Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism

J Child Neurol. 2009 Jun 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism.

Genuis SJ, Bouchard TP.

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Gluten-restricted diets have become increasingly popular among
parents seeking treatment for children diagnosed with autism. Some
of the reported response to celiac diets in children with autism may
be related to amelioration of nutritional deficiency resulting from
undiagnosed gluten sensitivity and consequent malabsorption. A case
is presented of a 5-year-old boy diagnosed with severe autism at a
specialty clinic for autistic spectrum disorders. After initial
investigation suggested underlying celiac disease and varied
nutrient deficiencies, a gluten-free diet was instituted along with
dietary and supplemental measures to secure nutritional sufficiency.
The patient’s gastrointestinal symptoms rapidly resolved, and signs
and symptoms suggestive of autism progressively abated. This case is
an example of a common malabsorption syndrome associated with
central nervous system dysfunction and suggests that in some
contexts, nutritional deficiency may be a determinant of
developmental delay. It is recommended that all children with
neurodevelopmental problems be assessed for nutritional deficiency
and malabsorption syndromes.

PMID: 19564647


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