Food allergies

Sensitive and neuro-atypical people often have multiple allergies, including intolerance to many foods. It is therefore always a good idea to check for allrgies.

Gluten, casein and lactose intolerance has gotten a lot of attention, and may be a problem for some.

“I don’t know if it’s the casein, or the lactose or the lactase, but when I have dairy products, my asthma flares up. Also it makes my joints hurt more.”

Rachel, Aspie

“For myself I find that [casein] affects my cognition. My ability to think clearly and recollect needed information. It also makes me somewhat weird in mind and makes me sleepy.”

Nathan, Aspie from USA

I’ve tested both things [gluten and caseine avoidance], but found that it was only gluten that is a problem. Have been gluten-free many years now, and it has helped my digestive problems. Naturally, it didn’t cure any autism/AS, if anyone thought it might. Rather it is something one may want to try if one has stomach problems and/or is thin and unable to gain weight due to digestive problems.

rdos, male with AS traits from Sweden

Gluten sensitivity can be confusing, as there are several types. In a mailing list I found this great description:

“This comes from a friend of mine… I hope this helps”

Erin, person with SPD

“Celiac is an autoimmune intestinal disorder where gluten triggers an immunological toxic reaction and damages the villi in the intestines. Traces of this protein can cause this reaction and strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is recommended. Although an autoimmune disorder, this disease is often found to have a genetic component. It can be diagnosed at any time in life. Because of nutritional malabsorption, undiagnosed or untreated celiac can lead to serious long-term conditions and other autoimmune disorders.

“Gluten allergy triggers an immune response and is identified by measuring IgE antibodies. IgE antibodies are bound to mast cells which are embedded in the body tissue. When an antigen, in this case gluten, is seen by the right IgE antibody, they will bind together. This then causes the mast cell to then send out chemical messengers causing changes in the cells and tissue around it – a histamine reaction – recognized as hives and swelling. Allergic reactions are seen anywhere from immediately to up to 4-6 hours of contact. Skin prick tests are good measures for IgE antibodies. Absolute removal and contact with gluten is required.

“Gluten intolerance is a little more complicated. It typically does not involve the immune system which is why skin prick tests are not good measures and are typically negative. With intolerance, reactions to food are typically delayed and can take up to 3 days to show, and typically involve foods which are eaten frequently. Because of the frequency of consumption, it’s hard to determine the food until it is taken away. An elimination diet, in simplistic terms, involves removing the food from 1-3 weeks, then reintroducing it and guaging any reaction. Sometimes it takes more than just a bite to trigger a reaction and can be cumulative, meaning, you might reintroduce the food successfully and not have any reactions, then a month later, the symptoms come back. This would suggest that you are still intolerant, but can put the food into a 4 to 7-day rotation. There is a possibility of an intolerance to disappear. Unlike allergy where there are only a handful of easily recognizeable reactions, intolerance can take many forms and is often different for each person. An IgG blood test, and sometimes an IgA, are better measures for this type of reaction though there is poor concensus among some (traditional) doctors about the validity of this test. The elimination diet is the ‘gold standard’. Gluten removal is recommended and will make you feel better, but is not required, however continuing to eat the offending foods can cause great stress on the body and create other immune problems and allergy/sensitivity problems, it can also cause the food to trip into a true allergic reaction.”

However, gluten or milk protein may not be the culprit in every case.

[A]ccording to studies by Gupta (University of California), there are around 20% of kids with autism with primary immune deficiencies. According to studies by Waring (Birmingham University), around 60% have Salicylate intolerance and according to Shattock (Sunderland University) around 80% can’t digest Casein (cow’s milk) and Gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats) – so its NOT all of them.

Donna Williams, author and consultant with autism from Australia, in her article “What if there is no such thing as ‘autistic’?”

There are numerous other allergies, hypersensitivities and environmental triggers that may cause problems. Some of which don’t show up on standard allergy tests but have to be figured out by systematic elimination/reintroduction trials.

Salicylates found in aspirin and some vegetables are harmless to most people but can be toxic to those with a salicylate sensitivity, according to Donna Williams, and dr Feingold (see Feingold diet).

Eliminating other known irritants like MSG, Aspartame, hydrolysed vegetable protein, artificial colouring, corn starch, sugar and other refined carbohydrates can be a good idea for people in general, and for sensitive people in particular. Sugar can cause hyperactivity in some (see ADHD).

“We also figured out this way Jerry can not have donuts for breakfast. They make him hyper and he can’t concentrate the rest of the day. I was able to show him the pages with the proof and he doesn’t give me a hard time about this anymore. With Jerry if you can prove to him one way is better than another he is more compliant. (I am the same way).”

Beth, Aspie parent from USA

Sensitive digestion

Many have extra sensitive digestion and get stomach upset by the slightest pressure or change in diet. Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or other gut/digestive diseases are not uncommon. Sometimes from stress, sometimes from certain foods or additives one is sensitive to.

“Some artificial sweetners give me really bad stomach cramps. I bought some flavoured water a bit back (a brand I’d not bought before – it just looked nice) and I could not drink it all because I was in quite a bit of pain and I’d not even drunk 1/2 the bottle (small bottle). I checked the label – sure enough there was some artificial sweetner in it – even though it didn’t say it was a diet drink. I had to chuck it away – it’ll teach me to read labels anyway.”

Julie, Aspie from England

“Nutra sweet does that to me, I can’t digest it, If I have a little I get cramps and diarrhea, If a lot of it, I’m throwing up, Neither of which is any fun. I tend to avoid most artificial sweeteners or things with them in it.”

Beth, Aspie from USA



  1. Tracey, Aspie From USA said,

    I found that the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet ) diet has helped me tremendously with my food intolerance’s and brain fog.

  2. Daz said,

    I find grapes & oranges play havoc with my digestion. Literally within an hour it’s straight through and like that for a few hours afterwards.Anything with caffine is the complete opposite. I know its likely tied in with me getting migraines too

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