Overcoming Food Obsessions In Autism
The general public often doesn’t realize what parents of autistic children are keenly aware of: It is a physical condition as much as a mental one. Research shows that more than 50 percent of autistic children have gastrointestinal problems such as Crohns Disease or colitis.
Some scientists theorize that autism begins in the gut, with the gastrointestinal walls being damaged and allowing toxins to leak into the bloodstream and affect brain activity.
For this reason, parents of children with autism must monitor not just their
children’s behavior but their eating habits, too. In particular, products
containing gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) and casein (found in dairy
products) seem to exacerbate autism symptoms, apparently because the person’s
body cannot digest them properly and the incompletely digested (and therefore
poisonous) proteins are leaking into the circulatory system.
A gluten-free, casein-free diet, known as GFCF, has become very popular among
parents of autistic children. Some members of the medical community continue to
be skeptical of it, but other doctors and organizations -- including those
working with Defeat Autism Now (DAN) -- wholeheartedly support the GFCF diet.
Many parents report remarkable improvements in their autistic children after
removing gluten and casein from their diets. They find their children having
longer attention spans, making better eye contact and in general behaving less
aggressively and more “normally.”
The difficult part is implementing the diet. Cereals and dairy products comprise
a major part of the typical American diet. People with gluten allergies already
know how hard it is to find gluten-free products; adding dairy to the list of
prohibited items makes it that much more inconvenient.
In addition, many autistic children will latch on to particular foods they like
and refuse to eat anything else. Since so many foods have gluten or casein,
chances are good that something on your child’s “favorites” list will be an
offender. Also, because gluten and casein foods act as opiates, autistic
children may crave them in particular -- the very foods that are doing them the
So weaning your child off these foods can be difficult. To start with, many
parents find it best to eliminate dairy. A lot of people are lactose-intolerant,
after all, and dairy products don’t make up nearly as big a part of most
people’s diets as gluten products do. It’s fairly easy to replace casein foods
with other things.
Gluten is trickier. Not only is it in a lot of foods, but even foods that don’t
have it are often contaminated with it, due to having been processed in the same
facilities. You’ll need to examine ingredients lists carefully, and check with
the manufacturer directly if you’re in doubt. Often, parents say their autistic
children won’t eat anything else, and they worry they’ll go hungry if these
foods are taken away. It is necessary to be loving but firm, and not to give in
if your child behaves badly in response to having his or her favorite foods
taken off the menu. Within a few weeks, you’ll probably see a change in your
child’s behavior, and you may be surprised at what he or she will eat that
previously was unacceptable...
For More information about treating and managing Autism read: The
Essential Guide To Autism
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Related Resources and Further Reading
Related online Autism resources for professionals, parents, and families of children with Autism.
Autism and Sensory Integration Dysfunction (Sensory Processing Disorder) are similar, but different types of disorders.
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