We Rescued Our Child From Autism

Posted in Additional Information

By Karyn Seroussi. Reprinted from Parents Magazine, Feb 2000, with permission from the author. Updated June 2006.

When the doctors said our son would be severely disabled for life, we set out to prove them wrong.

When the psychologist examining our 18-month-old son told me that she thought Miles had autism, my heart began to pound. I didn’t know exactly what the word meant, but I knew it was bad. Wasn’t autism some type of mental illness – perhaps juvenile schizophrenia? Even worse, I vaguely remembered hearing that this disorder was caused by emotional trauma during childhood.

In an instant, every illusion of safety in my world seemed to vanish. Our pediatrician had referred us to the psychologist in August 1995 because Miles didn’t seem to understand anything we said. He’d developed perfectly normally until he was 15 months old, but then he stopped saying the words he’d learned – cow, cat, dance – and started disappearing into himself. We figured his chronic ear infections were responsible for his silence, but within three months, he was truly in his own world. Suddenly, our happy little boy hardly seemed to recognize us or his 3-year-old sister.

Miles wouldn’t make eye contact or even try to communicate by pointing or gesturing. His behavior became increasingly strange: He’d drag his head across the floor, walk on his toes (common in autistic children), make odd gurgling sounds, and spend long periods of time repeating an action, such as opening and closing doors or filling and emptying a cup of sand in the sandbox. He often screamed inconsolably, refusing to be held or comforted. And he developed chronic diarrhea.

I was informed that autism – or autism spectrum disorder, as doctors now call it – is not a mental illness. At the time, it was thought to be a developmental disability that was primarily genetic, and caused by an anomaly in the brain. The US National Institutes of Health estimated that as many as 1 in 500 children were affected. But according to several recent studies, the incidence has been rapidly rising: In Florida, for example, the number of autistic children has increased nearly 600 percent in the last ten years. Nevertheless, even though it is more common than Down Syndrome, autism remains one of the least understood developmental disorders.

We were told that Miles would almost definitely grow up to be severely impaired. He would never be able to make friends, have a meaningful conversation, learn in a regular classroom without special help, or live independently. We could only hope that with behavioral therapy, we might be able to teach him some of the social skills he’d never grasp on his own.

I had always thought that the worst thing that could happen to anyone was to lose a child. Now it was happening to me but in a perverse, inexplicable way. Instead of condolences, I got uncomfortable glances, inappropriately cheerful reassurances, and the sense that some of my friends didn’t want to return my calls.

After Miles’ initial diagnosis, I spent hours in the library, searching for the reason he’d changed so dramatically. Then I came across a book that mentioned an autistic child whose mother believed that his symptoms had been caused by a cerebral allergy to milk. I’d never heard of this, but the thought lingered in my mind because Miles drank an inordinate amount of milk – at least half a gallon a day.

I also remembered that a few months earlier, my mother had read that many kids with chronic ear infections are allergic to milk and wheat. You should take Miles off those foods and see if his ears clear up, she said. Milk, cheese, pasta, and Cheerios are the only foods he’ll eat, I insisted. If I took them away, he’d starve.

Then I realized that Miles’ ear infections had begun when he was 11 months old, just after we had switched him from soy formula to cow’s milk. He’d been on soy formula because my family was prone to allergies, and I’d read that soy might be better for him. I had breast-fed until he was 3 months old, but he didn’t tolerate breast milk very well – possibly because I was drinking lots of milk. There was nothing to lose, so I decided to eliminate all the dairy products from his diet.

What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Miles stopped screaming, he didn’t spend as much time repeating actions, and by the end of the first week, he pulled on my hand when he wanted to go downstairs. For the first time in months, he let his sister hold his hands to sing Ring Around a Rosy. Two weeks later, we kept our appointment with a well-known developmental pediatrician. Dr. Susan Hyman gave Miles a variety of tests and asked a lot of questions. We described the changes in his behavior since he’d stopped eating dairy products. Finally, Dr. Hyman looked at us sadly. I’m sorry, the specialist said. Your son is autistic. I admit the milk allergy issue is interesting, but I just don’t think it could be responsible for Miles’ autism or his recent improvement.

We were terribly disheartened, but as each day passed, Miles continued to get better. A week later, when I pulled him up to sit on my lap, we made eye contact and he smiled. I started to cry – at last he seemed to know who I was. He had been oblivious to his sister, but now he watched her play and even got angry when she took things away from him. Miles slept more soundly, but his diarrhea persisted. Although he wasn’t even 2 yet, we put him in a special nursery school three mornings a week and started an intensive one-on-one behavioral and language program that Dr. Hyman recommended.

I’m a natural skeptic and my husband is a research scientist, so we decided to test the hypothesis that milk affected Miles’ behavior. We gave him a couple of glasses one morning, and by the end of the day, he was walking on his toes, dragging his forehead across the floor, making strange sounds, and exhibiting the other bizarre behaviors we had almost forgotten.

Then, after several weeks of steady improvement, the behaviors briefly returned. We were extremely puzzled until we were informed that Miles had eaten some cheese at nursery school. We considered this fairly convincing evidence that dairy products were somehow related to his autism.

I wanted Dr. Hyman to see how well Miles was doing, so I sent her a video of him playing with his father and sister. She called right away. I’m simply floored, she told me. Miles has improved remarkably. Karyn, if I hadn’t diagnosed him myself, I wouldn’t have believed that he was the same child.

I had to find out whether other kids had had similar experiences. I bought a modem for my computer – not standard in 1995 – and discovered an autism support group on the Internet. A bit embarrassed, I asked, Could my child’s autism be related to milk?

The response was overwhelming. Where had I been? Didn’t I know about Karl Reichelt in Norway? Didn’t I know about Paul Shattock in England?

These researchers had preliminary evidence to validate what parents had been reporting for almost 20 years: Dairy products exacerbated the symptoms of autism.

Miles’s father Alan, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry, got copies of the journal articles that the parents had mentioned online and went through them all carefully. As he explained it to me, it was theorized that a subtype of children with autism break down milk protein (casein) into peptides that affect the brain in the same way that hallucinogenic drugs do. A handful of scientists had discovered compounds containing opiates – a class of substances including opium and heroin – in the urine of autistic children. The researchers theorized that either these children were missing an enzyme that normally breaks down the peptides into a digestible form, or the peptides were somehow leaking into the bloodstream before they could be digested.

In a burst of excitement, I realized how much sense this made. It could explain why Miles had developed normally for his first year, when he drank only soy formula. It could also explain why he had later craved milk: Opiates are highly addictive. What’s more, the physical features of autistic children have often been compared to that of morphine users (including insensitivity to pain, bowel problems, and abnormal changes in pupil size), and their odd behavior has been compared with that of those under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.

Alan also told me that the other type of protein being broken down into a toxic form was gluten – found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley, and commonly added to thousands of packaged foods. The theory would have sounded farfetched to my scientific husband if he hadn’t seen the dramatic changes in Miles himself and remembered how Miles had self-limited his diet to foods containing wheat and dairy. As far as I was concerned, there was no question that the gluten in his diet would have to go. Busy as I was, I would learn to cook gluten-free meals. People with celiac disease are also gluten-intolerant, and I spent hours online gathering information.

Within 48 hours of being gluten-free, 22-month-old Miles had his first solid stool, and his balance and coordination noticeably improved. A month or two later, he started speaking – zawaff for giraffe, for example, and ayashoo for elephant. He still didn’t call me Mommy, but he had a special smile for me when I picked him up from nursery school. However, Miles’ local doctors – his pediatrician, neurologist, geneticist, and gastroenterologist – still scoffed at the connection between autism and diet. Even though dietary intervention was a safe, non-invasive approach to treating autism, until large controlled studies could prove that it worked, most of the medical community would have nothing to do with it.

