Have you ever heard of leaky gut syndrome? Or maybe you’ve heard of the possible connection between leaky gut syndrome and autism and you’re wondering- just what is leaky gut syndrome. I’ve been there. In that almost exact sequence- plugging into trusty Google “leaky gut syndrome and autism”
Maybe it was one night reading about possible causes of autism or possible treatments for autism; I’m really not sure how it all came about. I just remember seeing the term and wondering just what the heck it was and how it could possibly be related to my daughter’s autism.
Sure, I’d seen quite a bit of research done on gluten and how eliminating gluten and casein from the diet helped. But beyond that I hadn’t looked. I’m still somewhat skeptical but I’m also open minded enough to give almost anything a chance when it comes to treatment options.
Do I believe that it will magically cure her autism? Of course not- I’m fully aware that there is no cure. I wouldn’t want one, anyway. But if it will help, I’ll give it the time.
What is leaky gut syndrome and it’s connection to autism?
In the most simplest terms, leaky gut syndrome is the inability of the intestinal wall to keep out large, unwanted molecules.
This symptom of autism most often signifies that the intestinal wall has been altered to become permeable.
Leaky gut syndrome in autistic children may occur because of increased sensitivity or allergies.
So you may also want to follow up with your child’s pediatrician to see if they have a food allergy or sensitivity to see if that is also problematic.
Leaky gut syndrome is problematic for one’s health because it allows molecules and substances (such as proteins) that are normally filtered out of the intestinal tract into the intestines. Because these molecules are not usually allowed inside the gut, the body misinterprets these non-harmful substances as a virus or infection and begins to produce antibodies to attack them.
In turn, this creates a process where one’s body recognizes certain foods, as well as any of the body’s regular molecules that are similar to these foods, as harmful, causing an auto-immune disease where the body attacks itself.
These are merely two possible outcomes with leaky gut syndrome.
Others include the transportation of bacteria normally found within the intestinal tract to move into the bloodstream and cause an infection anywhere in the body as well as a weakening of the liver, which causes more toxins to circulate throughout the body, leading to a number of medical problems.
What can cause leaky gut syndrome?
Researchers are still working to more fully understand the causes, but current medical diagnoses suggest that a diet high in alcohol and caffeine intake, certain drugs like ibuprofen and antacids, or a diet high in carbohydrates can decrease the thickness of the intestinal wall as well as other possible reasons.
These are just a few possible reasons, and ways to treat leaky gut syndrome are just as uncertain as the reasons.
Because of the sensitivity of the digestive system with leaky gut syndrome, many parents of autistic children find that putting their child on gluten- and casein-free diets can help.
Both gluten and casein are proteins, and a diet with these proteins may irritate and inflame a leaky gut syndrome – though at the moment, researchers are still studying this. You may also treat leaky gut syndrome by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, ibuprofen, or spicy foods – all of which can cause irritation in the intestines.
Understanding leaky gut syndrome is an ongoing process, for parents with autistic children, doctors, and researchers, but this does not mean that there is nothing you can do to treat it.
Simply being aware that your autistic child may have leaky gut syndrome will help you to better understand and improve his or her life.
The Gluten Free – Casein Free Diet
Gluten is a protein contained in foods such as wheat, barley and rye. Casein is also a protein and is found in dairy products such as milk, ice cream, cheese and yogurt. In the intestinal tract, gluten and casein break down into peptides. These peptides then break down into amino acids.
What Does This New Lifestyle Entail?
A gluten and casein free diet would mean eliminating foods such as wheat and barley (glutens) and milk and cheese (caseins) from your diet entirely and replacing them with gluten and casein free diet foods such as:
Gluten Free: Buckwheat, potato flour, rice, rice bran, rice flour, sago, tapioca, soya. (See more alternatives to white flour)
Casein Free: Rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk
Scientific evidence suggests that following a gluten and casein free diet may be beneficial in autism, irritable bowel syndrome, and other chronic illnesses.
Is Following A Gluten Free Diet Plan Possible?
Being asked to avoid gluten and casein may seem like an impossible task.
After all, wheat and dairy foods are a mainstay of most diets and so many dishes not only contain them but are based on them. Let’s be honest, there is no doubt that it is most certainly not an easy task to eliminate these foods from the diet.
However, with some effort and planning it can be done and you will be surprised to learn how quickly one adapts to gluten and casein free diet as it very quickly becomes a lifestyle.
Gluten and casein is hidden in all kinds of products and it is a case of reading labels very carefully to make sure they are suitable for a gluten and casein free diet.
Eating At Home Versus Eating Out
Instead of buying pre-made meals, preparing them at home gives you much greater control over what goes into a meal.
Eating out can be tricky as you will have much less information about what is in your food. On the positive side restaurants are becoming increasingly health conscious and it is not uncommon for restaurants to add gluten and casein free diet symbols next to certain dishes on their menus.
You will find that once you are aware, you will find that there are actually many good alternatives to foods that contain gluten and casein.
As you become familiar with these foods you will realize there are actually a lot of nutritious and tasty foods you can eat.
Living according to a gluten and casein free diet is a lot easier than you think!
Over the past several years, more and more gluten free products have become available. It is far more affordable than it once was to follow a gluten free diet as well.
Consider exploring this option, not only for your autistic child, but for your entire family and see if it makes a difference. Yes, it will require effort and yes, it will require baby steps.
But who knows, it just may be beneficial in the long run; you just won’t know until you try.