Autism, or more accurately—autism spectrum disorders, affect an estimated one in 88 children globally, striking children from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Yet, despite its prevalence, there is much about autism that isn’t understood. Perhaps most importantly—the cause. Numerous studies have various causes of autism like chemical exposure, vaccines, food intolerances, pollution, and “defective genes,” but a recent study published in the online journal PLoS One indicates another potential risk factor or at least another link in the autism mystery – this time it’s gluten sensitivity.
Researchers with Columbia University’s Department of Medicine and the Celiac Disease Center aimed to assess the reaction of children with autism to gluten consumption and to explore a possible link between autism and celiac disease. What they found was quite interesting.
When compared with children that do not have autism, those with the condition have higher levels of IgG antibodies to gliadin, the immunotoxic protein in wheat. They also found that children with autism who have digestive problems had an even greater antibody response. This indicates, as reported by GreenMedInfo, that these children’s immune systems are identifying gliadin proteins as harmful and that the proteins are not properly being broken down, instead entering the blood system.
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But, the connection was isolated from a connection with celiac disease. In other words, the body’s response in an autistic child was not the same as in someone with the more common gluten-rejecting disease.
Anti-gliadin antibodies, being produced in higher amounts in children with autism, could exacerbate their condition and their symptoms. It’s been suggested that the formation of these antibodies could lead to neurological problems and damage to include mania, seizures, schizophrenia and autism.
In conclusion, the researchers wrote:
“A subset of children with autism displays increased immune reactivity to gluten, the mechanism of which appears to be distinct from that in celiac disease. The increased anti-gliadin antibody response and its association with GI symptoms points to a potential mechanism involving immunologic and/or intestinal permeability abnormalities in affected children.”
If your child has autism, what does this mean for you? It could mean that a gluten-free diet may make life with autism more tolerable. Wheat gluten, in particular, is over-abundant in the modern American diet. Try lessening or eliminating your child’s exposure to it and monitor any changes in their symptoms and behavior.