So Alan and I decided to become experts ourselves. We began attending autism conferences and phoning and e-mailing the European researchers. I also organized a support group for other parents of autistic children in my community. Although some parents weren’t interested in exploring dietary intervention at first, they often changed their mind after they met Miles. Not every child with autism responded to the diet, but eventually there were about 50 local families whose children were gluten- and casein-free with exciting results. And judging by the number of people on Internet support lists, there were thousands of children around the world responding well to this diet.

Fortunately, we found a new local pediatrician who was very supportive, and Miles was doing so well that I nearly sprang out of bed each morning to see the changes in him. One day, when Miles was 2 ½, he held up a toy dinosaur for me to see. Wook, Mommy, issa Tywannosauwus Wex! Astonished, I held out my trembling hands. You called me Mommy! I said. He smiled and gave me a long hug.

By the time Miles turned 3, all of his doctors agreed that his autism had been completely resolved. He tested at eight months above his age level in social, language, self-help, and motor skills, and he entered a regular preschool with no special-ed supports. His teacher told me that he was one of the most delightful, verbal, participatory children in the class. At 6, Miles was among the most popular children in his first-grade class. He read at a fourth-grade level, had good friends, and acted out his part in the class play with flair. He became deeply attached to his older sister, and they spent hours engaged in the type of imaginative play that is never seen in kids with autism.

My worst fears were never realized. We were terribly lucky.

But I imagined all the other parents who might not be fortunate enough to learn about the diet. So in 1997, I started a newsletter and international support organization called Autism Network for Dietary Intervention (ANDI), along with another parent, Lisa Lewis, author of Special Diets for Special Kids (Future Horizons, 1998).

We’ve gotten thousands of letters and e-mails from parents worldwide whose kids use the diet successfully. Although it’s best to have professional guidance when implementing the diet, sadly, many doctors are still skeptical. As I continue to study the emerging research, it has become increasingly clear that autism is a disorder related to the immune and gastrointestinal systems. Many autistic children have several food allergies, including milk and wheat, and nearly all the parents in my support group seemed to have at least one immune-related problem: thyroid disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or allergies. Autistic children are probably genetically predisposed to immune-system abnormalities, but what triggers the actual disease?

Many of the parents swore that their child’s autistic behavior began at 15 months, shortly after the child received the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. When I examined such evidence as photos and videotapes to see exactly when Miles started to lose his language and social skills, I had to admit that it had coincided with his MMR – after which he had gone to the emergency room with a temperature of 106°F and febrile seizures. But some of his health problems had started even earlier, including yeast infections, skin rashes, red cheeks and ears, excess mucus in his throat, poor sleeping habits, and a severe reaction to a DPT vaccine at 4 months old.

Studies linking the measles portion of the vaccine to damage in the small intestine are still considered inconclusive, but they might help explain the mechanism by which the hallucinogenic peptides leak into the bloodstream. In addition, the role of the buildup of toxic metals, from vaccines or other sources, needs to be better understood. Children with autism appear to have difficulty excreting metals such as mercury, and their behavior usually improves when these are removed. If vaccines are indeed found to play a role in triggering autism, we must find out whether some children are at higher risk due to existing immune problems, and take immediate measures to create a safe and effective vaccination program.

Several researchers are now studying the abnormal presence of peptides in the urine of autistic children. My hope is that routine diagnostic tests will be developed to identify children with autism at a young age, and to treat them appropriately. When autism is recognized as a treatable medical disorder, the gluten and dairy-free diet and other biomedical interventions will move from the realm of alternative medicine into the mainstream.

The word autism, which once meant so little to me, has changed my life profoundly. It came to my house like a monstrous, uninvited guest but eventually brought its own gifts. I’ve felt twice blessed – once by the amazing good fortune of reclaiming my child and again by being able to help other autistic children who had been written off by their doctors and mourned by their parents.

Karyn Seroussi is the author of Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Mother’s Story of Research and Recovery (Simon & Schuster 2000, Broadway Books, 2002)

For further information, please visit



Got Autism? Learn About the Link Between Dairy Products and the Disorder

Autism and autism spectrum disorder are complex disorders of brain development that may be associated with a wide range of symptoms, such as limited verbal communication and difficulties with social interactions. PETA has created a billboard to alert the public to the connection between this condition and dairy-product consumption.

More research is needed, but scientific studies have shown that many autistic kids improve dramatically when put on a diet free of dairy foods. One study of 20 children found a major reduction in autistic behavior in kids who were put on a casein-free diet (casein is a component of cow’s milk). And another study done by researchers at the University of Rome showed a “marked improvement” in the behavior of autistic children who were taken off dairy products.

The reason why dairy foods may worsen autism is being debated. Some suggest that the gastrointestinal problems so often caused by dairy products cause distress and thus worsen behavior in children with autism.

Regardless of the cause, testimonials show that many people with this condition may be able to find relief with a simple dietary change—removing milk from their diet. The Internet contains numerous heart-wrenching stories from parents of kids who had suffered the worst effects of autism for years before dairy foods were eliminated from their children’s diets. Here is one mother’s story:

Then I realized that Miles’ ear infections had begun when he was 11 months old, just after we had switched him from soy formula to cow’s milk. He’d been on soy formula because my family was prone to allergies, and I’d read that soy might be better for him. I had breast-fed until he was 3 months old, but he didn’t tolerate breast milk very well—possibly because I was drinking lots of milk. There was nothing to lose, so I decided to eliminate all the dairy products from his diet. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Miles stopped screaming, he didn’t spend as much time repeating actions, and by the end of the first week, he pulled on my hand when he wanted to go downstairs. For the first time in months, he let his sister hold his hands to sing “Ring Around a Rosy.”

It isn’t surprising that dairy products may worsen this condition, considering that milk has already been strongly linked to cancer, Crohn’s disease, and other serious health problems. Anyone who wants to alleviate the effects of autism should try giving cow’s milk the boot and switch to healthy vegan alternatives instead. To learn more about a diet free of dairy products, order our free “Vegetarian Starter Kit” today.


8 Facts About the ‘Autism Diet’

One of the most popular alternative treatments for autism is the gluten-free casein-free diet (GFCF). It has not been proven to work, and many doctors are cautious about it, but if you’re wondering if it could help your child, read the facts below.

bread, milk, eggs, pasta, oats Yunhee Kim

Jacqueline Laurita, 42, mom of three and star of the reality show The Real Housewives of New Jersey, recently revealed her 3-year-old son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with autism. Since the diagnosis, Laurita has sought treatment for her son, which includes therapy and following a dairy-free, gluten-free diet that some experts believe will reduce behavioral issues associated with autism. Learn more about the special “autism diet” that Laurita is advocating.

It’s a strict elimination diet (with no “cheat days”).

The GFCF diet removes two proteins: casein, which is found in all milk and dairy products, and gluten, which is contained in wheat, barley, rye, and some brands of oats [that may have been cross-contaminated with gluten]. The obvious culprits, like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, most breads, cereals, and pasta, should be avoided. But thousands of processed foods contain ingredients made from gluten or casein, so staples such as hot dogs, lunch meat, bottled salad dressings, jarred sauces, and even some margarine may not be allowed. Examining labels and ingredients is a must, especially since some substitute-dairy products may actually contain casein. For the GFCF diet to have a chance of working, the proteins need to be gone for good. In one study, kids who strayed from the diet just once every other month showed fewer improvements than those who broke the diet two times or less during a year.

