Science has no answers to what causes autism or how to treat it medically or whether there will ever be a cure. However, parents and associations are compiling anecdotal evidence on all of these topics. While science gathers its facts and statistics, many parents recommend trying the autism diet. Three major dietary treatments have emerged: The casein and gluten-free diet, vitamins B-12, A, D, and C supplements, and cod liver oil.
If there is no physical cause of autism found by medical science, what good is an autism diet? Some believe that there is a link to food allergies and sensitivities and autistic symptoms. It has been shown that autism can be accompanied by some physical, mental and psychological conditions. It is not unusual for autistic children to have gastrointestinal problems including irritable bowel syndrome.
In addition, food sensitivities are not unheard of in children at the age when autism is often diagnosed. Since autistic children have trouble communicating, parents should consider the possibility of food allergies and be quick to get tests done if symptoms occur.
The most recommended autism diet among families is the casein and gluten-free diet. Casein is found in dairy products while gluten is found in oat, wheat, rye and barley products. Both are proteins and both are often targets of food sensitivity. The theory is that autistic children are not able to break down these proteins, which remain in the body and activate neurotransmitter receptors in the brain similarly to opiates.
The diet is restrictive since these proteins are found in thousands of products. Bread, cake, breakfast cereals, pizza, ice cream, milk and cheese are all forbidden on this regimen. Even the slightest amount is predicted to cause possibly dire results.
Usually children under five are put on this autism diet for three months and monitored for improvements. Normal improvements from therapy can confuse the judgment of the outcome. In spite of the difficulty in enforcing the diet in young children, many families swear by the results.
Most often, families of autistic children try B vitamins. This, too, is not a proven medical treatment. The B complex is shown to help the brain create enzymes that assists its functioning. Vitamin B-12, specifically, maintains the nervous system. Families have reported that the B vitamins have improved eye contact and some behavior in autistic children.
Vitamin C is also believed to help brain function. Some studies have shown improvement in behavior, eye contact, and communication attempts. Certainly, vitamin supplements are easier to maintain than the autism diet. Vitamins A and D are found in cod liver oils. They are thought to be helpful in brain function and have been shown to make improvements in clinical studies.