Autism Spectrum and Gluten

I am currently enrolled in my PhD at The University of Newcastle. My area of focus is Autism Spectrum and Nutrition. I have just commenced writing a piece and thought I would share this information with you:


Research examining the role nutrition plays in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has largely focused on individual dietary nutrients and/or proteins. Of particular note, significant attention has been given to the inclusion of gliadins, glutenins and casein in the diet of adolescents diagnosed ASD. Hence, there is currently a limit to systematic review, providing comprehensive assessment, on the function of nutrition in Autism Spectrum. For this reason, there remains confusion as to what nutrient interventions are valid and reliable to employ. With the foregoing in mind, it will be my intention, to provide a clear overview of the role nutrition plays in Autism Spectrum.

The Role of Gluten

It has previously been held that gluten may compromise digestive function in individuals diagnosed ASD. Anecdotal evidence combined with scattered references to the relationship between gluten and neuro-behavioural symptoms have largely persuaded practitioners to encourage a gluten-free diet. However, it is important to note that the foregoing theory is central to a link between behavioural disturbances and coeliac disease (gluten sensitivity). This being so, adherence to a gluten-free diet is, from a scientific perspective, specific to individuals diagnosed with positive anti-tissue-transglutaminase antibodies.
Recent literature, however, contends that gluten-rich grains, of particular note, wheat, may assist in strengthening the immune system. It is suggested that the high content of glutamine available in gluten-rich grain, and, naturally occurring fructan-type resistant starches (oligosaccharides) are responsible for this outcome. For example, supplementation with L-alanyl-L-glutamine has previously been shown to reduce the incidence of infectious complications in patients following surgery. Moreover, the administration of L-alanyl-L-glutamine and oligosaccharides to adolescent males, diagnosed ASD, reduced intestinal epithelial hyperpermeability, restored secretory IgA status and reduced elevations in plasma cytokines, of particular note, interleukin 6 and 12. Specific to digestion, whole grain wheat products are capable of creating a healthy composition of colon bacteria, which can protect against several inflammatory conditions including, intestinal epithelial hyperpermeability. Hence given that digestive function is often compromised in individuals diagnosed ASD, a review of the role gluten plays is necessary.

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