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Casein and Gluten Free Diet May Not Be Effective in Improving Autism Symptoms

A study conducted in Rochester, New York reveals doubts over the effectiveness of casein free and gluten free diets on improving the symptoms of autism. According to the study, there are no demonstrable improvements in the small group of children studied following the autism diet.

A Look at the Autism Diet

Impaired communication, social interaction and restrictions on activities, due to repetitive behavior, are some of the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. The condition also involves gastrointestinal conditions such as celiac disease (a disease where the small intestine becomes damaged when gluten is consumed). The cause is a complex combination of factors and how they co occur still remains a mystery.

Autism can be a debilitating condition and treatment usually focuses on lessening the symptoms by managing every aspect of the child’s life. Diet is one of them. Managing autism through dietary intervention is based on two hypotheses: the first one states that allergies in food can exacerbate the symptoms of autism, second one states that vitamin and mineral insufficiency may cause some of the symptoms.

The autism diet involves choosing foods that are gluten free and casein free. Gluten is found in foods such as wheat, barley, rye and oat, while casein is the major protein found in milk. 27% of parents with autism claim that following this diet is helpful.

What Research Says?

A small study done by an associate professor of pediatrics at the Golisano Children’s Hospital in New York reveals otherwise. The study involved 22 children with autism spectrum disorder. 14 of the children went on the study. All the participants were placed under strict gluten free and casein free diet for a span of four weeks. After undergoing the strict autism diet, the children were given a challenge snack of either: wheat flour, evaporated milk, both or placebo.

The practice continued until all children received a snack three times for 12 weeks. Children’s behavior, sleeping pattern, bowel movement, socialization and communication skills were observed before and after the snack challenges and they found no difference between those given the snacks and those given just placebos.

Though the results show no significant difference, the researchers still recommend further studies on the aspect of diet and autism symptoms be conducted. Another co-researcher also suggests that a study that is more inclusive, or those including children with apparent GI issues should be done.

What Other Researchers Suggest?

While the New York study suggests that the autism diet may not be as effective, other studies reveal that there are certain diets that might work. Research is taking an interest in autism diets that have been popular among parents for a long time. This is according to the Center of Autism Research in Philadelphia.

In an effort to improve their child’s condition, parents are going beyond medical management and are beginning to explore alternative and complementary medicine. Some researchers say that the scientific community tends to ignore what parents actually use to lessen their child’s symptoms.

The length of the clinical trials and the studies involving diet and autism patients might also be an issue. 18 weeks of study, according to critics, may not be enough to produce real results. This is compared to six months and even one year of experience of parents with a certain dietary intervention, and some parents suggest it takes this much time to see results.

Despite the studies casting doubts on the effects of the autism diet, some experts still suggest to try it, though parents are advised to approach it with skepticism.

Guest Author Bio:

Alapati Amarendra is a doctor and he blogs about recipes, conditions like autism. He is a middle eastern recipes lover and he recently browsed an awesome website which contains various diet recipes.

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Why Do Autistic Children Need to Lose Weight?

Autistic children usually suffer from problems related to behavior, communication and social interaction. Therapies for autism are usually directed towards these problems, but fail to focus on other concerns surrounding autism.

Aside from the above behavioral problems of children, autistic individuals may also have problems regarding nutrition. There may be difficulties surrounding an autistic child’s diet that may lead to under eating as well as overeating. Between the two, overeating is the major problem in autism.

Reasons for Weight Gaining in Autism

Most autistic children are observed to be overweight because of overeating. There are a lot of reasons surrounding autism as a cause for being overweight. It is important that caregivers as well as health care providers understand these mechanisms in order to undertake essential measures to maintain the ideal body weight of autistic children. Reasons for gaining weight include:

  1. Physical

In individuals with autism spectrum disorders, the hypothalamus may not function properly. As a result, a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have the inability to know when they are already full, leading to overeating. The hypothalamus is an important part of the brain that regulates food intake and the feeling of satiety.

  1. Coping Strategy

Some autistic children use over eating as a coping strategy. ASD usually provides children with various sources of stress such as sensory integration dysfunction, problems in communication and social interaction. When they are under stress or have a low self-esteem, they resort to food for comfort.

  1. Obsession

Children with ASD may also have obsessive behaviors that focus their interests on these matters. In autism, children may also include food intake or food itself as one of their special interests. This leads to overeating and subsequent weight gain.

  1. Sensory

Children and adults with ASD may also have sensory integration dysfunction. This condition affects how people adapt to different sensory stimulations. In line with this, children with autism may see food as something that provides sensory satisfaction, contributing to over eating and weight gaining.

Since autistic children are more prone to becoming overweight, proper supervision of their diet is very important. Maintaining an ideal body weight prevents other potential complications of autism.

Children with autism have greater risks of developing heart disease than the rest of the general child population. Maintaining an ideal body weight prevents the possible development of heart diseases.