Research is mixed — but promising.

A 2009 research review concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a GFCF diet for autism, but some hopeful findings have emerged since then. In a small Danish study in 2010 of children ages 4 to 11, some kids showed significant improvements after 8, 12, and 24 months on a GFCF diet. Researchers at Penn State surveyed the parents of nearly 400 kids with autism and found evidence that a GFCF diet improved symptoms such as hyperactivity, temper tantrums, problems with eye contact and speech skills, and physical ailments such as skin rashes and seizures for certain groups of children. Those who showed the most improvement either followed the diet closely, stayed on it for at least six months, or had a history of food allergies or digestive issues, like chronic constipation and diarrhea.

No one knows for sure how it helps.

One theory is that children with autism are unable to fully break down casein and gluten and have increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky guts,” so the undigested or partially digested proteins leak through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream. When they do, the proteins may reach the brain and can lead to problems with behavior, speech, and social skills. Many doctors don’t believe that “leaky gut” syndrome exists. Another theory is that children with autism may simply be in pain and discomfort because of an unknown intolerance to gluten and casein. And yet another is that when those proteins are gone from the diet, kids tend to feel better (and even sleep better), so they’re more alert, get more out of therapies, and make greater progress.

It doesn’t work for everyone.

According to a study by Autism Speaks, nearly half of all kids with autism spectrum disorders suffer some kind of gastrointestinal symptoms. While it’s possible that gluten and casein proteins trigger a body’s immune response, causing inflammation of the GI tract, it’s also possible that food allergies and intolerances aggravate autism symptoms. Experts do not understand why, but the GFCF diet doesn’t help all children with autism. Those who have food allergies or chronic digestive problems seem to get the biggest benefit from the diet.

Getting expert help is key.

Work closely with a health practitioner, such as a registered dietitian, along with a physician who is well versed in GFCF diets. The doctor can assess your child’s current diet, confirm if he needs other nutritional supplements, and help you plan meals and snacks. Gluten and casein are found in many foods that kids eat, so removing these foods can compromise health, nutrition, and growth if the new diet isn’t well planned (especially if your child isn’t receptive to trying new foods). For example, gluten-free breads and cereals aren’t usually fortified with B vitamins, as standard grains are — and eliminating all dairy products means losing important sources of calcium and vitamin D.

It can be difficult at first.

Eliminating gluten and casein means forgoing most processed and restaurant food. Many children with autism are very selective (“picky”) eaters, in part because of sensitivities to certain flavors, smells, and textures of foods. The foods many kids rely on — such as regular crackers, cheese, and yogurt — aren’t allowed on the GFCF plan. Because gluten and casein proteins are thought to have an impact on the brain, children may go through a type of withdrawal when they’re removed. Some parents who have had success with the GFCF diet suggest removing casein first and then gluten a week or two later. Gradually introducing substitute foods (like non-dairy milks that don’t contain casein, or gluten-free pasta) can help too. You can expect to spend more time planning and preparing food, especially when you first begin the diet. You’ll also need to be mindful of cross-contamination with gluten: Avoid sharing serving spoons or using the same cutting boards or toasters. But if your child experiences improvements on a GFCF diet, these extra measures won’t seem like a big deal.

Having patience is important.

Some parents notice improvements quickly, within a matter of days or weeks. But for others, improvements can take months, and some parents may not see any change at all. Although casein clears from the body in just two to three days, it can take four to six months for all traces of gluten to be gone from your child’s system. Plus, if your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease (an inability to digest gluten), it can take months for damaged intestines to heal. So give the diet at least six months before passing judgment.

Success depends on you.

Before starting the diet, figure out what improvements you’re hoping to see. Take a day or two to establish a “baseline” by asking yourself these questions: How many words is your child saying? How frequently does she make eye contact? How many tantrums does she have in a week? Then, over the course of weeks and months on the diet, reassess your child’s development. If you’re not seeing any significant improvements, the diet may not be worth your while.

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.


Autism and the Gluten/Casein-Free Diet: When Can We Stop?

 “My son has been on the gluten-free casein-free diet for two years. How do I know when to take him off?”

 Today’s “Food for Thought?” response is from developmental pediatrician Daniel Coury, medical director of Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (AS-ATN). Dr. Coury is also the chief of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.

Much has been said about the gluten free, casein free (GFCF) diet and its use to help individuals with autism.  Many families with children newly identified with autism wonder if it’s something their child should follow, and others who have been following the diet wonder if they should continue to adhere to it.  Let’s try to answer these questions.

The GFCF diet was first developed for people with celiac disease, a disorder that involves a severe reaction to gluten in the diet.  Gluten is found in wheat products such as bread and other bakery goods but also in a wide variety of other food products.  Casein is a protein most associated with dairy products and also has potential to cause severe reactions in certain individuals.  When used appropriately, the GFCF diet is safe and can help avoid these severe health problems.

The theory behind its use in autism is that if a person is having GI responses to these products, the resulting inflammation may damage the lining of the intestine and, so, lead to absorption of molecules that are not normally absorbed by healthy intestines.  Some evidence suggests that these molecules or the inflammation they cause can interact with the brain in ways that cause problems such as anxiety, mood abnormalities, mental difficulties and perhaps worsen the behavioral symptoms of autism.

That said, while the GFCF diet has been used in the autism community for a couple of decades, there is minimal evidence that it improves autism-related behaviors.

Should you place your child on the GFCF diet in the first place?  
If your child has GI problems (diarrhea, constipation) and sensitivity to certain foods that contain gluten or casein, then the GFCF diet is worth considering.  Over the past decade, the medical community has improved its understanding of gluten-reactivity in a small but significant portion of the population. Some of these individuals react to gluten even though they don’t have all the classic laboratory signs of celiac disease.

Once you’ve started the diet, if and when should you discontinue?
To answer this question – and it’s an important one – you want a clear idea of what you expect the diet to help. For example, are you hoping to relieve your child’s GI symptoms? Certainly, that is a good thing.  So if the diet improves your child’s GI discomfort and his behavior also improves as a consequence, that’s a clear benefit that’s worth maintaining.

So if you embark on a trial of the GFCF diet, I suggest you make a list of the benefits you seek. Ideally, I’d recommend you make this list a week before you start your child (or yourself) on the diet.  Then, keep a diary of the discomfort, behaviors or other symptoms of concern to you.

For example, if you hope the diet will improve your son’s diarrhea, it is helpful to know exactly where you are starting.  Does he have diarrhea five times a week? Twice a day? It will be good to know these numbers.

Then keep up the diary as your child starts the diet. Two weeks later, does he still have diarrhea 10 times a week? You may look at your diary and say “Hmmm.  I don’t think this is working.”

But you may find that with the diet, your child had diarrhea only once in those two weeks. Then, you’d probably say “Hmmm.  This seems to be helping.”

The problem with not establishing a baseline is that parents, and your child’s doctor, are left with vague impressions such as “I don’t know. Maybe it’s working. He seems to have less diarrhea, but it’s hard to tell.”  This makes it difficult to decide whether to continue with the diet or not. So, take the time and establish that baseline.

Discussions with your doctor
I also strongly urge you to discuss the diet with your child’s doctor.  Some doctors are more familiar than others with the GFCF diet’s popularity in the autism community.  However, most doctors understand the dietary restrictions involved and how they might interact with a child’s particular health conditions and nutritional needs.

