Autism and Diet: How to Switch to a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet

Autism and Diet: How to Switch to a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet

For years, parents of autistic children have reported behavior improvements from removing casein and gluten from the diet. Even so, autism and diet treatments remain controversial and not well accepted within the medical community. Studies show mixed results. While it’s wise for doctors to hold off recommending autistic diets until further scientific studies promote more conclusive results, a gluten-free casein-free diet (GFCF) is not dangerous. It’s a very nutritious diet.

Making the Switch to a GFCF Diet – What is Gluten? What is Casein?

Wheat and casein are major dietary staples in the U.S., but if a parent of an autistic child uses lots of processed foods, switching to a GFCF diet can be hard. Strict adherence to the diet is absolutely necessary to correctly evaluate results. That includes ridding the child’s environment of all possible avenues of cross contamination with gluten. While no diet will work for every child, failing to take the autism diet seriously will always result in failure.

Gluten is a protein molecule found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley; and casein is a protein molecule found in milk. While it’s essential to eliminate all forms of casein, it’s also important to understand that casein is only one of the protein molecules found in milk. In the gluten-free community, the autism diet is known as a gluten-free, dairy-free diet because all forms of milk protein must be eliminated; not just casein.

To Easily Switch to a Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Diet Start With Whole Foods Nutrition

Gluten, casein, and other dairy proteins carry a variety of names on food labels. In addition, untested products for cross contamination with gluten and gluten residues of 20 parts per million or less legally being allowed to be advertised as gluten free are both major issues when eating processed foods. Until parents learn which brands and products are safe, whole foods nutrition is the easiest way to switch to a gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

Initially, this type of autistic diet is more restrictive than necessary, but functions as a good elimination diet while parents learn how different foods affect their autistic child. It does involve more work in the kitchen; plus getting an autistic child to cooperate can be difficult. Some of the extra work and hassle will dissolve as safe products, favorite foods, and cooking short-cuts return to the diet.

What are Whole Foods? Which Autism and Diet Foods are Best?

Whole foods are non-processed foods. They are generally found on the outside isles of the grocery store. The fresh meat case, the fresh vegetables and fruits sections are all good gluten-free, casein-free, autistic diet foods. To begin, start with basic forms of protein like:

  • fresh eggs
  • fresh meats
  • fresh poultry
  • fresh fish

Then add whatever fresh fruits and vegetables the child will eat. Most children like:

  • steamed green beans
  • lightly boiled peas
  • mashed or baked potatoes
  • mashed or baked sweet potatoes
  • corn on the cob
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • orange or tangerine sections
  • melon cubes
  • apples (cut into wedges or peel and cook into applesauce)

Try to use familiar foods. However, many autistic children are actually addicted to wheat and the casein in dairy products, which can make the switch to a GFCF diet emotionally traumatic as well as physically difficult. Also be prepared for additional food sensitivities that might surface once the major offenders of gluten and casein are eliminated from the diet.

While dietary assessment is easier without a lot of processed foods (it’s best to add packaged foods one at a time to monitor any negative reactions), to help with child familiarity additional gluten-free casein-free foods are:

  • corn oil (can be used to make french fries or stir-fries)
  • Heinz or Hunt’s catsup
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s or Kraft bbq sauces
  • Best Food’s mayonnaise (if not allergic/sensitive to soy)
  • Uncle Ben’s converted white rice
  • Minute rice
  • Ore Ida frozen french fries, tator tots, or hash browns

An Alternative Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet Method for Parents of Autistic Children

A bare-bones, gluten-free casein-free, whole foods diet such as illustrated above would be extremely difficult for adults to follow faithfully, let alone a small child; even for a very short time while allowing the body to detox from casein and gluten.

Some parents of autistic children choose to ease their child into the diet, rather than going cold turkey. To do that, start by eliminating all dairy products. While the child might still suffer severe withdrawal symptoms, it only takes a few days for the body to rid itself of casein residues. Gluten takes much longer; anywhere from six months to a year once all traces of gluten have been eliminated from the diet and environment.

Child Autism and Diet – Switching to a Whole Foods GFCF Diet

Many parents of an autistic child desire to give the gluten-free, casein-free diet a trial run, especially when they read the testimonies of other parents. While scientific studies do show mixed results, a lot of parents find a GFCF diet to be well worth the effort.

A whole foods, gluten-free casein-free diet is the easiest way for parents of autistic children to make the switch, since learning which processed foods are safe and how to bake with alternative flours takes time. However, many autistic children suffer with withdrawal symptoms due to gluten and casein addiction. An alternative autism and diet treatment is to first remove all dairy products, then later on remove all sources of gluten and possible gluten cross contamination issues more slowly.

Categories: Diet, Health, Nutrition