Are There Dietary Treatments for Autism?

Some diets have been reported to be helpful to some children with autism. However it’s important to keep in mind that the effectiveness and safety of these diets have not been proven.

There are people who believe that food allergies cause symptoms of autism. There is also a belief among some people that not getting enough of a certain vitamin or mineral can cuase some autistic symptoms. If parents decide to put an autistic child on a special diet, they should make sure that their child’s nutritional status is measured carefully.

A diet that some parents have found helpful to their autistic child is a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Gluten is a casein-like substance that is found in the seeds of various cereal plants — wheat, oat, rye, and barley. Casein is the principal protein in milk. Since gluten and milk are found in many of the foods we eat, following a gluten-free, casein-free diet is difficult.

A vitamin supplement that some parents feel could help an autistic child is Vitamin B6, taken with magnesium (which makes the vitamin effective. The result of research studies is mixed; some children respond positively, some negatively, some not at all or very little.

There has also been discussion in the last few years about the use of secretin, a substance approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a single dose normally given to aid in diagnosis of a gastrointestinal problem. Non-scientific reports have noticed improvement in autism symptoms, including sleep patterns, eye contact, language skills, and alertness. However, several clinical trials conducted in the last few years have found no real improvements in symptoms between patients who received secretin and those who did not.

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National Institute for Neurological Disorders