Ways to Prevent Overeating and Weight Gain

There are a lot of strategies that can be implemented in order to control over eating and prevent weight gaining in autistic children. These include:

Adjusting the environment

Controlling the environment is the simplest way of preventing overeating. Caregivers should limit children’s access to foods by putting locks on cupboards and fridges, keeping foods in out of reach places and avoiding leaving foods out in accessible places.

Autistic children also respond very well to visual reminders so putting no entry signs on fridges and cupboards may help in preventing them from accessing these areas of the house. With these measures, children with autism will only be able to consume foods at scheduled meal times.

Provide visual reminders regarding food intake

As discussed earlier, children with ASD have good response to visual reminders. Based on this, employing the following may help reduce food cravings and food intake:

  • Showing empty saucepans to help them understand that the food has all gone.
  • Displaying the time of the next meal.
  • Having food charts to allow them to differentiate healthy foods from unhealthy ones.
  • Using visual emotional tools to help them express their needs.

Children should also have behavioral therapy to help them adapt more effectively.

About The Author

Dr. Amarendra, the author writes on weight loss programs, news and discount coupons. The weight loss diet programs include Weight watchers and Nutrisystem, and you can read full review, discount coupons at Weight Loss Triumph.

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A Guide to An Autistic Child’s Diet for Weight Loss

Autistic children usually have problems when it comes to behavior, language development and social interaction. These problems may lead to other potential problems in children with ASD such as overeating and being overweight. Children with autism usually use food as their means of reducing stress and it can also become part of their obsessions.

A Guide to An Autistic Child’s Diet for Weight LossThe food intake of autistic children is greatly influenced by their behavior; however, their nutrition also influences their behavior as well. According to studies, poor nutrition in autism may also lead to more severe unacceptable behavior in children. In fact, changing the diet of autistic children may help improve their behavior and the way they adapt to their environment.

Autism is not curable so measures are geared at controlling their behavior and helping them adjust to their condition to promote optimum functioning. In line with this, proper diet may be one of the effective ways to support autistic children along with medications and behavior therapy.

Proper diet involves avoiding certain foods that may aggravate the behavioral problems of children as well as introducing key nutrients and supplements to support growth and development.

Foods to Avoid in Autism

  • Food allergens

Autistic children usually have more incidences of food intolerance and food allergies. A hypoallergenic diet may help in reducing food allergies as well as improving behavior in children. In fact, a study in the Journal of Applied Nutrition recommends eliminating food allergens in order to improve unacceptable behavior in autistic children. Aside from food allergies, food intolerances may also worsen behavior of autistic children because of the build-up of unmetabolized chemicals in the blood. Because of this the following foods need to be limited, if not completely eliminated from the diet of an autistic child:

  1. Casein is a milk protein found in animal milk.
  2. Gluten is a protein found in wheat. It is mostly found in food products containing wheat, barley, oats and rye.
  3. Yeast may also be a source of food allergies. Eliminating foods containing it such as baked products and alcoholic beverages is essential.
  4. Wheat products such as wheat flour, bread and others also need to be eliminated.
  • Processed Foods

Aside from those natural foods certain processed foods and beverages need to be eliminated from the diet. The various food additives they contain may result in a shorter attention span and hyperactivity in autistic children. Processed foods that should be eliminated are:

  • Processed meat
  • Canned goods
  • Chocolate
  • Fast food
  • Junk food
  • Soda
  • Coffee
  • Tea

Foods to give in cases of Autism

Providing foods essential for autistic children helps them grow and develop maximally. These may also help improve their behavior. The following are the essential nutrients that autistic children need:

  1. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is essential for autistic children. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, vitamin B6 is especially important for children suffering from diarrhea and numbness of extremities. It is also essential to control hyperactivity and short attention span.

  1. Magnesium

Magnesium is another essential mineral for autism. Magnesium is important in reducing depression in autistic children especially those suffering from low self-esteem.

  1. Glucosamine

Glucosamine is given to autistic children suffering from recurrent diarrhea.

  1. Vitamin A and C

Vitamin A and C are important antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in cells, especially in the neurologic system; thereby improving behavioral symptoms.

Following this diet guide for autism, the behavioral symptoms of autistic children may improve; thereby also improving their adaptation and optimum level of functioning.

About The Author

Dr. Amarendra is very much enthusiastic to write on weight loss and weight loss products like TRX and Weight Watchers. Read the latest article on TRX and also on Weight Watchers voucher codes and discounts.

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Chow Down


“Alex, dinner!” might sound like an echo across normal backyards the land over, except in our house it’s followed, every evening, by “Here are your hot dogs, Alex.” Hot dogs sliced by the width, about a half-inch a slice, and they have to be Hebrew Nationals because if you use any other brand you’re not fooling anybody.


