Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Response to ‘ Desperate measures: The lure of an autism cure ‘


That’s the title of the New Scientist article debunking autism interventions such as GF/CF diet (Gluten free, Casein free).  New Scientist reports all the evidence is there… a randomised, placebo-controlled trial in which they took a load of kids with the same label (and excluded all those with gut/immune symptoms – go figure), applied the diet and found the diet didn’t make these kids non-autistic.  Wow, really?  So let’s see…

what if we first took that same group, got them a saliva swab for Secretory IgA levels and found which were IgA deficientWhat is IgA you ask?  Well, IgA is an immunoglobulin, yeah, big word, but it is part of the immune system.  It has some really important jobs.  One of those jobs is to signal the white cells (fighter cells) about which bugs the body has and where they are so the white cells can go do their job.  No IgA and the white cells sit there sloth like and get infected.  Eventually, the kid gets so overwhelmed with a high viral, bacterial, fungal proliferation their body goes into an inflammatory state – in short hand, they become allergic.

But IgA has another important job.  See it lines the mucous membranes of the ears, nose, throat, lungs, stomach… yep, the stomach.  And what it does there is helps the immune system know what bugs to come and fight but when we eat food, it is IgA that sends signals to our liver and pancreas to send the appropriate enzymes.  No gut IgA means no messages for enzyme production.  That means poor digestion.  So what are the two hardest foods to digest?  Gluten and cow’s milk casein.  Why?  Well these are big complex protein molecules.  A baby cow, for example has four stomachs to digest it’s mother’s milk – FOUR.  Yep, we have only one, like sheep do, and sheep milk is a far easier casein molecule to digest.  So can people with IgA deficiency digest gluten and cow’s milk casein?  Nope.  They can’t.  And to complicate it further it is in the literature that those with IgA deficiency generally always have a false negative to a Coeliac test.  Yep, they can’t digest gluten, but it doesn’t show on the Coeliac test even though it does in the urine.

And added to this salicylate lowers IgA levels so if you’re already IgA deficient chances are that if your diet is high in salicylates that you’ll be in a higher inflammatory state than if you’re on a lower level of salicylates. What increases Salicylate levels other than perfumes, yeast extract, honey, almonds, stone fruits, berries, grapes, curry, concentrate fruit juices etc?  Swallowing fluoride toothpaste.  And though its known to strip the lining of the digestive tract and has warnings in the US on toothpaste that its not for children under 6 (in case they swallow it or don’t rinse thoroughly) conference after conference I survey my audience and there are always parents with kids eating the fluoride toothpaste, and these are often those with the most severely challenged autistic children.

Can those with IgA deficiency fight Candida Albicans?  Nope.  That’s one of the jobs of IgA.  No IgA and Candida walks right in and sets up home.  And what feeds Candida, making it spread?  Sugar and refined carbohydrates… eat them and Candida will have a party.  Systemic Candida, for those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will know it causes brain fog, leaky gut, general malaise if not similar effects to being hungover.  And those with IgA deficiency on the wrong diet can be in that state for years if not treated.

So what’s all this got to do with autism?  Well, once upon a time, in 1996 before the diagnosis of Asperger’s swelled the ranks of the autism population from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100, an immune specialist, Sudhir Gupta, found that 20% of people with a diagnosis of autism were IgA deficient and that 10% (and I was in this group) had none.

Of course there will be others who benefit from a GF or CF diet; those with Coeliac, those with gluten intolerance, those an allergy to gluten or wheat or milk, those with high anxiety or depression whose digestion and immunity will be surpressed making it harder for them to fully digest gluten and cow’s milk casein.  The fact those with autism are also human beings means the rate of these conditions in the general population will also be found among those with autism.  To presume someone with autism couldn’t have these things is like presuming they couldn’t be blond, left handed or have diabetes.

So fast forward to 2010 and the randomised, placebo-controlled trial of GF/CF diet on kids diagnosed with autism.  To find which kids the GF/CF diet would have helped they’d have had to find not those with the share label of autism, but those who tested as IgA deficient.  In 1996 when the autism numbers were still around 1 in 10,000 this would have been around 20% of that population.  In 2010 when the autism numbers were around 1 in 100, there would have been at least 50-70% these people closer to having Asperger’s.  This is not the population at all in which you’d expect significant gut, immune, metabolic disorders.  A simple saliva test for IgA levels would have selected out those with significant chance of gut, immune and metabolic disorders.  There you may well have found that a large percentage indeed responded to a GF/CF diet.  I’m one of them.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.