So please work with your doctor and keep her aware of what you’re doing.

In addition, a nutritionist can provide guidance around the GFCF diet.  We sometimes encounter families who believe they are providing a GFCF diet, but actually continue to eat foods that contain gluten or casein. It can be tricky, because these proteins can be in some foods you might not suspect.

So presuming, you’ve taken all these steps, let’s circle back to your question: How long should you continue the GFCF diet with your son?

From what we’ve learned with celiac disease, it can take months for the gut to heal with clear improvements in GI symptoms.  If your child does not have celiac disease, it may take somewhat less time.  So a trial of two to three months should give ample time to see any benefits.

You say you’ve been using the diet for two years. If you haven’t seen clear improvement, then the diet almost certainly isn’t necessary.

Suppose you have seen clear improvement.  When should you stop the diet? We can’t answer that with a flat statement.

Some people can go back to a gluten-containing diet without their prior GI problems returning. Others have them return as soon as they start back on the diet.

We can’t predict this, so whether you want to try is a decision to make with input from your child’s healthcare team.

If you do continue with the GFCF diet, I recommend that your child take a daily multivitamin supplement to ensure adequate amounts of recommended vitamins and nutrients.  Your doctor or nutritionist should be able to advise you on this matter, as well.

Thank you for your question, and best wishes to you and your family.

Also see these related Autism Speaks news stories, blogs and resources:

FDA Issues Standards for Products Labeled Gluten-Free

In Autism: The Importance of the Gut

Unraveling Autism’s Gluten Mystery

How helpful is the casein-gluten-free diet?

Explore more:


Udderly New Insight About Milk and Autism: An Emerging New Hypothesis on A1 and A2 Beta-Casein

Reposted from December 31, 2008, NourishingHope.com

By Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant

As an autism nutrition consultant, I’ve been supporting clients following the Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) diet for years.  Some of my clients would report that their child could handle goat’s milk or raw milk without allergic reactions. I began to wonder if all milk was created equally.

I conjured various theories: could the protein in goat’s milk be different than cow milk, was it the pasteurization process (absent in raw milk) that made the difference, was it something else, or a combination of factors?  Then, one of my clients introduced me to A1 and A2 beta-casein.

There are various types of casein.  Goat’s milk, as well as sheep and buffalo milk, contain A2 beta-casein. Raw milk, while often from cows, is typically produced from small herds of Jersey and Gernsey cows, both of which contain a high percentage of A2 beta-casein compared to most dairies that use mainly Holstein cow’s that produce a majority of A1 beta-casein.  Here’s what I have learned through my research about casein and A1 versus A2 beta-casein.

Beta-casein is a protein that contains bioactive peptides and opioids. Bioactive peptides are important for protecting the undeveloped immune system of newborns, and stimulate the growth and development of organs like the gastrointestinal tract and gut. Bioactive peptides have also been shown to kill bacteria that normally cause immune system infections. Opioids have pain-killing effects, sedative properties, induce sleep, and play a role in the control of food intake. Opioids can be produced by the body in the form of endorphins, or be absorbed from digested food, such as milk and wheat, in the form of casomorphins and gluteomorphins (opioid proteins). Several forms of beta-casein exist and make up 25-30% of the proteins in cow’s milk. There are approximately 13 beta-casein variants, with A1 and A2 variants being the most commonly occurring. A1 beta-casein contains the amino acid histidine at position 67 in the protein, while A2 beta-casein instead contains the amino acid proline at the same position. Studies have shown that when digested, A1 beta-casein breaks down to a casomorphin protein called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM7). This is a direct result of the histidine amino acid that A1 beta-casein contains, as A2 beta-casein does not form BCM7 (1).

Several enzymes in the digestive tract process beta-casein including DPPIV, (dipeptidyl peptidase IV) and cause the break down of bioactive peptides and opioids. Studies suggest that the digestion of cow’s milk (containing A1 beta-casein), leads to the release of opioids, such as BCM7, and can cause harmful effects in children with autism (2) where DPPIV function may be impaired.  As this amino acid structure is more difficult to breakdown, those with compromised or weak digestion may accumulate opioids more readily. Additionally, when the gut is “leaky” (referring to increased gut permeability), these opioids end up in the blood stream in much greater concentrations than in those people with a healthy gut wall that does not leak. BCM7 is not produced when A2 beta-casein is digested, so goat’s, buffalo’s, and sheep’s milk that contain A2 beta-casein but not A1 beta-casein should not cause these harmful effects. There are other opioids that may also be formed; however, BCM7 appears to be the strongest.

As Jon Pangborn, Ph.D. describes, the enzyme DPPIV, which is also called CD26, has several other functions in the body, including involvement in signal transmission via lymphocyte receptors, and assisting the enzyme, ADA, in processing adenosine as an ADA binding protein. DPPIV is impaired by toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium, a milk allergy, organophosphate insecticides, and yeast. Children with autism have greater toxic metal burdens, and one theory is that these heavy metals knock out this DPPIV enzyme, and the impaired DDPIV leads to improper processing of dairy and wheat. A supplemented plant analog version of DPPIV cannot substitute for the animal version completely, but it can certainly help.

While it is possible that A2 milk may also release opioids, Japanese and German scientists were unable to release BCM7 from A2 milk (1, 3). It appears that human breast milk may not release BCM7 either. Interestingly, this may explain why breastfeeding does not seem to cause a casein reaction to sensitive babies when dairy is avoided in a mother’s diet. In addition to affecting autism, research suggests that BCM7 may lead to the onset of several diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and schizophrenia (4).

Studies have also shown that wheat products, which contain gluten, also cause health problems for children with autism (5)  Gluten has long been established as a problematic protein for many individual, most well studied in celiac patients, causing inflammation in the gut, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, digestive problems, and the improper absorption of nutrients.  Similar responses are seen in many children with autism (that are not diagnosed with celiac).  Gluten, along with an autistic person’s already compromised digestive system, can exacerbate the ability of the body to break down beta-casein.

Scientists believe that opioids like gliadomorphin (a gluten opioid) and BCM7 (a casein opioid) are toxic for children with autism due to the fact that these children have an abnormal, leaky, gastrointestinal tract (6). Instead of completely digesting and excreting these opioid proteins, some of the partially digested gluten and casein proteins leak out of the gut and are transported to other parts of the body before they can be completely digested. These opioid proteins travel through the bloodstream, cross the blood brain barrier (the barrier between the brain and the rest of the body), enter the brain, and stimulate morphine-like effects. Casein proteins (BCM7) negatively affect the brain by causing inattentiveness, unclear thinking, and irregular sleeping and eating patterns (7).

In children with autism, gliadomorphin and BCM7 can also cause the release of histamine, a chemical that regulates immune cell communication. Histamines are normally released in the body in response to an allergic reaction. This mis-regulation of immune cells weakens the immune system’s ability to ward off harmful viruses and bacteria that cause diseases.  This is consistent with the experience that many children with autism get frequent infections and illness.

Antibodies are also released to help target and remove unwanted opioid proteins. IgA is an antibody that can be found in blood, saliva, tears, and mucous membranes of the respiratory system and gastrointestinal tract. IgG antibodies are the most common antibodies in the body, and can be located in all bodily fluids. IgG antibodies are the only form of antibody that can cross the placenta in pregnant woman to protect a fetus (unborn baby). IgG antibodies also play a major role in fighting viral and bacterial infections. When the immune system detects foreign particles such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or cancer cells it stimulates the production and release of antibodies. These antibodies attach to the foreign particles, labeling them as hazardous so that they can be destroyed and removed from the body (8). So while the peptides from casein or gluten trigger an IgG immune response, the opioids trigger an IgA immune response. So it is not just opioids that trigger an immune response, casein and gluten protein can do so also, just using different types of antibodies.