Compared with the rest of his development, Alex’s diet is arrested (I’d say “retarded” but don’t for reasons that are also starting to feel scary), and it’s progressed little in several months. Vitamins and stuff like Benefibre help, but regarding food we’re still parked at La Crème pink yogurt (“pink” is not an official flavor; raspberry or strawberry, doesn’t seem to matter which, but try the pale vanilla or the orange-y peach and you’re not fooling anybody). Utz Dark Special pretzels, plain cracker flavor Goldfish. Chocolate chip cookies, with Chips Ahoy a favorite, though homemade from the mix will do. Just make them crunchy with no soft-and-chewy crap.


“Alex, try these kale chips!”


Kale has a rep worse than that of hot dogs that aren’t Hebrew Nationals, but recently my wife Jill found this recipe where you chop kale, spread it on a cookie sheet with olive oil, salt it like mad and broil it for 20 minutes. You wouldn’t believe how much the result tastes like junk food. “Alex, here-” I try our time-honored method of touching the tip of his finger to the stuff we want him to eat and then touching the fingertip to his lips and tongue. The salt! The oil! Who could resist? Alex twists his lips into a sad rectangle, downturned at the corners, and makes a sound like Snoopy when he’s unhappy. Blaaaah!


Alex (almost 14, PDD-NOS) used to eat the cheese off a slice of pizza, that sausage-substance patty from inside the McDonald’s breakfast biscuit, maybe a few berries mashed in his teeth and smeared across his lips. “Jill,” I ask, “what can you tell me about Alex and eating these days?”


“I dunno,” she says. “It’s just so difficult. I did get him to drink chicken broth the other night, but I didn’t strain it enough and he kind of gagged on a bit of vegetable…”


It isn’t a matter of what but also how: We want Alex at the dinner table. Ned sets placemats for him, but Alex just snatches his bowl of Hebrew Nationals and heads back to the couch to eat them over his iPad. I know we should drag him back, take away the food, starve him until he eats food in the place where we, his family members with the supposedly whole brains, know it needs to be eaten. People have given us this advice, I notice that the people who give such advice often don’t have autistic children themselves. We let him eat his hot dogs at the couch over the iPad for yet another night, but I know we’re just fooling ourselves.


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The common, not so common, issues

One of the problems I often encounter when discussion Autism with someone that does not know much about Autism is overcoming their need to relate.

Which sounds really odd, doesn’t it?

The Problem

Here’s the problem: for every sign of Autism that I explain, the response is often “but a lot of kids do that”.

And when that happens, you kind of have to go…  “yeah… a lot of kids do do that, but not like this and not with the combination of all of the other things my child does.”

Here’s a quick laundry list of Autism symptoms, off the top of my head, where “a lot of kids do that”:

  • meltdowns
  • not listening/ignoring
  • get aggressive
  • get bullied
  • be shy
  • picky eating
  • have trouble sleeping at night
  • speaking delayed
  • miss milestones
  • be repetitive
  • need routine
  • wander off/elope
  • refuse to look you in the eye
  • be brilliant

The list goes on and on… and when your child is having an issue with one of those things and you mention it to someone, often times the response is “yeah but a lot of kids do that.”


same but differentThis is why the DSM tends to combine signs, meaning that your child has to have several signs and meet several areas of criteria in order to qualify for an Autism diagnosis.

The truth is, they’re not wrong. A lot of kids do that!

Here’s the thing… most kids go through phases, most kids don’t do these things to the same extent or severity and most kids don’t do many of these things all at the same time… making it a fully quantifiable disability.

And that is what is so maddening when someone responds to me with “but a lot of kids do that”.

It’s a struggle to admit that they’re not wrong and yet they’re so far off base at the same time… how do you explain that without upsetting them? Especially those stubborn family members that are so certain they’ve “been there, done that” and that you’re just young and “finding out what it’s like”.

See, I can see you sneering right now because we all have those family members.

In these cases, it’s best to remember the 3 key points that make your experience different from theirs:

  1. Most kids go through phases. Autism is for life.
  2. Most kids do these things to varying degrees. Autism tends to be all or nothing.. to the extreme.
  3. Most kids do these things one or two at a time. Autism means that several or even all of these signs are present.

If you really want to throw it in their face, you can add a fourth point… that their children were just brats and yours has an actual disability. This often results in a discussion about how much medical experts know and don’t know vs now and then, how they just have to give everything a name these days and so on… so it may be best left out.

Chances are, if you’re like me, it will really bug you every time you hear “but a lot of kids do that” but you have to remember that they mean well. They’re either trying to relate what you’re saying to what they know or they’re just trying to show their support, in their own weird way. That they “understand” what you’re saying because they’ve seen it.

Then you can hand them the gluten free food and/or therapy bills and say “consider yourself lucky that not a lot of kids do that”.

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