If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism and also suffers from food allergies, you may wonder if there's any relationship between these two serious conditions. In fact, some research does indicate that a link between food allergies and autism exists, yet the findings aren't consistent and exactly how the two topics relate seems to be a subject of great debate.

Food Allergies and Autism

A study published in the May 2009 Journal of Current Allergy and Asthma Reports makes reference to the fact that stomach ailments are indeed a common symptom of children who fall on the spectrum of autism disorders. But the researchers have questioned whether the two conditions are inter-related or if they could simply be two separate yet co-existing conditions.

Leading this effort are scientists from the New Jersey Medical School, who reviewed earlier research that found that food allergies did play a role in some, but not all, of the common gastrointestinal symptoms experienced by children with autism. They also looked at different alternative and complementary treatment options used and provided an overview of the risks and benefits of these approaches in an effort to help guide practitioners on the best way to address such issues.

The Vaccine Piece

It's also worth noting that some researchers have explored whether the MMR vaccine can be to blame for causing an adverse reaction that triggers both food allergies and autism. This concept was first raised in 1998 by a researcher named Andrew Wakefield, who did see a significant cause and effect relationship in this area. Yet his research findings were later retracted by some of his colleagues because a conflict of interest existed that could have skewed his results. Further, two studies published in the British Medical Journal in 2002 that delved into the topic were unable to confirm that any relationship existed between this vaccine and the conditions in question.

What You Can Do About Food Allergies and Autism

While all of the conflicting information about food allergies and autism can be quite confusing, it can be helpful to take a step back and remember that regardless of whether a connection exists, all children (with and without autism) are at risk for food allergies and may benefit from avoiding certain foods. To this end, a trial and error approach may work best when determining what type of diet is most appropriate for your child's needs. It can also be a good idea to consult with an allergist and determine whether your child may suffer from any serious food allergies that could put him at great risk.


British Medical Journal



Current Allergy and Asthma Reports


Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies


The Journal of Pediatrics