There is no “one size fits all” approach and solution to autism and diet-related issues, but we found a news report in Examiner to be especially interesting.
According to the story, a five year old Canadian boy diagnosed with severe autism was cured when the true cause of his mental disorder was discovered to be celiac disease. It turns out that he was never really autistic in the first place. He had celiac disease, an immune response to wheat, barley, rye and oats that damages the intestines leading to malabsorption of nutrients. The boy was ultimately treated with a gluten-free diet and nutritional supplements.
This raises an interesting possibility: what if some children who are diagnosed with autism actually have celiac disease?
Neurological disorders originating with celiac disease have been widely documented. Some of these conditions include poor balance, tremors, migraines, chronic fatigue, schizophrenia, epilepsy, apathy, depression, insomnia, behavioral disorders, inability to concentrate and anxiety.
Many of these issues are due to nutritional deficiencies resulting from the intestinal damage that celiac disease causes. If caused by celiac disease, they usually improve once gluten is removed from the diet and the intestine heals and functions properly.
Genuis and Bouchard, researchers at the University of Alberta, in Canada, recently published the case of the 5-year-old boy mentioned earlier who had been diagnosed with severe autism at a specialty clinic for autistic spectrum disorders. After an initial investigation suggested underlying celiac disease and varied nutrient deficiencies, a gluten-free diet was implemented. His diet and supplements were adjusted to allow for nutritional sufficiency.
The patient’s gastrointestinal symptoms rapidly resolved, and signs and symptoms suggestive of autism progressively abated.
This case is an example of a common malabsorption syndrome (celiac disease) associated with central nervous system dysfunction and suggests that, in some cases, nutritional deficiency could be a cause of developmental delay.
Genuis and Bouchard recommended that all children with neurodevelopmental problems be evaluated for nutritional deficiency and malabsorption syndromes.
This case study suggests that at least some of the reported response to gluten-free diets in children with autism could be related to correction of nutritional deficiency resulting from undiagnosed gluten sensitivity and consequent malabsorption.
Most physicians expect to see symptoms like chronic diarrhea, abdominal bloating and pain before considering celiac disease. But not all children with celiac disease and neurological disorders have gastrointestinal problems.