Gluten and Autism Connection

5 Foods That Can Make Autism Worse

Having seen more than 1,000 patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Amen Clinics, one of the first lessons we learned is that the ASD condition is not caused by one specific thing in the brain; there are actually 8-10 different factors that influence abnormal brain function.

For some with ASD, we see ASD brains through SPECT imaging that are wildly overactive – often due to an inflammatory process. For others, we see brains with dramatic under-activity, that may be due to a toxin or some type of insult or injury to the brain.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to look at brain function when coming up with a treatment plan for ASD. Throwing medication-tipped darts in the dark can hurt people. But there is one thing that ALL people with ASD should do regardless of whether their brains are overactive or under-active…eliminate anything that can hurt their brain.

Along those lines, it is important to realize that the food you eat is either medicine or it is poison. Here are the top 5 foods to avoid as they can make ASD worse.


When casein (one of the proteins in dairy) mixes with stomach acid, it produces something called an exorphin. Exorphins bind to the opioid receptor sites and can result in a myriad of troubles – brain fog, spaciness, inability to concentrate, and a numbness to pain, just to name a few.

In our experience, when people with ASD removed dairy from their diet, they began talking more, their hyperactivity was reduced, and bowel problems were resolved.


A mixture of proteins found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, gluten can increase inflammation when ingested. In fact, your body can create antibodies to gluten which can fire up, or inflame, your brain.

Gluten seems to particularly negatively affect the functioning of the cerebellum. Through our imaging work, we have discovered that those with ASD already often have decreased functioning of their cerebellum – consuming gluten can just make it much worse.


Eighty-five percent of the corn raised in the United States is raised with pesticide. Additionally, it has the most unhealthy fatty-acid profile of any grain…yes, you read that right, GRAIN. Corn is NOT a vegetable. Corn has been found to be a breeding ground for as many as 22 different fungi. There is simply nothing truly beneficial and many potentially harmful things that can come from eating corn.


Not only is sugar pro-inflammatory, it also increases erratic brain cell firing and it is very addictive. For many folks with ASD, it is likely that they had some type of insulin to their brain so when they consume sugar, the damage from the insulin is just magnified.

Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates and increasing lean protein can dramatically improve concentration and judgment, and decrease impulsiveness.


While these things are not really “foods”, they are unfortunately in so many food products that we wanted to list them here. Avoid all additives, preservatives, dyes and artificial colors, artificial flavorings, and artificial sweeteners.

Autism is a multi-faceted and misunderstood condition; Amen Clinics can help decipher the right treatments and protocols. If you would like to learn more, please visit us online or call 888-288-9834.


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  1. E Mahlmann says:

    Where did those statistics come from on corn? Never heard such ludicrous misinformation and statements after being in agriculture for over 25 years!

    • Lyndsi Nicole says:

      Corn isn’t even regulated by the FDA!! They’ve genetically modified it to have so much pesticide in it that it can’t even be considered food!!!! You should know this since you’ve been in the industry so long…..

      • Julie says:

        Careful, Mihman… your brain malfunction is showing.

        • islandergirl says:

          Mihman, wake up and look at the facts!! As a parent of a child/adult affected with autism, ai am VERY CONCERNED with all of this! Years ago, before all of the GMO crap, this was NOT an issue.

          • Bjorn says:

            As an adult with austism, all of your comments to Mihman are really embarrassing and make me worry for your children.

        • Meg Kapp says:

          brainwashed do some real research and stop believing all the garbage the pesticide industry is selling their in it to make a profit they do not care about anyone’s health

    • Marilyn says:

      Corn is a seed. Just like grains. They are seeds of grasses.

  2. Dee says:

    Non GMO corn like your corn on the cob (I grow my own) is probably not going to be too bad, (but the article is referring to autism / gut health to avoid all together and I’m certainly not disputing that) but all the over-processed garbage / exploitation that is produced today (corn produce) is where the problem really starts and where it is definitely considered a grain/allergen. Corn products have been a staple in diets in Italy (polenta), Mexico and poorer nations etc for centuries, however how it has been exploited today is a different story which means we have to really exercise our rights as consumers and smarten up with our purchases. Corn products today have become a sneaky ingredient found in so many products unnecessarily. I don’t have autism (compassion to those who do) but I have had gut issues such as leaky gut so avoid most corn products now that I’m (mostly) healed. I may occasionally have a non GMO corn on the cob very rarely and in a social setting, but if my symptoms come back, I make changes and note potential allergens (what triggered it). This is a good article to offer help and awareness to those with autism, or for a carer of someone with autism. I also don’t know if this is correct, but I don’t mind so much when travelling in EU to have a little bit of corn product bcos it’s not like the super exploited grain that it has become in the US. Hopefully, with more people taking a stand on our beautiful planet that things can do a turn around with GMO foods – as in abolish them and nit over exploit. Perhaps we would then see a decrease in the world with autism and the like.

