Kids eat free

Finally, there’s some sense being made in the medical community.

You might remember that one of the areas of medicine in which I’m very active–and about which I’m very passionate–is the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

As I’m sure you’re well aware, this is becoming an increasingly prevalent disorder. It’s funny (or not so funny at all, as the case may be)–when I wrote my first book, autism was a relative rarity.

Now, it’s easily the most common childhood illness I treat.

I don’t wish to speculate here as to why that may be. But I do know diet–especially a gluten-free diet–seems to play a key role in helping kids struggling with autism. And it just so happens that new research is shedding a little light on this very subject.

This latest study shows certain children with autism have higher immune reactivity to gluten. But this reaction is different from the pathology behind celiac disease. (Which, as you may know, is a genetic autoimmune disorder.)

Researchers tested 37 children diagnosed with ASD for antibodies specific to celiac disease, as well as antibodies to gliadin, which is a component of gluten.

Analysis revealed significantly higher gliadin antibodies among kids with autism. And not surprisingly, this antibody response was also more severe among autistic children with GI symptoms, compared to those without.

Obviously, this points to underlying immune reactions and issues with leaky gut among autistic children with GI symptoms. And the problem runs deeper than a simple celiac test could ever reveal.

Which of course means that parents now have something they can share with their general pediatrician, who probably believes that your child either has celiac disease or doesn’t–end of story.

As I have been saying for years now, the problems wheat causes aren’t nearly so cut and dried. And gluten issues warrant their own “spectrum.” That’s why I also happen to test all of my autism patients for these antibodies–as well as for antibodies to gliadin.

It’s nice to see that, at last, I’m getting a little vindication.

As this study shows, gluten-related immune abnormalities are a smoking gun in a huge portion of children with autism. Which begins to explain why gluten-free diets have gained such popularity in the autism community–despite a lack of controlled and blinded research to support their use.

The parents who regularly note an improvement in their child’s symptoms after eliminating gluten can’t all be wrong. In fact, compared to all other complementary modalities for treating autism, these reports show dealing with gluten sensitivity ranks highest in effectiveness.

But guess what? Modern conventional medicine doesn’t have a drug designed to treat this kind of problem. So naturally, these researchers think there’s nothing that can be done.

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. The field of integrative medicine has many treatments aimed at addressing intestinal dysbiosis. In fact, this happens to be one of the stronger focuses of the work I do, with children and adults alike.

So what’s the take home message here? While conventional doctors keep scratching their heads, take your autistic children off of gluten–and out to see a practitioner that recognizes gut disorders–immediately.

Remember, not too long ago, the mainstream medical community wouldn’t even acknowledge the importance of healthy gut flora. So needless to say, you should think twice before taking their word on anything in this department.

Lau NM, et al. “Markers of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity in Children with Autism.” PLoS One. 2013 Jun 18;8(6):e66155. Print 2013.