What Do Doctors Say About Autism Diets?

Question: What Do Doctors Say About Autism Diets?

What do doctors say about autism diets? Can they really make a difference?

Answer: While some practitioners (Defeat Autism Now doctors in particular) recommend special autism diets for their patients, most mainstream practitioners do not. This is most likely because many of the theories behind these diets (most of which eliminate wheat and dairy) appear to be incorrect - and others are not fully researched.

The bottom line, however, is that Gluten Free Cassein Free (GFCF) diets can make a difference for some children with autism. This is probably not because they heal or cure underlying symptoms of autism, but because they treat gastrointestinal problems which are surprisingly common among children with autism (about 12% to 19% of children with autism have chronic diarrhea, constipation, reflux and other issues).

Dr. Cynthia Molloy is a researcher at the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. She explains why such a diet might be helpful, and it is really just common sense. Here's the gist of her explanation: If a child is suffering from chronic diarrhea, constipation, reflux, or another significant gastrointestinal problem, he or she is likely to be uncomfortable. An uncomfortable child is likely to be easily frustrated and quick to anger and is likely to have challenging behaviors.

Gluten (wheat) and cassein (milk) are often the culprits behind such issues. Eliminate the gluten and cassein, and you may eliminate the gastrointestinal problem. Eliminate the problem, and you eliminate the pain. Eliminate the pain, and the frustration, anger and behaviors may well evaporate!


Campbell,DB et al. "A genetic variant that disrupts MET transcription is associated with autism." Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006 Nov 7;103(45):16834-9.

Interview with Dr. Cynthia Molloy, M.D., M.S. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, March 13, 2007.

Jyonouchi H, Geng L, Ruby A, Zimmerman-Bier B. "Dysregulated innate immune responses in young children with autism spectrum disorders: their relationship to gastrointestinal symptoms and dietary intervention." Neuropsychobiology. 2005;51(2):77-85.

Molloy CA, Manning-Courtney, P. "Prevalence of Chronic Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Children with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder." Autism. 2003. 7(2) 165-171.

Continue Reading