Welcome to my four-part series of articles on how the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet can help your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This series of posts will look at the following: definitions of terms associated with the diet, the benefits of following the GFCF Diet, how to clean up your diet, how to read labels on foods/products, what to expect with the GFCF Diet and how to overcome challenges you may encounter, and resources for helping you to succeed with the GFCF Diet.
First, it’s important to know a few key terms in order to understand what I’ll be talking about in these posts:
- Gluten: protein that gives flour elasticity when baked and is commonly found in wheat, oats, barley, and rye.
- Casein: protein found in milk and other dairy items, such as yogurt, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
- GFCF Diet: a diet that eliminates gluten and casein in order to improve a whole host of gut issues and behavioral problems. (See: this link for research about the problems that can be helped with the GFCF Diet)
The benefits of following the GFCF Diet are often misunderstood. Many people are now hearing that this is a diet to lose weight since many celebrities are now following a gluten-free diet. This diet can actually help children who are underweight to gain weight because ingesting the gluten and casein can interfere with nutrient absorption. And, yes, you can lose weight on it (please see this link for details). Because we are all individuals and the Autism spectrum is manifested in different ways for each person, this diet will affect each person in an individual way.
Change Your Diet, Change Your Child Series - Autism Spectrum Disorder:
Some benefits and changes you might expect to see when you begin the GFCF Diet –
- Better sleep because consuming casein often interferes with sleep patterns. (My son is a terrible sleeper, but began sleeping more consistently through the night just a few days after we stopped dairy.)
- Better bowels, whether that means going more frequently or eliminating diarrhea, because gluten consumption can interfere with the intestinal tract’s proper functioning. (A word of caution, this doesn’t always change immediately! I’ll discuss that in the post about challenges.)
- Increased speech and/or language use including increases in a child’s effort to speak, number of words spoken, complexity of sentences and conversational speech.
- Improved social interaction including increased interest in peers and siblings, initiation of play, appropriate use of toys and improved tolerance in larger groups.
- Decreased self-stimulating and self-injurious behavior.
- Increased ability to focus and enhancement of cognitive function.
- Improved immune function. (My son rarely gets sick with anything more than a cold and that is usually short-lived).
- Increased awareness or “being present.”
For more information about recent research on the GFCF Diet, please visit this link. In part two, I’ll discuss how to clean up your diet (even if you think it’s pretty good already!) and how to read a label.
Rachel is the mother of a son with Autism. She and her family began eating a gluten-free, casein-free diet in November 2011. Not long after, she discovered that she too was intolerant of gluten and has happily enjoyed discovering new ways to find delicious ways to enjoy eating a gfcf diet. Please visit her blog to learn more.