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Gluten-Free diet for Autism: Gathering Your Thoughts

gluten free foodsI was on a gluten-free diet several years ago (2008, I think) for issues unrelated to autism. A friend of ours suggested it because I was (and still am) having stomach issues (IBS), along with neurological concerns, (peripheral neuropathy–tingling, numbness, etc.). Being on that diet, I noticed I almost immediate felt much much better. However, at the time, we lived an hour away from any source of gluten-free foods, and the costs were high compared to “regular” foods, so I could not maintain the diet. This was all BEFORE autism, or I should say before I knew about our autism.

I am again considering trying to go gluten-free because I suspect I have a gluten-sensitivity (I am going to ask my physician to test for it). The stress of everything that has been going on in our lives over the past few months have exacerbated my IBS, and I was looking for ways to ease some of the symptoms, which is where I once again stumbled upon the signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. I am actually beginning to wonder if my stomach issues are IBS related at all…

Taking these issues together with my family’s autism, it is prudent to explore this issue of our diets. And as my 40th birthday approaches, I am getting more concerned with my health. (Three young family members passing recently, I am sure has not helping my feelings of panic over healthy living.)

Some people swear by the benefits of a gluten-free diet, and others are ambivalent. Rather than talk about the science behind the diet, I want to gather real-life stories. Please share.

Have you tried a gluten-free diet? For yourself, or for your children? What were your results/thoughts?

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. oh, and grain free is easier and cheaper than spending money on gluten free options!

    • Hi Ann,

      Does that mean you do not look to eliminate all the gluten? It seems to be everywhere, especially where you least expect like in soy sauce and some ketchup! Its really crazy when looking at every place gluten has creped into. And as for the grains, I actually may go that route anyway, especially after reading out this country’s genetically modified grains, which by the way, are banned in all other countries around the world except for Columbia…what does that tell us???

      • I read labels too. And yes, it is amazing how many things have gluten, grains, corn syrup, etc. added. I have found additives even in frozen veggies! It is quite shocking how adulterated with unhealthy junk so much of our food supply has become.

  2. I followed a diary free and grain free diet for awhile and my family commented constantly on how well I looked. I have since added back cream for my coffee. Over-all, I have found that once the cravings subsided, I no longer cared about grains and rarely eat them unless someone else has cooked the meal. What I found is that not just gluten free but grain free has been better for how I feel than I would have ever dreamed.

  3. I am on a GF diet due to a mild wheat allergy and I really noticed a difference. I can get excited about just about any challenge, so for me it got a lot easier when I tackled it from that angle. I love learning new things, and with GF, there’s a lot to learn! There are countless resources available now, so it’s a good time to try. Good luck to you – I hope it helps!

  4. I have several posts on my blog about going gluten-free (let me know if you want links). I was diagnosed with IBS a good 10 years before I got my ASD diagnosis. When I got diagnosed with IBS, I saw a naturopath who helped me do an elimination diet and get my gut healthy again. I have been tested for celiac and it’s negative. I believe I have a sensitivity to certain grains and sugars (look up FODMAP diet), so I stick to a gluten free and FODMAP free diet. I also don’t eat red meat. As long as I stick to it, I have no “IBS” pain and haven’t for years. Any flare up I get is my own fault for eating something I shouldn’t have (temptation is hard at times).

    My son (also autistic) had unexplained bouts of diarrhea, but it seemed to correlate to wheat products. We also had him tested for celiac and it was also negative. Since switching to a gluten free diet for him, the diarrhea episodes have not returned.

    I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it works for us.

  5. I was going to give gluten-free a go, just to see if I physically felt better and if I did, to get everything prepped for a smoother transition to gf for my kid to do a trial of it. At the same time, my rheumatologist tested me for G6PD Deficiency and it turns out I have G6PD Deficiency. I had my son tested and he has it too. I was 34 and he was 7. We cut all legumes, legume gums, legume based ingredients out of our diet and within a few days my son reported that he was feeling better, had more energy, and his focus improved as did his receptive language skills & behavior. We are, of course, still autistic, but he did lose the ADHD diagnosis and he is much mellower. In the US they rarely test for this, because recommendations embrace stereotypes and don’t reflect modern life. We never did go gluten free, but found it wasn’t gluten that was hurting us.

  6. We try a gluten-free, as well as nut-free and milk-free diet for a while for our son on the Autism spectrum and there was no noticeable change in his behavior.

    The food we have noticed that has an effect on his behavior is sugar – it can really aggravate issues when he has too much. This is what we limit. 🙂

  7. I’ve made a half-hearted attempt at cutting gluten out of my diet, but couldn’t keep it up long enough to tell whether it made any difference to how I felt. The expense and difficulty getting GF foods was part of it, but a bigger part was the constant vigilance and having to remember what I could and couldn’t eat. I don’t have a heck of a lot of energy, since dealing with sensory stuff burns through a lot, and I just didn’t have the energy to devote to that. Plus, I really love my carbs – it’s partially a sensory defensiveness thing, but mostly just because carbs are awesome – so having to do without my various bready, cakey, biscuitey things terrible! 🙂

    • I love bready things too! I have been peeking at the labels of all my favorite snacks, and boy oh boy will I be in trouble. I practically live on pretzels! I love them, and eat several bags per week! I don’t know what can replace that–I did see some gluten-free pretzels. I am willing to give them a try…but I hope that they aren’t terrible! I am VERY sensitive to tastes!

  8. gluten-free aspie

    Hi! I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for about 9 months now, and the results have been nothing short of amazing. I have Asperger’s, and have always had stomach issues as well, but eliminating gluten has been the best thing I could have done for my digestion. (Note: I also don’t eat dairy.) I’ve found that I’m able to control my moods better, I have less meltdowns and panic attacks, and I’m better able to cope with life in general. I also don’t feel bloated as often, and I don’t get those horrible stabby pains that felt like I had eaten a bunch of glass. Bowel movements are more regular too.

    Fortunately, gluten-free eating has become a lot easier since 2008 thanks to fad dieting. It’s still not as inexpensive as maintaining a limitless diet, but there are definitely way more options now, and eating out isn’t as stressful since many more restaurants are aware of what gluten actually is, even compared to a couple of years ago. I’m very happy to have made the switch to a gluten-free diet.

    • Just a quick look online (Harris Teeter’s website) and I found a huge list of items that are gluten-free. Definitely a big change since 2008…or was it 2006 or 2007 that I tried it? I was so impressed that the supermarket actually has a printable list of not only specialty foods, but “regular” brand foods that are gluten-free.

  9. IBS, hypoglycemia, Hyatel(sp) hernia, severe afternoon fatigue & pain, autoimmune joint pain, etc etc etc tested negative for celiac.

    All gone now!!

    Most products you need are available online. I was already deaddicted from carbs sugar and whiteflour so it was a very easy transition for me.

    • I’ve had all of what you listed here…and then some! I however, am no deaddicted, and it will be hard 🙁 am doing a detox regimen the next two weeks while I research more on the gluten…then I think I am going to give it a whirl.

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