Studies have shown that in autistic and schizophrenic patients, large amounts of gliadomorphin and BCM7 can be detected outside the gut (8). This further indicates that their bodies are not able to properly break down and utilize these opioid proteins. These studies also showed that in 86% of schizophrenic patients, IgA antibodies that were targeting gluten were released into the body, and 67% had IgA antibodies that were targeting casein. In patients with autism, approximately 30% of the patients had IgA antibodies targeting gluten and casein present in the body. The release of IgG antibodies targeting gluten and casein were also detected in these patients. More than 80% of the autistic and schizophrenic patients had elevated levels of IgG antibodies in their blood.

In recent years, the adverse
effects of gluten and casein led researchers and to believe that autistic and schizophrenic patients should be placed on a gluten-free/casein-free diet, and this has become a widespread treatment for both diseases (9). Case studies that involved putting patients with schizophrenia and autism on a gluten-free/casein-free diet normally lead to some improvement of symptoms, but more clinical trials need to be performed to get a better picture of why this is the case. There is not enough data yet to understand all of the complexity behind gluten and casein and the challenges with them, but the experience of thousands of patients support the science we know so far: that a gluten-free/casein-free diet helps. And of course implementing the diet always depends on the patient’s needs, the caregiver’s willingness to try it, and professional supervision (10).

Schizophrenic patients who were put on a gluten-free/casein-free diet or treated with dialysis, a process that cleans the blood in order to rid the body of gliadomorphin and BCM7, were relieved of their symptoms, and low levels of the opioid proteins were detected. Approximately 81% of patients with autism who were put on a gluten-free/casein-free diet for at least 3 months were also relieved of their symptoms. A few parents, who stated that their child with autism had seizures before going on the diet, noticed that the frequency of the seizures either decreased or ceased all together. As previously stated, opioid proteins can cause an allergic response in the body, which leads to the release of histamines. Histamines have a direct effect on immune cell regulation. The disturbed immune response leads to a higher production of antibodies, such as IgA and IgG, as a means of further breaking down and excreting harmful gliadomorphin and BCM7 particles. In other words, the high levels of antibodies that are detected in patients with autism are a direct result of complications that occur when gluten and A1 beta-casein are consumed (8).

A vast majority of children that consume dairy consume cow milk products so removal of dairy on the GFCF diet would be the removal of A1 beta-casein in most instances. This may be the reason the GFCF diet is so successful for children on the autism spectrum.  I’d like to pose a new hypothesis, maybe it is not ALL casein but the A1 beta-casein that is actually the primary problem with milk for children with autism.

With that said, there are most likely are other reactions and problems with dairy for some (if not many) individuals, so I do not think this preliminary information justifies abandoning the GFCF diet.  (In fact, I hesitated writing and talking about this topic for a long time, as I did not want to confuse parents new to diet.)  I have seen many wonderful results from GFCF and know many clients that cannot seem to tolerate goat or raw dairy.  I don’t want children to miss out of the full benefit from diet by not trying a GFCF diet.

Through my clinical experience, I have found that it is very important to give the GFCF diet a complete trial, free of any infractions.  Once a child has been on this diet for 3-6 months and you see what progress can be made with it, then and only then, do I feel that a parent may experiment with diet and try adding goat’s milk or some other A2 milk back.  It seems that for some children, their casein sensitivity is mild and A2 milk works well.  For others, once the gut is healed, they are able to consume small amounts of A2 milk.  I often hear that as a child’s digestive systems improve, they are able to handle goat’s milk yogurt or raw milk. It is possible that the BCM7 issue is a primary factor for some people, and that A2 milk may provide an option for some individuals.

While milk is not “necessary” in the diet, dairy has health benefits when the individual is not intolerant to it.  (Note that when people are intolerant, it can be very harmful regardless of the “benefits.”)  If there is a way to include some dairy in some children’s diets, there can be a positive benefit to having this flexibility and nutrition in the diet.  Dairy makes wonderful probiotic-rich fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir to support a healthy intestinal tract—and often nuts, nut milk and coconut-based fermentations are not tolerated.  Dairy contains essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K, and calcium.  Additionally, as I describe in Nourishing Hope for Autism, butyrate, (also butyric acid), found in dairy, “has been shown to clear ammonia and nitrogen, modulate local electrolyte flux, supports the reduction of diarrhea and improves very large, hard stools. Butyric acid also supports and fuels the intestinal walls to support a healthy gut and is used as an anti-candida substance.”   Raw dairy contains phosphatase (an enzyme important for calcium absorption), probiotics, unadulterated protein, and higher nutritional content (because of what is normally destroyed during pasteurization and because they are pasture-grazed).  This new A1 and A2 information may allow some children with autism to receive the benefits of milk without the problems it can cause.

Please share your experience with A2 milk.


1. Jinsmaa Y, Yoshikawa M. (1999) Enzymatic release of neocasomorphin and beta-casomorphin from bovine beta-casein. Peptides, 20:957-962.

2. Reichelt KL, Knivsberg AM, Lind G, Nodland M: Probable etiology and possible treatment of childhood autism. Brain Dysfunction 1991; 4: 308-319.

3. Hartwig A, Teschemacher H, Lehmann W, Gauly M, Erhadt G. (1997) Influence of genetic polymorphism in bovine milk on the occurence of bioactive peptides. In: Milk Protein Polymorphism, International Dairy Federation Special Publication, Brussels, Belgium. 9702 :459-460.

4. Kamiński S, Cieslińska A, Kostyra E. (2007) Polymorphism of bovine beta-casein and its potential effect on human health. The Journal of Applied Genetics, 48(3):189-198.

5.  Jyonouchi H, Geng L, Ruby A, Reddy C, Zimmerman-Bier B. (2005) Evaluation of an association between gastrointestinal symptoms and cytokine production against common dietary proteins in children with autism spectrum disorders. J Pediatr. May;146(5):582-4.

6. Shattock P, Whiteley P. (2002) Biochemical aspects in autism spectrum disorders: updating the opioid-excess theory and presenting new opportunities for biomedical intervention. Expert Opin Ther Targets. Apr;6(2):175-83

7. Sun Z, Zhang Z, Wang X, Cade R, Elmer Z, Fregly M. (2003) Relation of beta-casomorphin to apnea in sudden infant death syndrome. Peptides, 24:937–943.

8. Cade R, Privette R, Fregly M, Rowland N, Sun Z, Zele V. (2000) Autism and schizophrenia: intestinal disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 3: 57–72.

9. Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Nodland M. (2001) Reports on dietary intervention in autistic disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 4(1):25-37.

10. Knivsberg AM, Reichelt KL, Hoien T, Nodland M. (2002) A randomised, controlled study of dietary intervention in autistic syndromes. Nutritional Neuroscience, 5(4):251-61.

Originally published December 31, 2008.  Republished February 2011.

Is Dairy OK for Autistic Kids?

Is Dairy OK for Autistic Kids?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponPin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someone

Is dairy OK  for autistic kids? Many people have heard that adding yogurt into an autistic child’s diet can do wonders for their autism symptoms. Yet other people swear that dairy, including homemade yogurt, is an autism aggravator. For this reason, parents of autistic children must search and study in order to understand the issue of diary products and autism. We must educate ourselves first, and then we can learn how homemade yogurt can be used to supplement autism recovery.

