Gluten’s Impact on Individuals with ASD

Many individuals with autism disorders suffer from gastrointestinal issues, as well as have sensitivities to certain foods. As a result, many individuals with ASD have to follow a very specific diet in order to avoid daily digestive troubles. Furthermore, individuals on the spectrum have seen success in following gluten-free regimes, as gluten has shown to have negatively affect many of those with ASD. This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that food manufacturers are now required to meet new labeling standards regarding the amount of gluten that is in a product, an incredibly significant step in helping those with autism.

According to new requirements by the FDA, any product containing a gluten-free label must include fewer than 20 parts per million of gluten. Representatives from the FDA state that this should lessen the confusion regarding items that are incorrectly labeled “gluten free”. This will be incredibly beneficial to those on the autism spectrum, as well as those with celiac disease, and other individuals with gluten sensitivities.

Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and other grains, is treated like a toxin in the bodies of those that are highly sensitive to it. As a result, both minor and severe side effects can result, from bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss, to abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, and other medical issues. It is difficult to pinpoint gluten sensitivities, as they can only be determined after diagnostic testing and an in-depth screening. Although there is no confirmed link between autism and celiac disease, studies confirm that there is a strong connection between autism disorders and the presence of antibodies to gluten. Simply, celiac disease and autism are related in that they both react negatively to the presence of gluten.

Although it can be difficult to follow a gluten-free regime, those on the autism spectrum can now be better assured that their food products are properly labeled, thanks to the FDA’s new regulations. By avoiding or heavily limiting gluten, those on the spectrum can live healthier lives with less digestive troubles. Doctors recommend initiating a diet that is completely free of gluten when an individual first starts showing signs of digestive or other medical troubles, and taking careful note of any improvements. Although some individuals may be able to incorporate gluten back into their diets, medical experts highly recommend maintaining gluten-free diets, to avoid gastrointestinal issues, as well as the negative behavioral reactions that may result from internal distress.

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