A “Gluten free” diet is non-negotiable for children who have a neurological, behavioral or learning disorder diagnosis.

Wheat, which contains gluten, is harmful for a child’s body in a variety of ways. The production of wheat has changed dramatically over the years with the introduction of chemical farming and GMO’s. Our grandparents and ancestors ate a type of wheat called Spelt that had lesser amounts of gluten and harmful chemicals. Our grandparents and ancestors were able to eat wheat that was free from GMO productions and free from pesticides like glyphosate. Bread, including spelt, has been manufactured over the years to include more gluten and chemicals.

Dr. Peter Osborne D.C. is the founder of glutenfreesociety.org. He is a committed educator on the dangers and complications of gluten. Gluten is like a glue or plaque that builds up in the intestines. Gluten is one of the main causes for leaky gut. Gluten can cause tears in the intestinal lining. It has been stated by numerous functional medical doctors and integrative practitioners that our bodies are not designed to digest and break down gluten. Seeds were made to be a hard to digest food. Grain is a seed product so its naturally going to be hard to digest. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola D.O., we have insufficient enzymes to break down peptides from gluten and casein in dairy. When a child has a leaky gut the proteins of gluten are getting into the blood stream causing the body to view that protein as a foreign invader. A child’s overactive immune system, brought on by leaky gut, starts to attack peptides in the body as if they are foreign invaders. Foods are not foreign invaders, but your child’s body may be interpreting a whole host of foods as foreign for the body. When the immune system is overactive and develops an inflammatory response to gluten this mean your child is gluten sensitive. Gluten and dairy can be dangerous materials in the body because of the havoc they cause on behavior and development.

During digestion, the broken-down fragments of gluten are called exorphins. The exorphins are opiate like proteins. The gluten opiate is called gluteomorphin and it can mimic morphine effects in the body. The opiate like peptides in gluten bind to the brain. Children with a variety of meatal health issues may be experiencing opioid effects. The opioid effect can cause speech, behavioral, mood and comprehension issues. These children want to feed the addiction with wheat and dairy. Children tend to love these food groups and become very agitated when they are restricted from those foods. Withdrawal can be difficult but, it’s a necessity for many children. Dr. Mercola stated that, wheat has been changed to be a toxic product and it’s a perfect chronic poison. Julie Mathews, CNC, is an expert on proper nutrition for children with Autism. She also states that gluten and dairy proteins act as an opiate in the body. Opiate based foods are addictive and some children crave these foods. Studies have shown that children with Autism have increased opioids in the gut compared to other children.

Opiate effects in the body change how the body perceives pain. Gluten may be helping your child with pain management so, detox from gluten could cause pain, irritability and discomfort. Because gluten acts as an opiate your child will go through withdrawal symptoms when taking gluten out of the diet. Withdrawal from gluten can take about 2 to 4 weeks on average. Withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant but, keeping gluten in the diet can be far worse for your child in the long run. We need to be careful of cross contamination and foods where gluten may be hidden during the detox phase. According to Dr. Osborne, there is no such thing as a gluten free oat. Even if oats are labeled as gluten free, they are typically going to cause a reaction for many children. Oats have a high probability of being cross contaminated with gluten and they can be a damaging grain in the gut. Oats are not a great choice for children with significant gut health issues like leaky gut, gut inflammation or gut dysbiosis.

Gluten is a contributing factor in gut dysbiosis. Gluten kills certain good bacteria’s in the gut which leaves an overgrowth of bad bacteria. The immune system is primarily in the gut so, overgrowth of bad bacteria’s will negatively impact the child’s immune system. An overgrowth of bad bacteria can be yeast, clostridium, helicobacter pylori. Children with neurological and behavioral based disorders tend to have gut dysbiosis and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

Children with Autism or other neurological based disorders have a high probability of having a yeast overgrowth in the body due to digestive distress and microbiome disruptions. Yeast overgrowth, an overgrowth of bad bacteria, will make a child crave carbohydrates and sugar. If a child continues to eat a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars the yeast overgrowth will grow in the body. Yeast feeds itself on sugar. When grains and sugar are cut out of the diet the yeast will start to die off. Yeast overgrowth doesn’t allow neurotransmitter development to occur. The gut makes 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the body and it makes 60% of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the body. When yeast dies off the child will have a restored ability to make proper neurotransmitters in the gut. These neurotransmitters are important for proper neurological functioning. It only makes sense that a child should be on a gluten free diet for optimal neurological functioning.

