by Balasubramanian Santhanam, MD; Barry Kendler, PhD, FACN
Autism is thought to have a multifactorial etiology that includes hereditary and environmental triggers accompanied by gastrointestinal disorders, such as chronic duodenitis, gastritis, reflux esophagitis, intestinal lymphoid dysplasia, dysbiosis, excessive intestinal permeability, and yeast over- growth. Food sensitivity, especially to gluten and casein, is a prominent finding, as are autoimmunity, metabolic disorders, heavy metal toxicity, and nutritional deficiencies or excesses. Accordingly, medical practitioners have used dietary interventions with varying efficacy in autism treatment, including gluten and casein–free diets and use of omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and carnosine. With most of these interventions, anecdotal reports of favorable responses usually exceed the number of scientifically controlled studies, but several of these studies have suggested efficacy. Researchers have concluded that autism therapy may require concurrent, multiple-agent interventions to counter the disease’s multifactorial etiology, which they believe to result in a neurologically toxic body burden.