Is Dairy OK for Autistic Kids?

One of the first questions people have to address is the conflict behind the mainstream idea that yogurt, or dairy in specific, should be omitted from an autistic child’s diet.  This idea hit mainstream as a result of the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet dietary fad. I personally do not recommend the GFCF diet, as it actually caused an increase in the severity of my son’s autism due to the high exposure to yeasts, sugars, and starches that this diet centers on.  Instead, I found the answer to autism recovery in the GAPS diet protocol. Read GFCF diet VS. GAPS to learn more about these two diets and why you should choose GAPS over GFCF hands-down.

But the main question to address in this article is the question of dairy. Is dairy okay for autistic kids? Or is it the culprit of so many of the autistic child’s symptoms? The answer is a bit complicated. In my experience, all dairy should be removed for at least 4 weeks at the onset of autism dietary intervention.

Two Reasons to Ditch Dairy…at least for a few weeks

Using diet as a foundation for recovery, you will quickly learn that your child’s body will change every 4-6 weeks as healing occurs.Click here to read more about Autism Recovery Timeline using GAPS diet. For now, though,  I will give you two good reasons to just ditch dairy right now and not worry about using yogurt or anything else dairy related for at least a month.

  • No dairy or dairy product that you are buying from your grocery store (including high-end health food stores) is high enough quality to be used for autism recovery. Especially in the beginning stages.
  • It’s an absolute certainty that the dairy being consumed is not being digested properly. In order to understand this better, let’s take a closer look at casein.

Casein is a milk protein found in all milk and milk products. Many people’s bodies, specifically children with autism, lack the ability to digest these proteins properly. When the proteins do not digest properly, they turn into substances with similar chemical structures to opiates.

Yes, I said opiates. As in morphine and heroin. Have you ever noticed that your autistic child’s behavior makes them appear to be intoxicated with alcohol or drugs? Staring off into space for long periods of time, altered sense of reality, hallucinations, delayed response, inability to coordinate movement and thought, altered speech patterns…doesn’t this all sound familiar?

There has actually been a substantial amount of research done in this area. The result has been the scientific discovery of opiates from gluteomorphins and casomorphins in urine tests of people with schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, post-partum psychosis, epilepsy, Downs syndrome, depression, and autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis.

What this means is that peptides from gluten and casein in the diet are transforming into opiates when the body fails to digest them properly. So, yes, your child is getting high from gluten and casein. Once the opiates are in the blood stream, they get through the blood-brain barrier and actually block areas of the brain preventing normal function. Just like morphine and heroin do. Once again, we arrive back at the place we started with. Digestion must come first. Obviously, gluten and casein must be removed from the diet while the digestive tract heals and symptoms of intoxication clear up.

Yogurt boosts GI function and Builds Immune Support

Our kids can’t recover if they’re getting high on casomorphins, so dairy should be essentially removed from the diet at the onset of recovery. Using the GAPS diet, we can begin to reintroduce two dairy products relatively early in the recovery process that are essentially casein free. Those two products are ghee and home-fermented yogurt.  They must be introduced separately to test for reaction. The GAPS diet is very specific about this, and as your child recovers you may find that your child can enjoy dairy products without adverse reactions. Click here to read about How to Start GAPS Diet correctly. But, until you go through the initial stages of the GAPS introductory diet, consider that dairy is not OK for autistic kids.

When we first started, my son could not tolerate anything but ghee and small quantities of homemade yogurt for the first 18 months of his recovery. But he now can eat small quantities of various cheeses in meals without reaction, so the key is to give the body enough time to heal before introducing dairy and then to go very slowly to test for reactions. But you must understand right away that commercially prepared yogurt does not qualify. Commercially prepared yogurt basically means any yogurt made outside of your home.  Let me explain.

Homemade Yogurt VS. Store-Bought

Homemade yogurts are not created equal. The issues that we have are as follows:

  • milk quality
  • probiotic count
  • fermentation process

Yogurt must be prepared from fresh, raw milk purchased from a dairy farm whose cows are fully pastured, and that do not receive antibiotics, hormones, grain or GMO supplementation throughout the year. To ensure these qualifications, I suggest contacting the Weston Price Foundation and researching dairy farms in your area. You will still need to be sure the farmers aren’t using GMO supplementation, antibiotics, or hormones, but generally speaking dairy farmers listed through the  Weston Price Foundation will follow these guidelines.

When fermented properly, the probiotic count in homemade yogurt far surpasses the probiotic count of commercial varieties. Those plastic containers of yogurt sitting on the shelf in the grocery store are a sad comparison to the probiotic value of home fermented yogurt.  Now, the texture and taste may surprise you at first. But if let go of your mainstream expectations you will quickly discover the amazing, healing properties of REAL food.

How to Make Yogurt

Once you have your milk source, making the yogurt is so easy you’ll wonder why you ever thought you couldn’t. Here is my recipe!

  • 1 half gallon raw milk
  • 1 cup organic, plain whole milk yogurt (I like Wallaby Greek style)

In a large saucepan, heat milk over very low heat until thermometer reaches 110 degrees. This is the temperature that that probiotic bacteria likes to grow! Whisk in your yogurt starter. Pour into a clean 1/2 gallon mason jar and screw on the lid. Place in your oven with the light on and the door closed. No heat is necessary, the heat from the oven light is all that will be needed to ferment your yogurt. Refrigerate after 24 hours.

There are more ways than this to properly make yogurt, its so easy that almost everybody I know has their own favorite method. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.


Autism and Malnutrition: The Milk Connection

By Linda CarltonTo understand autism we can begin this journey from what we have learned about how seemingly insignificant dietary changes can affect newborn primates. In October 1975, three Japanese scientists raised a group of infant primates. By artificial nursing, these primates were fed a casein powdered milk formula. When they modified the infant formula to reduce the content of protein and increased the lactose to supplement the appropriate number of calories, the primate infants developed abnormal behaviors such as stereotype rocking, fear, aggression, head banging and other autistic-like behaviors. Completely unaware of what they had discovered, the scientists had induced autism in a clinical setting.

Now, they were aware that by reducing the protein content they caused the infants to become malnourished. They also observed that without human contact some infants were much more impaired. They learned that the infants that received the standard solution were reared successfully. At that time they concluded that a protein deficiency had caused a decline in physical and mental growth. Subsequent studies have supported this, whereby protein deficiency does cause developmental delay.

Autism Versus Developmental Delay

But it is important to know which symptoms are truly autistic and which are that of developmental delay. These disorders are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. For example, hand flapping is an autistic symptom, but it is not a common characteristic of developmental delay. In developmental delay children are often slow to learn, and will quickly fall behind their peers. The symptoms of these primates were more than just symptoms of developmental delay–they were symptoms of autism.

The most important information we have about these infant primates is that the researchers had also increased the lactose content in their diet. If the quantity of protein matched that of the quantity of lactose, this might not have occurred, or it might also have occurred if they had been fed too much protein. The standard formula given to the infant primates that were reared successfully were given the same amount of lactose, and what would have been the normal amount of protein for these size mammals.

Lactose and Autism

Lactose is the key to unraveling what happened to these infants. Bacteria use lactose, or milk sugar, as a nutrient base. Bifidobacteria and clostridia use lactose, and they often describe these strains of bacteria as lactose-fermenting bacteria. One difference in Bifidobacteria and Clostridia is that only one can produce significant amounts of ammonia, only one can damage the intestines. Milk oligosaccharides contain lactose; they are fermented in the infant colon where they selectively stimulate the growth of Bifidobacteria. Clostridia are competitors of Bifidobacteria, and Clostridia produce ammonia. Ammonia and only ammonia produced from bacteria could have caused the aberrant behaviors.

