Dispelling Myths About Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diets for ASD Management

Parents of children who have autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, often find themselves embracing a wide array of strategies to treat the condition. One of the most common techniques that parents resort to is special diets. For example, more than 1 out of 4 parents of children with ASD say that they follow a gluten-free and casein-free diet . However, is this method actually effective? Here are some common myths surrounding the practice—and the truth about them.

Myth: ASD is caused by a person’s diet.

Despite the ongoing research into ASD, we still do not know for sure what causes it. While it has been speculated that diet may affect an individual’s ASD symptoms, there is no solid proof of this assertion. The idea stems from how gluten and casein may affect an individual’s gastrointestinal health and thereby the central nervous system and the brain. Some researchers have proposed that individuals with ASD have gastrointestinal differences that contribute to ASD symptoms. However, gastrointestinal differences have not been observed across all individuals with ASD, as such there is no strong evidence linking ASD and diet. As far as we know, what a person eats has no effect on his or her ASD status.

Myth: Gluten-free and casein-free diets are healthier.

If you’re concerned about your child’s health, you may be wondering if eliminating gluten and casein from his or her diet is beneficial. This isn’t necessarily the case: For children, following a gluten- and casein-free diet can result in serious nutritional deficiencies, particularly lack of protein and calcium. In general, this diet should be reserved for children who have a known allergy to gluten or casein.

Myth: Avoiding gluten and casein can cure ASD.

There is no known cure for ASD. While following a diet that is free of gluten and casein may help to reduce the gastrointestinal distress that some individuals with ASD experience, it will not affect the behaviors that are associated with the disorder. Treatments that promote themselves as cures for ASD or related disorders should be approached with skepticism.

Since May 2006, STAR of CA has been offering exceptional mental health services to families and communities in and beyond Ventura Country. If you are looking for resources that will help your loved one with ASD, we can provide you with the expert guidance you need. To reach us today, call (805) 644-7827.