, “There are strong connections between the immune system and the brain, which are mediated through multiple physiological symptoms.” Because a majority of the pain receptors in the body are located in the gut, avoiding casein and gluten can reduce inflammation, thus lessening discomfort and improving many ASD symptoms.

The study included a survey of 387 parents/primary caregivers of autistic children, and the questions they answered about symptoms, allergies, behaviors, and adherence to the diet showed elimination of both casein and gluten, for at least 6 months or more, was the most effective. This study shows that autism may be more than just neurological, and could open doors for new treatments, more important now than ever before due to the increasing number of children born with autism in recent years.

Source Article:

Posted by Laura Moro (2)


  1. It's interesting that something so basic as diet could hold the secrets to helping autistic children improve their behaviors and mental function. The human body is a fascinating piece of biological machinery, everything is interconnecting. I hope they do further studies on this and continue to find a correlation between diet and autism.

    Posted by Andy Zou

  2. Last year, in my psychology class we watch videos of children with autism and it was deeply moving. I'm glad to hear that just a little change their everyday life and have such a big impact of their problem. People should be more aware of the food they put into their bodies. Everybody could be so much more healthy if we paid attention to nutrition and learned about the inter mechanics of food. After all, it's helping with autism symptoms isn't it?

    Posted by: Jen Silva

  3. It's really encouraging to know that something as simple as a change in diet can improve some symptoms of autism, or at least lessen the discomfort experienced by those who have it. I am very interested in food and how eating different things can change one's health. This article is a great example of how a changed diet can be used in a medical sense, not just to improve weight or looks. I also learned that inflammation and discomfort in the stomach can lead to worse ASD symptoms which was interesting. Overall good choice of topic.

    Posted By Erica Bonnell

  4. Interesting article. I doubt that diet alone is the cure for all autism. Especially since autism manifests itself in different ways and might be multiple conditions as opposed to one.

    Still it's pretty fascinating how the different parts of our bodies are connected.

    Posted by Joseph Frimpong

  5. Good to see some progress in a field like this. Even if you can't find a cure for autism, at least you can try an alleviate it's symptoms. And if this can be done by a change of diet then all the better. We have enough dangerous drugs anyway.

    posted by Dorian Pillari

  6. Cool post. So little is known about autism, it's good to see that all avenues are being explored. My question is: How do immune responses in the gut generate behavioral problems? Is it discomfort, or does this generate a response in the brain that generates these outbreaks?

    Posted by Michael Thomas

    1. What I got from the article was that it is a combination of both. The discomfort associated with the local immune responses in the gut produces responses in the child that are voluntary due to the pain, like acting out or not responding to methods of treatment as well as those without the discomfort. This makes sense - think about how irritable you are and how differently you behave when you have a stomach ache or other pain. But the study also seemed to suggest that there are connections between the brain, the immune system, the gut, and other systems that are not fully understood, so there are likely involuntary, underlying effects on the brain and behavior from these immune responses that aren't directly related to the discomfort.

      Posted by Laura Moro (2)

  7. interesting. I always knew that our diets affect our behavior in certain ways, so it's not really surprising that a gluten-free and casein-free diet would help to alleviate symptoms of autism. But it's good to know that everyday we're finding new solutions to better deal with diseases, so people can live a better, more comfortable life than have to suffer.

    -Hermann Kam

  8. This article is very encouraging, because even if you can't completely cure autism, anything that helps with symptoms is great. I have worked with autistic children in the past, and I am not surprised that something like diet could be helpful. In my experience, seemingly insignificant things such as music, line dancing, repetition, and not eating goldfish crackers had a positive effect on their symptoms.

    Posted by Erica Fitzpatrick

  9. What a great article. It is crazy to realize how much what we put into our bodies actually effects us through behavior, emotions and health. I have a friend with an autistic brother and like mentioned in the previous comment, the smallest things such as coloring or taking a train ride greatly imporve their behavior and happiness overall. I think this diet is a great discovery and could be the start to many other food related issues.

  10. I realize more and more that food affects people's moods, and if you put good food in, you're going to get a good emotional range out. This article is just more proof that some of the best remedies that exist are simple and clean. Wherever we can cut out drugs we should, it removes a lot of foreign factors and cuts out the guesswork of health.

    Mike Selden (C)

  11. I never would have thought that early on diets in children with autism could ever have an effect on their symptoms. What were some of the symptoms that were affected and how did those symptoms improve. Diet change could probably benefit any disease out there if done properly it's too bad that most people over look it.

    Posted by Nicco Ciccolini

  12. I've worked with autism and my supervisor has held a top degree in her field for over 30 years. We would discuss topics like this and she seemed to disregard many of the theories of proximate cause in autism. While she supported parents' decisions to hold their children to a gluten-free diet, she found no reason to encourage it. She likened the explanation of diet as a cause with the 'refrigerator mother' explanation of a previous decade. I"m not sure where I stand in this debate, but I know that there is a lot of controversy in the field, especially on the clinical end. Ultimately, I hope to see a proximate cause found that influences autism, although I believe the disorder is at least partially the product of evolution and selective mating.

    Posted by James Fargnoli

  13. I wish I had read your article sooner. I think it is incredibly interesting what an important role diet and nutrition play in infant and child development, starting the womb until adolescence. Breastmilk is such a key source of food, rich in nutrients and protein, and the practice has been frowned upon by so many in mainstream US culture, especially feeding in public. As a mother of two young children, the emphasis on breastfeeding to prevent many diseases and healthier children, bonding, psychological and cognitive development has blossomed substantially and the research is overwhelming.

    Karen Melendez