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How Does Gluten and Casein Affect Autism?

*Gluten-free. Gluten-intolerant. Celiac disease*. Nowadays, those terms are commonplace. When you go out to eat, you’re about as likely to see a gluten-free menu on the table as the happy hour cocktail list. Science has emerged in recent years describing how gluten, a protein found in many grains, is bad for our bodies. This shift has led to the popularity of low-carb diets like our favorite fat-burning nutritional approach: the <a target="_blank" href=""><b>ketogenic diet</b></a>. But did you know there’s a lot of research going into the link between gluten and autism? For both children and adults, they’re even suggesting that a gluten-free/casein-free diet should be called the ‘autism’ diet. Whether you know someone with autism or just want to learn more, let’s dive into some detail about the connection between a gluten-free diet and autism. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is a Gluten Intolerance?</p></h4> <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="FieldOfWheat"> </div> A *gluten intolerance* means that your body is unable to break down gluten proteins<sup>1</sup>. Gluten proteins are found in wheat and other types of grains. You may also hear it described as a gluten sensitivity. As with most food allergies and intolerances, each person is individual. A gluten intolerance or sensitivity can range from a mild reaction to *celiac disease*, which is a serious autoimmune disorder<sup>2</sup>. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free (GFCF) Diet?</p></h4> A gluten-free/casein-free diet (known as GFCF) is a strict diet where you consume no gluten or casein. Gluten is found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, and casein is found in many milk and dairy products, making the GFCF diet a rather strict nutritional approach<sup>3</sup>. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="OmeletOnStovetop"> </div> <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What Foods Can You Eat?</p></h4> Those with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity must stick to grain-free options or specifically gluten-free styles of breads, pastas, and other grains. Without dairy options either, this can make meals or eating out challenging. Actually, the list of GFCF-approved foods look similar to what you might find on the <a target="_blank" href=""><b>ketogenic diet</b></a>. In lieu of grains and dairy, you can liberally eat lean meats, vegetables, eggs, and healthy fats like coconut oil. Things like fruits and beans, which are not staples of the keto diet, might also make their way into the diet. Oh, and if the picture didn’t give it away, you can eat bacon and eggs on the keto diet. Yeah, we call it a win, too. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?</p></h4> Before we discuss the connection between gluten and autism, let’s talk about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by problems with socializing and communication skills<sup>4</sup>. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 59 children are identified as being on the autism spectrum. Autism can take on many different forms. In fact, there are five recognized subcategories of autism. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="CheeseOnTable"> </div> <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">How Does Gluten and Casein Affect Autism?</p></h4> A connection between gluten and autism has been made in recent years, which is why we’re tackling the subject. Nowadays, some even call the GFCF diet the ‘autism diet.’ According to the theory, children with autism process the proteins in both gluten and casein differently. The theory goes that this difference actually increases the symptoms or characteristics of ASD<sup>5</sup>. It goes on to suggest that reducing these chemicals and interactions in the brain by following a gluten- and casein-free diet can reduce the symptoms of autism by improving social and communication skills. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Is This Connection Between Diet and ASD Real?</p></h4> The science between this connection is still pretty new, but there is some merit behind the idea. At the time of this writing, it is thought that there is not enough scientific evidence to say whether the GFCF diet is useful in reducing symptoms of autism. One challenge scientists face is how to completely eliminate both gluten and casein from prepared foods. For example, many packaged foods come in contact with either gluten or casein in factories before they are packaged. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="CheeseOnTable"> </div> <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">So, What Now?</p></h4> If you’re looking for something actionable, it’s probably best to talk with your doctor or a registered dietician. They will be able to give you more information. Short of that, it might not hurt to change your (or a loved one’s) diet up. Emphasizing whole foods like vegetables, lean meats, and quality fat sources never does a body wrong. And you may be able to improve your entire family’s health by reducing the amount of premade or prepackaged foods they are eating. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Wrapping Up</p></h4> So basically, there’s a possible connection between gluten and autism. Science isn’t ready to say it’s conclusive, or to even adopt the name ‘autism diet,’ but the takeaway we can all agree on is that it’s vitally important to consider what you put in your body. At the smallest levels-digestion of proteins, for example-our nutrition has a great deal of influence over how we feel and the way we interact. In that way, we truly are what we eat. And if you’re looking to upgrade your diet, you’re in the right place. Pop over to our recipe section for tasty, <a target="_blank" href=""><b>keto-approved meals and desserts</b></a>. From <a target="_blank" href=""><b>keto pancakes</b></a> to <a target="_blank" href=""><b>buffalo chicken salad</b></a> to <a target="_blank" href=""><b>beef and cabbage stir fry</b></a>, we’ve got you covered with healthy, wholesome food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. <h5><p style="color: #000000">Resources</p></h5> 1. <a target="_blank" href="">Gluten Intolerance Food List</a> 2. <a target="_blank" href="">Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diets for Autism</a> 3. <a target="_blank" href="">Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diets for Autism</a> 4. <a target="_blank" href="">Everything You Need to Know About Autism</a> 5. <a target="_blank" href="">Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diets for Autism</a>

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