gluten-free diet

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Rethinking Autism As A ‘Whole Body’ Condition

We often think of autism as a disorder of the brain. And it certainly is. But a new book, “The Autism Revolution,” (Random House) by Dr. Martha Herbert, an autism expert and pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and CommonHealth writer Karen Weintraub asserts a more comprehensive and wholistic view in which autism is really a condition of the whole body and should be treated with that in mind.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Chapter 1: Go for the Extraordinary

Caleb tore himself away from a game with his sisters, bounced into the kitchen and asked his mom what she was making for dinner. It was one of his favorites: gluten-free pasta and ground beef.

He started to turn back to the girls, but paused. “Mom,” he said, as casually as if he were commenting on the weather, “my autism is gone.”

“How do you know?” his astonished mother managed to ask.

“It’s easy to be with people now,” the 10-year-old said matter-of-factly, and then headed back to his younger sisters.

Joy Petersen stared, dumbfounded for a few seconds in the middle of the kitchen. It wasn’t until two months later that she realized he was right.

Caleb has his father’s bright blue eyes, his mother’s dark hair and a complexion that reflects his mixed Dominican-American heritage. He is still looking up at 5 feet, and his voice remains a little boy’s for now. He wants to be a zoologist when he grows up, and is already talking about going away to college, although he understands that his parents will be sad to see him go.

She recently took him to a new doctor, a specialist in treating children with autism and other special needs. Caleb noticed the photographs covering the doctor’s wall, and asked why the doctor was holding a gun in one of them. After talking to Caleb and his parents for a while, the doctor announced that Caleb didn’t fit the criteria for autism anymore. “Yeah!” Caleb said, jumping up and pumping his arms. His mother began to sob uncontrollably.

Joy used to dream of the day someone would say her son was no longer autistic. Of the day he’d come up to her, say he loved her and really mean it.

That day was unimaginable when Caleb was 4, still had no language, and was so afraid that he would wail and cry when anyone other than his parents came within 5 feet. Joy said she would put her fingertips on his body and he would scream as if somebody had hit him. Taking care of Caleb was so overwhelming that she would often find herself in tears. There were times when she was so afraid of hurting him in her anger and stress, that she’d put him down, walk into her bedroom, shut herself in her closet and collapse on the floor, crying.

The doctors and therapists told her she had to be realistic. Your son will probably be like this forever, Continue reading

More Thoughts On A Gluten-Free Diet For Children With Autism

(hepingting/Flickr)

Yesterday, I wrote about this study– based on a survey — that suggests a gluten-free and casein-free diet may help improve physical symptoms and behavior among children with autism.

Here are some of the study conclusions, according to the abstract:

Parental report of strict diet implementation, indicated by complete gluten/casein elimination and infrequent diet errors during and outside of parental care, also corresponded to improvement in ASD behaviors, physiological symptoms, and social behaviors (P < 0.05).

Survey-based research has obvious limitations. Still, one person who commented on yesterday’s post really lashed out against the new report. Bonanza 1212 wrote:

Pardon? Where is the actual science to back this up? A survey of parents is about as unscientific as you can get. The real research on special diets for autism shows the opposite of what Pennesi and Klein conclude. Can Klein please point us to peer-reviewed research to back up her claim that by “adhering to a gluten-free, casein-free diet, you’re reducing inflammation and discomfort that may alter brain processing, making the body more receptive to ASD therapies”?

I’ve asked for a response from the researchers, but in the meantime, here’s reaction from Dr. Martha Herbert, an autism expert and pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Herbert said, via email, that the new study suggests where research needs to go next, rather than definitively confirming the effectiveness of gluten-free diets in autism. Continue reading