    • Kirstin Mae says:

      Lol all corn is GMO. Real non GMO corn was “at least 7000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte. Teosinte looked very different from our corn today. The kernels were small and were not placed close together like kernels on the husked ear of modern corn.” If that’s what you mean by non GMO, cool. If not then I’m sorry to say all “corn on the cob” is GMO. It was genetically modified by selective breeding. Scientists today is using the very same concept except faster in a laboratory instead of hand rubbing plants together or relying on bees. 🙂

      • MaryEllen Cox says:

        GMO and cross-breeding are two entirely different things.
        Cross breeding can only happen in closely linked plants and animals.
        GMO is done between unrelated species.

    • Denise says:

      Corn protein is a problem as it can cause an autoimmune reaction. That has nothing to do with GMO!

  3. Michael Kingsbury says:

    This sentence above, in item #4 (sugar), “Not only is sugar pro-inflammatory, it also increases erratic brain cell firing and it is very addictive. For many folks with ASD, it is likely that they had some type of insult to their brain so when they consume sugar, the damage from the insult is just magnified.”

    You used the word ‘insult’ twice. Is this really what you meant?

  4. Lorna says:

    Could you please post the references to the publications that support these recommendations.

  5. Pat Bouwman says:

    After we removed gluten from my son’s diet, his emotional al

    • John says:

      Your comment was cut off.

      I am curious as to what happened when you removed gluten from son’s diet?

    • Vanessa says:

      I would also like to know what happened when you removed gluten from his diet.
      I have a 24yr old son with Autism and I’m desperate to find a way to alleviate his symptoms. He also has ADHD
      Because of his anxieties and extreme OCD , we can’t even take him out in public.

      • Brisket says:

        I’m a 24 year old male in a similar situation and very tired. I cut the above things out of my diet and stopped smoking and drinking 8 days ago. I also take what I’m sure are enough vitamin supplements. My diet right now is only seasoned 80/20 ground beef loaves. I plan eating the same thing for 90ish days, then evaluating myself and getting bloodwork done, then expanding my diet.

        Eating enough is difficult with no cheese or bread. An empty belly tanks my mood and energy level, especially now, so cramming uncomfortable amounts of beef loaf in my face at least three times a day is necessary.

        Compared to the past month, EVERYTHING is a little better. I also have no acne anywhere and it looks like the bags under my eyes are gone. This article was the final proof I needed to change my diet.

        Most importantly, I look forward to putting in the work to get out of my Mom’s house before I turn 35 and have to empty out my brains in a bathtub. Good luck. Great article!

  6. Amina Mohamod says:

    Hi Vanessa,
    I have 5 years old daughter with ASD, what she eats is so important, she is dairy and gluten free, not strictly as she sneaks and eats sometimes, I believe food is medicine or poison theory. All dairy affects her she instantly she becomes very hyperactive , happy, cannot concentrate, very sensitive to certain noises, cannot sleep at night well, that is dairy. Gluten has the opposite effect on her she becomes very tired lethargy, grumpy, lashes out for no reason. I try to control these foods including sugar and processed food as much as I can. I read so much information over the years but I found this through trail and errors, may be you can try this with your son and see how it goes I know every person is unique and it can be hard to control older person, and I try to minimise carbs and offer homemade meals and fresh fruit and vegetables and supplement good fish oil. As a parent you feel guilt when you strict from your child what all the children are having and they don’t understand why but known that is their best interest keeps me going. Best of luck all of you

    • mina says:

      Hello Amina;
      I am writing to you to find out if it is possible to talk to you by email. I have few questions but I do not like public conversation. if you can’t I do understand. However if you may please email me at

      Thank you

  7. Ron Sprague JR says:

    Corn is used to fatten up your beef. If you want to eat something that will fatten you up and make it hard for your body to digest, eat corn.

  8. Sandra Sloan says:

    I’m interested in Autism, I have a Godson, 11 years old, he weighs 212 lbs, since he was put on Saphis 5mg, it helps tremendously to calm him down, but it had blown him up. He has a nutritionist, I
    have avoided a lot of foods bad for him, nevertheless best too big, what do you sugest?
    I’m desperate for help!!

  9. Rikko says:

    Amen Clinics are very good but try a bunch of things prior to spending the $5,000 -$10,000 on them.

    Note: I am 52y/o male with Aspergers. I use what I preach.

    Limit all artificial flavors, colors, preservatives. No sodas due to the high fructose corn syrup. And no….. high fructose corn syrup is not processed the same as regular table sugar regardless of what the Corn Growers likes to tell the public.

    Find a local psychiatrist,neurologist ,clinical social worker or psychologist who uses Neurofeedback.

    I can discuss Neurofeedback all day and how it works well for most when used when applied properly.

    See a functional medicine physician. Amen Clinics are that too.

    Find a local DBT class for your Godson. Not…CBT….DBT.

    There is a superb online DBT class run by Debbie you have to look online she’s very well-known it’s superb that might work and might be actually cheaper than in person.

    I take no meds. My son with Autism doesn’t either.

    Food is our medicine.

    Feel free to email me.

    Hopefully, the great ppl at Amen will allow my email to show.

    I have plenty more tips, tricks and ramblings……

  10. Niurka says:


    Good tips!

    I absolutely agreed with you, because I have to work more hours now and my son is eating anything, so his behavior has changed to be more hyperactive.
    I must change his diet immediately!

    Thanks for your recommendation!


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