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What is the Relationship Between Asperger's and Diet?

By Kristin Wood
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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The relationship between Asperger's and diet is commonly attributed to proteins such as gluten and casein. These proteins are said to bring out or enhance symptoms of Asperger's syndrome. Many individuals or parents of children with Asperger's believe they see a positive effect when embracing a gluten-free and casein-free diet.

Dr. Karl Ludwig Reichelt was the first to report a relationship between Asperger's and eating methods. He initially noticed that many autistic children, which includes those dealing with Asperger's syndrome, were also found to have gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease, an intolerance for gluten. Dr. Reichelt now teaches that the ideal diet for those with Autism and Asperger's would be entirely free of both gluten and casein.

The relationship between Asperger's and diet has not been thoroughly studied, but many parents report positive effects with a gluten-free and casein-free diet. Some noticeable changes include better moods, longer attention spans and better eye contact. Many parents report that their children with Asperger's become more independent once they implement a change of diet; they might quickly learn how to accomplish daily tasks that used to involve the help of a parent.

A gluten-free diet largely consists of avoiding wheat products, but wheat is not the only substance to look out for. Those striving for a gluten-free diet will also need to avoid barley, rye and malts. Usually, oats are also avoided because of the risk of cross-contamination. Cooking gluten-free often involves the use of alternative ingredients, such as rice flour.

Casein can be found in dairy products, and followers of a casein-free diet will find that even lactose-free milk products might still possess small traces of dairy. Casein is sometimes referred to as calcium caseinate or sodium caseinate. Reading labels can become very important for those following a casein-free or gluten-free diet.

There is some controversy over whether the relationship between Asperger's and what a person eats is strictly a treatment or if it might also be a cause of autism. Some people believe that peptides resulting from undigested gluten and casein proteins can create the same health hazards and brain damage as opiates such as heroine or morphine. They theorize that this damage can result in Asperger's or other forms of autism. Others challenge this thinking as premature, claiming that no satisfactory scientific tests have been conducted.

Some in the medical community disagree that there is a relationship between Asperger's and diet at all. They would say that gluten and casein can not treat nor cause autism. Casein-free diets might even be avoided for younger boys who benefit from dairy while growing healthy bones. Boys with Asperger's sometimes have thinner bones than their peers, and a lack of calcium could further hinder them. Either way, most agree that further studies are needed for the relationship between Asperger's and diet.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Glasis — On Feb 01, 2014

Of course there is a relationship between aspergers and diet, but not specifically because a change in diet helps that condition.

A gluten free, and in many cases, dairy free diet is beneficial for everyone.

These diets alleviate digestive problems and promote weight loss in everyone, not just those with aspergers. Let's face it, the healthier you are, the happier you feel.

Few people realize that everyone is at least somewhat lactose intolerant, but some people can digest lactose better than others.

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