Do You Know Nutrition: Children with autism should limit milk, wheat intake

By Phylis Canion
May 20, 2014 at 12:20 a.m.

My son has been diagnosed with autism, and I am struggling to find nutritional information. I have many questions such as, is there a link between digestion and autism? I was told that nutrition was important, but trying to find nutrition answers about what I can do to help him is impossible. Are there certain foods he should avoid that can help with his digestion? I understand nutrition cannot cure autism, but any suggestions you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Autism is a complex biological developmental disorder. No single cause has been determined at this time, although genetic and environmental factors are implicated.

You are correct in that nutrition cannot cure autism; however, there are several nutritional therapies that can benefit a child with autism. Many parents of autistic children report their children received repeated or prolong treatment of antibiotics for respiratory infections in their younger years prior to the autistic diagnosis by their physician.

Because broad-spectrum antibiotics kill good as well as bad bacteria in the gut, restoring a healthy gut is very important. The breakdown of dietary protein into smaller peptides (amino acids) is a process that is smoothly completed as food travels through the digestive system.

For an individual with autism, however, it has been found that partially broken down components of the original proteins are able to pass from the intestine into the bloodstream. This is caused by an intestinal lining defect and/or incomplete digestion.

The strongest link of problem foods to autism is wheat and dairy and the specific proteins they contain, namely gluten and casein, because they are difficult to digest.

Milk restriction or near elimination is absolutely imperative to the treatment of autism because casein (from milk) is not digested completely, gets released into the bloodstream and acts like opioid (morphine-like) properties. Complete elimination of the following foods are a close second: sugar, juice, canned sodas and french fries.

You can start by supplementing with digestive enzymes and giving probiotics to restore balance of gut bacteria. Both of these measures may begin the healing process of the digestive track and promote normal absorption. A gluten-free multivitamin is very important and one that should be swallowed not chewed.

Thought for the week: Sometimes, it is not the pain that makes you suffer; it's your own negative thoughts that make things seem worse.

Free nutrition class tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Cuero Wellness Center.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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