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Autism and Celiac Disease


What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental neurological disorder that impacts the functioning and development of the brain. Currently, one in every 150 children are diagnosed with the disorder. Autism usually appears within a child's first three years and is considered a spectrum disorder because it can manifest in a number of different ways. On the autism spectrum are Asperger's disorder and Rhett's disorder, among others. The prevalence of autism has been increasing at an estimated rate of 10-17% per year, however the cause remains unknown.

Symptoms of Autism
Autistic individuals typically have trouble in social settings and find communicating difficult. They can become quite frustrated and can exhibit self-injurious behavior as a result. The Autism Society of America also lists the following traits:

  • Insistence on sameness; resistance to change
  • Difficulty in expressing needs, using gestures or pointing instead of words
  • Repeating words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language
  • Laughing (and/or crying) for no apparent reason showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
  • Preference to being alone; aloof manner
  • Tantrums
  • Difficulty in mixing with others
  • Not wanting to cuddle or be cuddled
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Unresponsive to normal teaching methods
  • Sustained odd play
  • Spinning objects
  • Obsessive attachment to objects
  • Apparent over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to pain
  • No real fears of danger
  • Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills
  • Non responsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf, although hearing tests in normal range.

Autism and Celiac Disease
Dietary changes are common as treatment options for autism, with 2/3 of individuals with autism showing at least some improvement on a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Studies have found that opiates found in gluten and casein are released when they are improperly digested. When the GI tract is not in good condition, such as from celiac disease, these opiates get released into the bloodstream. The opiates not only impair brain function but also cause craving for foods containing gluten and casein, which increase the problem. Trial periods on gluten-free, casein-free diets tend to show symptoms of withdrawal followed by marked improvement in behavior and functioning. Although a gluten free diet is recommended for many autistic people, this does not mean they all have celiac disease. Celiac disease is one of many causes of a damaged GI tract, which make it difficult to properly break down gluten. Studies have not determined a direct link between celiac disease and autism, even though following similar diets have proven successful.


Do you or a family member suffer from this disease? You may have celiac disease, find ouy now, take our celiac disease symptoms checklist.


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