Friday, 7 October 2016

A Gluten Free Diet For Autism, ADD And ADHD


The most recent research showing that a gluten-free diet could be linked to improvements in behavior for children with autism was conducted by Penn State University. This is the latest in a string of recent studies which show that a gluten-free diet may aid children on the autism spectrum. Other research studies also support the idea removing gluten from the diet may also be effective in other behavioral disorders such as ADD and ADHD.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat. It is also in barley and rye. This means eliminating it from your child's diet means no more bread, crackers, cookies, cereal or pasta. In addition, there are many pre-packaged or processed food items that contain gluten. Some of these foods come as a surprise when people start checking for gluten on the ingredients list. This includes some brands of hot dogs and lunch meats, and many salad dressings.



A gluten free diet is an elimination diet that must be followed strictly in order to be effective. Studies have shown that children on the spectrum who eat just a small amount of gluten once a month show less behavioral improvement than those who eat off-plan only once or twice a year.

Many doctors are hesitant to prescribe this diet for autistic children, because of the drastic lifestyle change it requires. In fact, many families simply cannot stick to the diet. In addition, a 2009 review of research into the diet did not prove that it was effective. Since that time, though, several large-scale studies have shown that there is promise in the elimination diet. In fact, the Penn State study looked at more than 400 children, and showed a reduction in hyperactivity, improvement in eye contact, improvement in speech skills and a reduction in temper tantrums for those who followed the diet closely for six months or more.

While a gluten free diet seems to be linked to improvements in these children, none of the studies have yet found a definitive reason why. In addition, it may not be for everyone. Not all children who follow the diet closely show behavioral improvements. Some of these children do benefit physically, however. Almost half of all children with autism also have gastrointestinal disease, food allergies or chronic digestive issues. Even if their behavior doesn't change, they may simply feel better without the hard-to-digest gluten in their system.

Since children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are often known as picky eaters anyway, eliminating gluten can be especially difficult. In addition to possibly having to eliminate some of their favorite foods, removing gluten from the diet usually means not purchasing processed foods and forgoing visits to favorite restaurants.

Like any specialty diet, planning for a gluten free diet take longer than eating regularly. Your trips to the grocery store will take longer at first, while you read packages and determine what products are safe to feed your child and what aren't. At the same time, removing many processed foods mean that preparing for meals may take longer as well. This may seem like a lot of time to devote, but if it means that your child's social skills grow and develop exercise for old age women, then it will be worth it.

In order to keep your child from feeling left out, you may want to put everyone in your household on a gluten free diet. Some families find other siblings follow along readily while others reject the diet. It is a personal decision you will have to make for your family, based on your personalities and what is convenient for you. If you, your spouse or other children do not follow the diet, you will be required to purchase and prepare separate meals for the child with autism and for the rest of the family.

Because this diet leads to improvement only when followed strictly, it is good to also be aware of cross-contamination. This is especially true if you or other children in the home are still eating foods that contain gluten. Even using the same serving spoon, toaster or cutting board can contaminate your child's food with enough gluten to trigger a reaction in their body.

Perhaps the most important part of seeing if a gluten free diet will be effective for a child with an autism spectrum disorder, ADD or ADHD is to be patient. The Penn State study showed that some children show improvements within a week or two. Some progress more slowly, taking several months to show behavioral changes. In some cases, these improvements aren't even spotted by parents. Instead, they are noticed by a doctor or therapist who is professionally trained and only sees the child occasionally. It can take four to six months for all of the previously eaten gluten to be gone from your child's body, so you should stick to the diet strictly for at least six months before deciding it doesn't work for your child.

Copyright (c) 2013 Erin McKenzie

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