There has been a lot of buzz lately about the correlation between a gluten-free casein-free Paleo diet and autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Several studies have been done on this topic, and as of now, there is no evidence that gluten or casein causes autism and there is insufficient evidence that a dietary intervention such as a gluten-free casein-free Paleo diet will treat autism. So let’s talk about what this means.
I’m going to use the subject of smoking and lung cancer to illustrate how the misuse of language can change your perception on cause, effect and correlation. You might be quick to agree with the statement “smoking causes lung cancer”, but it doesn’t. Less than 10% of smokers will get lung cancer and 10% is far too small of a number to say one thing causes another. However, smoking does greatly increases your risk of getting lung cancer. So does a lack of evidence for causation mean there is no correlation? Absolutely not.
If you are reading this article, chances are that you are not trying to avoiding autism, but more concerned with treating autism. Let’s talk about how implementing a gluten-free casein-free Paleo diet may treat autism. Despite the sketchy science behind this, there have been several cases of children with autism responding very well to special diets after failing to see results with traditional treatments that include pharmaceuticals. Another interesting finding from these cases of autistic children responding well to implementing a gluten-free casein-free Paleo diet is that those who completely eliminated gluten and casein for short periods of time responded better than those who just cut back on gluten and casein for longer periods of time. So, if you are going to choose this route, completely removing all gluten and casein will yield the best results.
So lets talk about the different possible cases. There is a correlation, your child implements a gluten-free casein-free Paleo diet and all is better, YAY! There is a correlation, your child continues consuming these things but takes drugs and responds well. Now I would compare this to turning the AC on because the heat is making the room too warm. There is no correlation and your child removes gluten and casein from their diet and they respond well. A placebo affect took place and you didn’t have to use any drugs. There is no correlation, your child implements a special diet and things are the same. In this case you are no worse off than before but your child is deprived of bread and dairy and this is the worst case scenario!
There is no harm in removing gluten or casein from your diet, so implementing a gluten-free casein-free Paleo diet can only help your child with autism. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.