Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When you eat, the food in your stomach gets broken down, the body utilises the good bits and the other bits get flushed out as waste matter. With autistic children foods containing gluten do not break down fully. The broken down pieces are called peptides and these peptides are small enough to pass through the wall of the stomach rather than being fully processed. Children and adults with autism usually have something called Leaky gut, this means that the wall of the stomach is damaged and these peptides are small enough to pass through the wall into the bloodstream and the central nervous system including the brain, causing various adverse reactions.
When the protein gluten gets broken down, it becomes the peptide known as gluteomorphin. Most people are aware of the highly addictive drug Morphine and this peptide is very similar in its effects on the brain and body of the autistic person.
Casein which is the protein found in dairy products. This protein breaks down to the peptide Caseomorphin but again like gluten, does not fully break down and passes through the lining of the stomach into the bloodstream, contributing to the adverse reactions listed below.
Gluten & Casein foods are also inflammatory , where you have inflammation you have a perfect environment for disease to flourish.
Parents of autistic children have observed the following reactions when their children have eaten foods containing gluten and/or casein.
Their child seems to be spaced out
Unusual behaviours including stimming
Sensory issues including hearing sensitivities
Very high pain threshold
Craving foods containing gluten and/or Casein
Night waking/sleep issues
food craving and screaming until they get the food containing gluten and/or casein
dark circles under eyes
history of glue ear, or ear infections
diarrhoea and/or constipation
runny nose, phlegm, catarrh
red ears or cheeks
It should also be noted that some parents have even observed autistic children and adults going through withdrawal symptoms, similar to that of a drug addict when taking gluten out of their diet.
It is also good to note that Gluten can take up to a year to leave the body and Casein 2-4 days. Digestive enzyme supplement containing DPP-IV (dipeptidyl peptidase IV) taken with every meal can help.
It can be quite daunting starting the gluten free & Casein free diet but there are many recipe books available and also many websites listing recipes. A lot of supermarkets stock gluten free bread now but these obviously contain preservatives which are usually chemical based and autistic individuals are more prone to being sensitive to chemicals in any form.