Empirical data overwhelmingly points to diet as a factor in autism. 66% of a sample of 2,561 parents in a survey by the Autism Research Institute reported big improvements in the behaviour of their  children when a gluten-free casein-free (“GF-CF”) diet was implemented (Full survey results are here: ARI Treatment Ratings.pdf). Furthermore, the mechanism for this is also understood: incompletely digested proteins form chains of molecules known as “peptides” which leak from the gut of an  child and affect the brain. A full explanation can be found from ESPA Research, a spin-off from the University of Sunderland, UK.

ESPA pioneered the use of a test on the urine of the child to test whether the offending peptides are present in the urine. This test is now readily available from laboratories such as Great Plains in the USA and Laboratoire Philippe Auguste in France. This is a very useful piece of evidence as it indicates whether a GF-CF diet needs to be implemented and can also be used to gain support for diet intervention from the family doctor.

It is likely that autism is linked to other modern-day childhood disorders such as ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and others. This is because children with all these conditions show marked improvements with nutritional changes which replace heavily processed food with fresh, natural, home-cooked produce. This subject is covered in “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”, an excellent work by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, described on her Be Healthy website. Dr Campbell-McBride’s GAPS diet, similar to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) has arguably even greater benefits than GF-CF.

Whilst implementing a GF-CF diet seems extremely challenging at first, it is really mostly case of eliminating processed foods and “ready meals”, and replacing them with fresh meat/fish + fresh vegetables, freshly prepared every day. Every effort should be made to use either organic ingredients, or those known to have been produced with minimal or zero pesticides, preservatives, hormones and other contaminants. The diet should also include plenty of fresh fruit and nuts as snacks, special treats such as biscuits should be home made from ingredients such as ground almonds and carob. A range of GF-CF substitutes for common ingredients can be found at your local health food shop or at Dietary Needs Direct, particularly recommended is the Chestnut Flour.