Many children with autism have food sensitivities, due to abnormalities in their digestive and/or immune
systems. If food is not fully-digested into individual sugars, amino acids, etc., then the partly digested food
can pass from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. The immune system recognizes those foods as
foreign, and may launch an immune response to those foods, resulting in an allergic in behavior.
The most popular approaches are diets that eliminate foods containing either gluten or casein, or both.
Removing allergic foods can result in a wide range of improvements in some children, especially
improvements in behavior and attention. This diet is a temporary used to determine if a child has a potential
allergy to certain foods by starting with a very basic diet low in potential allergenic foods and intolerances.
In the elimination diet all suspected foods are removed for a period of time and then gradually reintroduced
to observe any response or reactions. If there is improvement, then try attempting the give the child one
prohibited food every 5 days, to see if any can be added back in. Gluten and dairy are the last challenged.
There are multiple tests for food allergies including blood and skin prick tests. However, there may be false
negatives or positives with these tests. Children with food allergies are at a higher risk for nutrition related
problems and decreased growth. Also, children with autism are more likely to be more negatively affected
by problems with food allergies because of their issues with sensory dysfunction.
While isolating food allergies or food sensitivity you may see an allergic reaction such as hives, runny nose,
or gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation. The following foods tend to be responsible for
90% of all allergic reactions: milk*, wheat*, egg*, soy*, peanuts*, tree nuts*, fish and shellfish (*more
commonly seen in children). The most common reactive foods found in gluten include (wheat, rye, barley,
possibly oats), dairy, cane sugar, corn, soy, yeast, peanuts, egg, artificial colors and preservatives.
Eliminate the following foods from the diet for a period of 7 days:
• Dairy products, including cheese. (Instead, use soy milk and soy cheese; rice milk, rice-based ice
• Egg and egg-containing products.
• Food products containing gluten, such as wheat and wheat-based products (including pasta), and
barley, oat or rye grains. (Alternative grains could be brown rice, buckwheat, spelt, millet, potatoes or sweet
• Citrus fruits.
• Corn and corn-containing products.
• All processed foods, including caffeine.
Next, reintroduce one food group to the child’s diet roughly every 5 days. The reintroduction period allows
sufficient time to determine any intolerance.