The infant primates had developed symptoms of autism because there was protein restriction, milk proteins needed for ammonia detoxification, and not necessarily just casein. They were fed lactose and lactose ferments ammonia, producing bacteria. They were unable to detoxify on a protein-deficient diet. It is a simple formula:

Protein + Lactose = Normal Development
Low protein + High Lactose = Autism

But protein malnutrition does not equal autism nor does lactose feeding equal autism. However,

Protein malnutrition + high-lactose feeding + (the unknown factor) = Autism

There has to be an unknown factor for this to occur, a combination of things that all relate to one another. The unknown factor can be found by testing these three variables. We have to review other information that we have on children with autism to give us the correct answer to the unknown factor.

A low-protein diet offsets a nitrogen balance to detoxify ammonia, whereas lactose feeding ferments bacteria. The only variable that could account for the unknown factor is ammonia. In autism, there are signs of ammonia detoxification, for example when GABA and nitric oxide are increased. So instead of developing overt ammonia toxicity, they are able to detoxify this excess ammonia. As encouraging as this sounds it still depletes cellular energy. Many parents can recall ‘staring spells’ as the first behavioral change in a child prior to autistic regression. This can be the first sign of increased blood ammonia.

Other symptoms found in children with only minimal increases in blood ammonia were:

  • Developmental regression
  • Loss of acquired speech
  • Stereotype hand movements
  • Myoclonic seizures
  • Generalized epileptic discharges
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Sensory dysfunction
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

Finegold and his colleagues have published three studies on children with autism. The first study was with the use of antibiotics. The second study of stool specimens indicated a vast overpopulation of Clostridia in children with autism. Many physicians use antibiotics for treatment of elevated blood ammonia to kill the ammonia-producing bacteria. Antibiotics have produced dramatic effects in children with autism, however this treatment did inevitably fail. Experiments with fermented foods after antibiotic treatments have been somewhat successful in preventing relapsing Clostridial infections.

Live Bacteria to Temper Immune Response

As many of us already know, treatment with probiotic supplements at most show only minor, if any, improvement in autistic symptoms. These can sometimes take weeks or even months to take affect or may never have any effect. The reason for this is that when probiotic bacteria are dried and then rehydrated, even with prebiotic assistance it takes time for these bacteria to reestablish a colony. When live bacteria are frozen they can re-colonize within 24 hours at room temperature, but when bacteria are heat-killed they induce an immune response and their ability to re-colonize is remote. Each time we consume foods with heat-killed bacteria it produces an immune response.

Every time we receive a vaccination with heat-killed bacteria or a heat-killed virus, it produces a similar immune response. Live bacteria such as that of lactic acid bacteria can temper these immune responses. The infant primates were fed heat-treated formulas, Clostridia is an opportunist infection, looking for a chance to colonize. However, Clostridia is also a natural inhabitant of the colon. The problem here with heat-treated foods is that you might as well say they are sterile. If you are feeding sterile foods, they don’t contain bacteria that can form
a colony. So in order to colonize bacteria you have to consume foods with live bacteria or an opportunist will take that invitation.

Breast-fed babies are colonized naturally by Bifidobacteria. Babies fed formula develop much more harmful fecal environments. Preterm infants are especially at risk for Clostridrial infections because there is usually a delay in breast feeding. In older children generally pathogenic Clostridial infections develop after antibiotic treatment, which can destroy the beneficial bacteria derived from the mother.

Impaired Digestion and Pasteurized Milk

Pasteurized milk causes the impaired digestion of casein and other proteins found in milk. Malnutrition is caused by either an insufficient diet or an impaired utilization of foods. Malabsorption is the impairment of intestinal absorption of nutrients. Some children with protein-calorie deficiency had abnormal intestinal fat absorption, and because of this they had an increased uptake of serotonin in the plasma. One scientific study found hyperserotoninaemia in 70 percent of their autistic patients. It should come as no surprise that serotonin uptake inhibitors have had some success in treating autistic children. The medical literature supports the realization that protein deficiency causes developmental delay and even mild increases in ammonia causes oddities in behavior.

Some methods of ammonia detoxification have been suggested with the use of lactulose, oral lactulose and the drug Tributyrate, which can scavenge excess ammonia. Lactulose can cause extreme irritability in children, and perhaps its use with autistic children was abandoned due to these circumstances.

Impacted Colons and Pasteurized Milk

Children with autism frequently have impacted colons. Clostridia is notorious for reducing the quantity of water in the colon. Hard dry stools can cause irritability once stool-softening products are started. These stools might only be removed by using an enema prior to beginning any stool-softening treatment. Once the bowels have been cleared of extremely hard, dry stools, then treatment with stool softeners can begin.

What we have to consider is the matter of colonizing bacteria. A healthy colon in a normal infant contains a significant supply of Bifidobacteira. Pasteurized milk simply putrefies in the colon and hinders the passage of fecal matter. Pasteurized milk contains heat-killed bacteria and is unable to reflourish the colon with host-friendly bacteria–unless contaminated, it is sterile.

When milk proteins are damaged by heat processing it renders them indigestible. Raw milk does not cause constipation. Constipation is caused by the loss of moisture. Lactose and lactulose add moisture back to the colon, but clostridia can quickly dry up the feces. Raw milk is easily digestible by infants, for as long as babies have been born mothers have been feeding their young casein and other milk proteins. Clostridia can feed on unabsorbed lactose from the diet. Lactose is completely hydrolyzed in cheeses made with bifidobacteria.

Autism and Casein-Free Diets

Science cannot support the presumption that a casein-free diet reduces autistic symptoms. All the literature on casein restriction indicates this only causes a developmental delay. If an improvement is seen on a casein-free diet, it is only because of the removal of free lactose, and the removal of constipating foods.

The very worst thing that you can do to a child coping with mercury is to wean them off of breast or raw milk. Weaning causes the hair and blood mercury levels to suddenly drop, and it is re-routed to the colon for excretion. If the child is constipated, it could mean real problems.

Now we know three Japanese researchers were able to induce autism in a clinical setting, with a low-protein, high-lactose, sterilized formula. The belief that infant-mother separation or the refrigerator mother causes autistic symptoms continued for many years. Understanding what happened to these infant primates could have changed the course of medical history. Unfortunately, two new theories of what causes autistic symptoms have followed.

Treating Autistic Symptoms

To treat the symptoms of autism, we have to feed our children foods that they can digest, foods that do not cause constipation, foods that will give them back the bacterial environment to temper these inflammatory conditions. And most importantly return to proper nitrogen-ammonia balance.

Treatment should begin with a healthy diet, high in quality protein foods such as eggs, meat, milk and cheese and balanced essential oils. Raw goat’s or raw cow’s milk may be given. If not well tolerated, then cultured raw milk/kefir can be used. Oral, inexpensive butyrate may be given to both clean the colon and to detoxify ammonia from the liver and bowels.

To finalize, there are still the issues of treating malabsorption, the impairment of intestinal absorption of nutrients and abnormal intestinal fat absorption. To begin nutritional rehabilitation for your child you will need some help navigating through the complicated process. Dr. Patricia Kane has treated thousands of children with autism over the past 25 years who have not only had malnutrition, but also abnormal intestinal fat absorption. Restoration of digestive function is critical to absorbing dietary essential fatty acids and stabilizing the nutrient base.

