Autism and Schizophrenia: Intestinal Disorders

Nutr Neurosci. 2000;3(1):57-72. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2000.11747303.


We examined Dohan's hypothesis that schizophrenia is associated with the absorption of "exorphins" contained in gluten and casein. In addition, because of the work of Reichelt et al. (Reichelt, K.L., Saelid, G., Lindback, J. and Orbeck, H. (1986) Biological Psychiatry 21:1279-1290) and Rodriguez et al. (Rodriguez, Trav, A.L., Barreiro Marin, R, Galvez, Borrero, I.M., del Olmo Romero-Nieva, F. and Diaz Alvarez, A. (1994) Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease Aug; 182(8): 478-479), we carried out similar studies on a group of children with autism. In both syndromes we found similar patterns of peptide containing peaks (Ninhydrin positive) after molecular screening with Sephadex G-15. Immunoglobulin assay of IgA and IgG against gliadin and casein in serum was done. High titer IgG antibodies to gliadin were found in 87% of autistic and 86% of schizophrenic patients and high titer IgG antibodies to bovine casein were found in 90% of autistic and in 93% of schizophrenic patients. High titer IgA antibodies to gluten or casein were found in 30% of children with autism while in schizophrenic patients 86% had elevated IgA antibodies to gluten and 67% to casein; some normal children and adults have these antibodies but only in trace amounts. When schizophrenic patients were treated with dialysis or a gluten-casein free diet, or both (Cade, R., Wagemaker, H., Privette, R.M., Fregly, M., Rogers, J. and Orlando, J. (1990) Psychiatry: A World Prespective 1: 494-500) peptiduria and Brief Psychiatric Rating Scores fell while abnormal behavior diminished. A gluten-casein free diet was accompanied by improvement in 81% of autistic children within 3 months in most of the behavior categories. Our data provide support for the proposal that many patients with schizophrenia or autism suffer due to absorption of exorphins formed in the intestine from incomplete digestion of gluten and casein.

Keywords: Autism; Casein; Diet; Gliadorphin; Gluten; Schizophrenia; β-Casomorphin.