Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism


The Journal of Child Neurology published a special article online June 29, 2009 (published ahead of printing) entitled “Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism.” The article is a case study of a 5-year-old boy diagnosed with autism and celiac disease. The boy was described as “an increasingly picky eater and would reject food on the basis of taste, smell, or appearance.”  He had severe language problems, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating, belching, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  He had deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, and E) and fatty acids (omega 3, omega 6, saturated fat), as well as low coenzyme Q10 and folate. Upon being assessed and diagnosed with celiac, the boy was put on a gluten-free diet and nutritional supplementation based on deficiencies.  “Fruits and vegetables were juiced to make nutrients easier to absorb, and fat-soluble vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids (in the form of cod liver oil), omega 6 fatty aids, and folic acid were given as supplements.”  According to the published article, “The patient’s gastrointestinal symptoms rapidly resolved, and signs and symptoms suggestive of autism progressively abated.” “Within 1 month, the boy’s gastrointestinal symptoms were relieved and his behavior had changed dramatically.  The mother excitedly reported that for the first time, her 5-year-old boy became progressively more communicative and told her that he loved her.  Within 3 months, his functioning had improve so much that he no longer required an individualized leaning program and was able to enter a normal classroom with no aide.” The authors of the article postulate that nutrient deficiencies caused by malabsorption from celiac disease caused the symptoms of autism, as they stated, “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.” Genuis SJ, Bouchard TP. Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism. J Child Neurology Online First. Published on June 29, 2009 as doi:10.1177/0883073809336127

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of BioIndividualNutrition.com. Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


  1. My friend have celiac disease and he usually goes on a special diet. I really fet sorry for him coz he cant eat the food the he likes. .,,:’

    Best regards http://www.healthmedicinelab.com“>

  2. I’m glad that I get to read this stuff. I’m still 2 months pregnant and I’m so anxious of what will happen to my baby.


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