According to Dr. William Cole D.C., Gluten has a similar structure to the thyroid hormone. A leaky gut will make the body attack gluten and possibly the thyroid. Gluten is one of the main culprits for thyroid issues in our children. Thyroid issues in young children often go undetected. A child with thyroid issues might be lethargic, have some gray hairs, have anxiety, have mood swings, have dry skin or may sleep more often. It’s very important to eliminate gluten in your child’s diet if they have leaky gut or intestinal issues to avoid thyroid disruptions.

Gluten is filled with Glyphosate which is another name for “round up weed killer”. Glyphosate is a dangerous chemical that takes minerals out of the body. The glyphosate in gluten could be allowing the harmful bacteria of clostridia to grow in the gut. Many children with mental health symptoms have clostridia infections. When our child has a diet high in gluten, they have a high probability of being mineral deficient due to the glyphosate pulling out the minerals in the body. Many children today are on medications they don’t need for mental health issues and those medication are also pulling minerals out of the body. Medications and gluten combined are depleting our children from the minerals their bodies need to be healthy.

Gluten complications in the body can show up in many forms. Gluten can cause edema in the feet, joint pain, sinus pain, irritable bowel, muscle mass loss, impetigo, and vitiligo on the skin. My oldest child was developing vitiligo (white spots on the skin) and his main stream pediatrician said it was normal for some children to develop skin pigmentations. It was explained as simply a skin issue in isolation. Nothing happens in the body in isolation. After much research on gluten and consulting with functional medical practitioners, I have found that in many cases vitiligo will be reversed with a gluten free diet. My oldest child no longer has chronic vitiligo on his skin due to a gluten free diet.

It is recommended by Dr. Peter Osborne that we increase vitamin C intake to make withdrawal symptoms more tolerable. Vitamin C will help the body to produce dopamine which will help the body feel better during withdrawal. According to Dr. Tom Levy M.D., there is no defined toxicity of vitamin C so there isn’t a concern on giving too much while your child is transitioning to a gluten free diet. He believes a sick body needs an enormous amount of vitamin C which is a very potent anti-toxin vitamin. Our children are prone to having a sick body if their diets are high in gluten. Dr. Levy said that vitamin C is the main fuel that runs our body. Children need to get very high amounts of this fuel every day while they are healing their guts from the damage of gluten. Dr. Osborne also recommends Niacin in the form of nicotinic acid to help the body cope with withdrawal symptoms from gluten.

Going gluten free can be difficult for many children. As a parent you may feel that you are restricting your child and you feel sorry for them. Family members may feel sorry for your child or inconvenienced by the diet. The healthy and necessary diet is important for your child’s health and the negative opinions of others should not be relevant. Your child’s health is the most relevant matter to be concerned about. Your child is not a victim on a gluten free diet. It has become socially acceptable for kids to eat unhealthily. Too many children are eating damaging and unhealthy foods every day. Your child will be the lucky one to be on a gluten free diet because they will have the opportunity to be healthier. A child is lucky to have a healthy diet and is not a victim to healthier options. Children who continue to be negatively impacted by gluten are the victims. Gluten is one, large and damaging, root cause to many childhood issues. Many childhood issues can be reversed with a gluten free diet. A gluten free diet is non-negotiable for most children who have mental health concerns, neurological based disorders, behavioral issues, developmental delays and learning disabilities.

Author: Dr. Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D., LCPC, Certified Health Coach

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers , by David Perlmutter, Kristin Loberg, et al.

No Grain, No Pain: A 30-Day Diet for Eliminating the Root Cause of Chronic Pain
by Dr. Peter Osborne, Mick Stephenson, et al.

The Gluten Connection: How Gluten Sensitivity May Be Sabotaging Your Health – And What You Can Do to Take Control Now , by Shari Lieberman and Linda Segall | Nov 28, 2006

The Inflammation Spectrum: Find Your Food Triggers and Reset Your System
by Dr. Will Cole, Eve Adamson, et al.

The No-Grain Diet , by Joseph Mercola and Alison Rose Levy

Your Brain on Gluten (It’s Not Just Celiac Disease): Myths – Facts – Solutions
by Jaqui Karr