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QUESTION: 1.) Does the diet help with autism? I have an 8yr old son with Asperger's Syndrome and a very skeptical wife. Many parents are having success with a no gluten no casein diet. Some report a succuss rate of 80%. His mother refuses to try it even though wheat and milk is 90% of his diet. 2.) My 4 1/2 year old son has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I believe he is type B, from what I was told last time he was in hospital for a test (I am type O+, and my husband is AB+). Some works on autism recommend eliminating casein and gluten from the diet. Is casein present in most dairy products or just some of them? What kinds of adjustments could I make to my son's type B diet for optimal results?
ANSWER: Asperger's Syndrome is considered a 'high functioning' form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a constellation of symptoms usually refered to as 'Autism.' Asperger's Syndrome is characterized by impairments in social interactions and the presence of restricted interests and activities, with no clinically significant general delay in language, and testing in the range of average to above average intelligence.
Autism is a mysterious mental disease that effects 400,000 children in the U.S. alone. It develops insidiously in toddlers after deceptively normal infancies, free of the developmental abnormalities that are early and obvious hallmarks of severe mental retardation or cerebral palsy. Around the age of 18 months or two years, developmental milestones are not attained. Normal communication between parents and children lapses. Autistic children often fail to make eye contact and their speech is rudimentary. They may be prone to explosive tantrums or engage in repetitive mechanical behavior, like rocking or shutting off all the lights in a room again and again. While autism varies in severity, its key features are improper sensory integration, lack of subtlety of emotional expression ("flatness" can quickly give way to agitation) and limited communication ability. Autistic children seldom are able to lead independent lives without heavy remedial education, dedicated parental care and sometimes institutionalization and drugs.
No effective drug therapy for autism exists. Medications "take the edge off" symptoms, and parents fervently adhere to various programs of "behavior modification," "sensory integration," and the like, with some encouraging results.(1)
One abstract on secretin and autism reported a study of three children with autism and gastro-intestinal problems. The study indicated that after secretin infusion, gastro-intestinal function improved, and the children became more sociable and communicative. Over one half million people in the U.S. today have autism or some form of pervasive developmental disorder. Its prevalence rate makes autism one of the most common developmental disabilities.
There has been some positive feedback on the efficacy of the blood type diet in children with autism. Since the type ER4YT diet limits several dietary lectins thought to interfere with secretin and cholecystokinin, it is not too far-fetched to consider that improvement in these children may have actually resulted from enhancement of their own secretin metabolism through the avoidance of secretin-blocking lectins. It is my opinion that the reason the Blood Type Diets work well in autism via the same rationale why certain health authorities seem to feel that a gluten free diet is avisable as well, although this has been questioned as to its efficacy. (2) Perhaps it is the blood type specificity of the lectins (not accounted for in basic gluten free diets) which has made the link to celiac disease and gluten rather weak.
I've used the Ayurvedic herb Bacopa (sometimes called 'Brahmi') in several cases of autism with promising effect. Bacopa is an Ayurvedic medicine used in India for memory enhancement, epilepsy, insomnia, and as a mild sedative. This herb commonly grows in marshy areas throughout India. Some studies have shown that bacopa has antioxidant effects (Tripathi 1996), while a study on rats showed bacopa administration strikingly improves learning skills (3).
1.) Tanguay PE. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2000 Sep;39(9):1079-95 Pervasive developmental disorders: a 10-year review.
2.) Risebro B. [Gluten-free diet in infantile autism]. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 1991 Jun 10;111(15):1885-6. Norwegian
3.) Lodha R, Bagga A. Traditional Indian systems of medicine. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2000 Jan;29(1):37-41.
4.) Ho HZ, Glahn TJ, Ho JC. The fragile-X syndrome. Dev Med Child Neurol. 1988 Apr;30(2):257-61. Review.