What is an elimination diet?
An elimination diet involves removing foods containing one or both of the proteins gluten and casein from the diets of autistic people. Gluten is found in wheat, and casein is found in milk.
Who is elimination diet therapy for?
Supporters of this therapy say that autistic children and adults of any age can do elimination diets.
What is elimination diet therapy used for?
Supporters of elimination diets claim that problems with diet and digestion can cause brain disruptions. They say that this therapy reduces characteristics of autism by minimising disruption to brain function.
Where does elimination diet therapy come from?
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was suggested that autistic people might not digest food proteins very well, especially casein and gluten.
Based on this theory, certain therapies were developed. First were elimination diets. After some difficulties with these, digestive enzyme therapy was developed as an alternative therapy to help with protein digestion.
What is the idea behind elimination diet therapy for autistic children?
In our bodies, we all have natural chemicals called opioids, which are similar to morphine in their effect on pain.
Supporters of elimination diet therapy believe that autism is caused by excess opioid activity in the brain, which is related to digestive problems with particular proteins in food. These people say that eliminating foods containing these proteins from the diet can reduce opioid activity in the brain, thus reducing the characteristics of autism.
These ideas are not well supported by research.
All children can have food allergies. We don’t know whether autistic children are more likely to have food allergies than other children. If you think your child might have food allergies, speak to your GP.
What does elimination diet therapy involve?
This therapy involves completely eliminating foods that contain gluten, casein or both from a person’s diet. The therapy starts with a complete review of the person’s diet. There can be some time involved in buying and preparing food for an elimination diet.
Does elimination diet therapy help autistic children?
There’s limited evidence that elimination diets reduce the characteristics of autism. In addition, there have been concerns about the safety of restricting children’s diets in this way.
Who practises elimination diet therapy?
You can do elimination diet therapy yourself at home, but it’s best to speak with your GP or paediatrician or a paediatric dietitian before starting an elimination diet.
Where can you find a practitioner?
See your GP or paediatrician about elimination diets, or consult a paediatric dietitian. They can talk with you about the risks and benefits of elimination diets.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is doing an elimination diet, you need to choose, shop for and prepare food for the diet.
Some cost might be involved in this therapy if you need to buy gluten-free or casein-free food.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.