Japanese scientists in 1975 documented the development of autistic symptoms and revealed how diet can induce these symptoms. In 2004 we now have the tools to eradicate the symptoms of autism.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

I have come to realize that the major reason why autistic children need to avoid milk is because it is pasteurized. The pasteurization process turns casein into a very dangerous molecule that can further precipitate the brain injury. If the children are fed real raw milk this will not occur.

I have started recommending this to my autistic patients. The author of this paper, Linda Carlton, an independent researcher and parent of a child with autism, has been getting tremendous results with this approach. The approach involves fermenting raw milk with kefir grains.

Ideally, you can find a local farmer who will be willing to sell raw milk to you. If you find one you will want to encourage him to consider restricting grains from the cows’ feed to improve the quality of the milk.

If you are unable to find a local dairy farmer who will cooperate with you please try this link: http://www.realmilk.com/where.html

Related Articles:

Pasteurized Milk and its Link to Autism

More Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Drink Pasteurized Milk

Scientists Retract Vaccine-Autism Link?!

Good Bacteria May Relieve Autism Symptoms

We Are In the Midst of An Autism Epidemic


Allen DA. Autistic spectrum disorders: clinical presentation in preschool children. J Child Neurol. 1988;3 Suppl:S48-56.

al-Jarallah AA, Salih MA, al Nasser MN, al Zamil FA, al Gethmi J. Rett syndrome in Saudi Arabia: report of six patients Ann Trop Paediatr. 1996 Dec;16(4):347-52.

Batshaw ML, Hyman SL, Mellits ED, Thomas GH, DeMuro R, Coyle JT. Behavioral and neurotransmitter changes in the urease-infused rat:
a model of congenital hyperammonemia. Pediatr Res. 1986 Dec;20(12):1310-5.
Benno Y, Mitsuoka T. Impact of Bifidobacterium longum on human fecal microflora. Microbiol Immunol. 1992;36(7):683-94.

Butel MJ, Roland N, Hibert A, Popot F, Favre A, Tessedre AC, Bensaada M, Rimbault A, Szylit O. Clostridial pathogenicity in experimental necrotising enterocolitis in gnotobiotic quails and protective role of bifidobacteria. J Med Microbiol. 1998 May;47(5):391-9.

Butel MJ, Waligora-Dupriet AJ, Szylit O. Oligofructose and experimental model of neonatal necrotising enterocolitis. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S213-9.

Byrd DJ, Krohn HP, Winkler L, Steinborn C, Hadam M, Brodehl J, Hunneman DH. Neonatal pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency with lipoate responsive lactic acidaemia and hyperammonaemia. Eur J Pediatr. 1989 Apr;148(6):543-7.

Chow J Probiotics and prebiotics: A brief overview. J Ren Nutr. 2002 Apr;12(2):76-86.

Finegold SM, Molitoris D, Song Y, Liu C, Vaisanen ML, Bolte E, McTeague M, Sandler R, Wexler H, Marlowe EM, Collins MD, Lawson PA, Summanen P, Baysallar M, Tomzynski TJ, Read E, Johnson E, Rolfe R, Nasir P, Shah H, Haake DA, Manning P, Kaul A. Gastrointestinal microflora studies in late-onset autism. Clin Infect Dis. 2002 Sep 1;35(Suppl 1):S6-S16.

Kaiser E, Weiss K, Zimmer J. [Fermentation process during the ensiling of green forage low in nitrate. 1. Fermentation process in untreated green forage] [Article in German] Arch Tierernahr. 1997;50(1):87-102.

Kien CL, Sumners JE, Stetina JS, Heimler R, Grausz JP. A method for assessing carbohydrate energy absorption and its application to premature infants. Am J Clin Nutr. 1982 Nov;36(5):910-6.

Kilshaw PJ, Heppell LM, Ford JE. Effects of heat treatment of cow’s milk and whey on the nutritional quality and antigenic properties. Arch Dis Child. 1982 Nov;57(11):842-7.

Kohrs MB, Scheffler G, Kerr G. Effect of a low protein diet during pregnancy of the rhesus monkey. II. Physiological adaptation of the infant. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979 Jun;32(6):1206-13.

Levy PQ, Bicho MP. [Platelet serotonin as a biological marker of autism] [Article in Portuguese] Acta Med Port. 1997 Dec;10(12):927-31

Liu Q, Duan ZP, Ha da K, Bengmark S, Kurtovic J, Riordan SM. Synbiotic modulation of gut flora: effect on minimal hepatic e ncephalopathy in patients with cirrhosis. Hepatology. 2004 May;39(5):1441-9.

Lonnerdal B Nutritional and physiologic significance of human milk proteins. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jun;77(6):1537S-1543S.

Lok E The effect of weaning on blood, hair, fecal and urinary mercury after chronic ingestion of methylmercuric chloride by infant monkeys. Toxicol Lett. 1983 Feb;15(2-3):147-52.

Morishita Y, Shiromizu K. Effects of dietary lactose and purified diet on intestinal microflora of rats. Jpn J Med Sci Biol. 1987 Feb;40(1):15-26.

Nishikawa I, Kawanishi G, Cho F, Honjo S, Hatakeyama T. Chemical composition of cynomolgus monkey milk. Jikken Dobutsu. 1976 Oct;25(4):253-64.

Picaud JC Formula-fed preterm neonates Minerva Pediatr. 2003 Jun;55(3):217-29.

Qazzaz ST, Mamattah JH, Ashcroft T, McFarlane H. The development and nature of immune deficit in primates in response to malnutrition. Br J Exp Pathol. 1981 Oct;62(5):452-60

Saito Y, Hamanaka Y, Saito K, Takizawa S, Benno Y. Stability of species composition of fecal bifidobacteria in human subjects during fermented milk administration. Curr Microbiol. 2002 May;44(5):368-73.

Sandler RH, Finegold SM, Bolte ER, Buchanan CP, Maxwell AP, Vaisanen ML, Nelson MN, Wexler HM. Short-term benefit from oral vancomycin treatment of regressive-onset autism. J Child Neurol. 2000 Jul;15(7):429-35.

Srivastava N, Singh N, Joshi YK Nutrition in the management of hepatic encephalopathy Trop Gastroenterol. 2003 Apr-Jun;24(2):59-62

Sweeten TL, Posey DJ, Shankar S, McDougle CJ. High nitric oxide production in autistic disorder: a possible role for interferon-gamma. Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Feb 15;55(4):434-7

Trevathan E, Naidu S. The clinical recognition and differential diagnosis of Rett syndrome. J Child Neurol. 1988;3 Suppl:S6-16.

Vince A, Killingley M, Wrong OM. Effect of lactulose on ammonia production in a fecal incubation system. Gastroenterology. 1978 Mar;74(3):544-9

Wagner JD, Jerome CP, Adams MR. Gluten-sensitive enteropathy in a cynomolgus monkey. Lab Anim Sci. 1988 Oct;38(5):592-4.

Yanai S, Minami T, Sonoda K, Gondo K, Tasaki K, Hijii T, Fukushige J, Ueda K, Hirata T, Hayashi T, et al. Patent ductus venosus associated with a hyperintense globus pallidum on T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging and pulmonary hypertension. Eur J Pediatr. 1995 Jul;154(7):526-9.

Wako H, Hatakeyama T, Kamihara M, Wada S. [Artificial nursing of new-born cynomolgus monkeys as a model of the human infant and development of abnormal behavior (author’s transl)] [Article in Japanese] Jikken Dobutsu. 1975 Oct;24(4):161-71.

Other references available upon request.