Paul Shattock and his colleagues first discovered the opioid-peptide connection with autism when studying the research on the behavioural effects of opioids, such as morphine, on animals. Other researchers then found that people with autism do indeed have higher levels of endorphin-like chemicals, such as beta-endorphin, a naturally occurring opiate (see main text).
Another key finding was that autistics have abnormal peptides in their urine.
Shattock's team went on to discover that about half of the more than one thousand autistics they examined had elevated levels of opioid peptide. It is well established that casamorphins and glutamorphins produced by dairy products and gluten, respectively, produce opioid peptides (Brain Dys, 1990; 3: 323-34).
Children with ADHD and autism also often have a deficiency in the phenol sulphur-transferase (PST) enzyme system, making it difficult for them to metabolise certain foods, and detoxify chemicals containing phenols and amines (such as food additives and salicylates). Without this enzyme, children cannot process serotonin, dopamine or noradrenaline (norepinephrine) properly. Typical symptoms include excessive thirst, night sweats, facial flushing and reddened ears.
For a peptide urine test, contact Dr Robert Cade, at the University of Florida in Gainesville (tel: + 392 8952) or the University of Sunderland Autism Research Unit (tel: 0191 510 8922). For PST testing, contact Dr Rosemary Waring at the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT.