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Gluten Free Diet For Autism

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Identify Gluten And Dairy Products In Your Childs Diet

Autism GFCF Diet Help

This elimination diet removes all gluten and casein protein from your childs diet and that isnt always an easy task. But with a little planning and follow through you can do it. Thoroughly reviewing your childs diet is the first step in determining which foods to eliminate and which ones to leave alone.

However, gluten is also found in non-food products, such as Play-Doh, hygiene products, and its also in the adhesive on stickers and stamps. So be sure to think about the various ways your child may come in contact with products that may contain gluten.

Significant Improvement In Autism And Adhd Symptoms In Children With Asd On The Gfcf Diet

This study was a two-stage, 24-month, randomised, controlled trial with 72 Danish children assigned to diet or non-diet groups. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale were used to assess core autism behaviours, Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales to ascertain developmental level, and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder IV scale to determine inattention and hyperactivity. At 12 months, there was a significant improvement to the diet group scores on all autism, behavior, and ADHD scales measured. Because of the improvement in group A, group B was also assigned to the diet midway through the trial! The results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcomes for children diagnosed with ASD.

What Is A Gluten

A gluten-free/casein-free diet is also known as the GFCF diet. It is one of several alternative treatments for children with autism. When following this strict elimination diet, all foods containing gluten and casein are removed from the child’s daily food intake.

Some parents of children with autism believe their children are allergic or sensitive to the components found in these foods. Some seek allergy testing for confirmation. Yet, even when no allergy is confirmed, many parents of autistic children still choose to offer the GFCF diet. Among the benefits they report are changes in speech and behavior.

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How To Start A Gluten

Most people choose from two different approaches for implementing a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. For example, you can choose to dive in head first, or you may prefer to follow a gluten-free diet first before progressing to dairy-free foods or vice versa. Either one of these approaches can work, as its up to you to determine the best option for your child and family.

I urge parents to be realistic in the time it will take to get familiar with all of the sources of gluten and/or dairy. Changing the way your child eats often means changing the way you cook so make sure you give yourself ample time to become familiar with all of those sneaky gluten or dairy ingredients. In fact, in the GFCF diet implementation process I teach parents in my step-by-step nutrition program, the first half of the steps are things to help you get prepared before you even begin the diet.

While it may seem daunting at first, it does get easier over time, especially with the right support.

What To Eat On A Gluten Free / Dairy Free Diet

Can autism be helped by gluten

For the substitution of dairy products, I use rice milk. One must be careful about buying any type of processed food as it may contain milk. Some examples of foods that may contain milk but you might not think they do are soup mixes, batter-fried foods, margarine, baked goods, instant mashed potatoes, cakes and cookies. I tend to stay away from all processed foods unless I see a label that states gluten and dairy free. Read all labels carefully even if you know that food to be free of problem ingredients. Many food ingredients change with no warning to the consumer.

Where do you find all of these foods? Most large grocery store chains now have gluten free, dairy free or organic products. Health food stores will carry a variety of these products but the price tends to be higher than a larger grocery store chain. In my city, we have an allergy/organic bakery that makes rice flour based baked goods daily. Many of the rice products that I mentioned are also available in Asian supermarkets or in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store. Rarely in a larger center have I had any trouble finding any of these specialty products.

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Mast Cell Activation In Autism

Mast cell activation and high histamine levels are common in autism, and research suggests this activation leads to inflammation in the brain and is a possible cause in the development of autism.

Food allergies, as well as gluten and casein intolerance , can cause histamine release. High histamine in turn can contribute to gastrointestinal disorders and high acid levels in the stomach and GERD. And conversely histamine can increase food allergies.

Gastrointestinal disorders and high histamine in autism lead to increased symptoms and severity of ASD.

Eating Out With Gfcf Diet

Finding restaurant options while following a GFCF diet can be challenging, but it is something that can be done! Here are a few tips for eating out while youre avoiding gluten and dairy:

  • Check online for gluten-free menu options before you go. Nothing is worse than sitting down to eat, looking at the menu, and realizing there is very little your child can safely eat. Most restaurants have websites where you can view their menu, and some restaurants have gluten-free menus. If you cant tell by looking at their website, give them a call and ask about gluten-free and dairy-free foods. There are many restaurants that have GFCF friendly menus, so see what is available in your area.

  • Be prepared to be detailed in your order. Youll have to specify to leave off anything that has cheese, request that it not be cooked in butter, or hold the bread. Try to be prepared and look at anything listed in the description that sounds like gluten or dairy.

  • Choose a restaurant that caters to gluten-free and dairy-free meals. It makes it a lot easier if you go somewhere that has gluten-free buns for their burgers, or has an allergy-friendly menu, because theyll be much more knowledgeable and accommodating. Some pizza restaurants also offer gluten-free crust and dairy-free cheese, which makes eating out much easier!

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    Removing Gluten Could Improve Your Childs Autism Symptoms

    As of 2021, scientific research has not been conclusive on the benefits versus the detriments of the GFCF diet or whether people with autism are truly more sensitive to gluten.

    As long as you ensure that your child eats a balanced diet otherwise, you can try eliminating gluten, casein, or both. Be aware that foods in these two groups are typical sources of important proteins for development and growth, so you should find a way to replace them with other proteins.

    While several studies have not drawn conclusions in favor of or against dietary changes, many parents report that adjusting their childs diet improved their behavior and interactions. There could be several reasons for this, including positive behavioral changes from the parents, behavioral interventions associated with adjusting meals for children, or actual gastrointestinal improvements. To narrow down the cause, parents could gradually reintroduce gluten or casein and see if negative effects occur.

    Ultimately, the science in 2021 doesnt support that gluten impacts autism. If you choose to use the GFCF diet to help your childs feeding problems, be sure to work with medical professionals as you make these adjustments.

    Which Foods Contain Gluten

    Putting your autistic toddler on a gluten free diet

    Gluten is a mix of various proteins found in the seeds of several grains such as barley, rye, and wheat. A huge number of foods contain gluten. Gluten provides structure or binding to baked products. While it’s quite difficult to avoid gluten, many stores, particularly natural food stores, display foods in a gluten-free area of the store. Still, it’s important to read nutrition labels to see if there are additives containing gluten.

    When someone is on a gluten-free diet, most bread and grain products are forbidden. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the child receives ample fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Supplementation can help make up for the lack of these nutrients when foods containing gluten are eliminated.

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    Gluten Casein And The Glutamate Connection

    Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and some children with autism are more sensitive, and their brains are more responsive to the effects of glutamate. That can result in more hyperactivity, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, migraines, seizures, and many more symptoms. Recent studies also show that elevated glutamate is often found in people with autism.

    Gluten is 25% glutamate by weight, and casein is 20%. Hence, gluten and casein in a diet can increase glutamate levels. And in sensitive people or those with high levels of glutamate such as those with autism, these foods can exacerbate neurological symptoms, including irritability, stress, anxiety, and hyperactivity. Glutamate can also cause inflammation in the brain and gastrointestinal system.

    Limiting the intake of gluten and casein in a diet can help reduce symptoms related to autism.

    The Nemechek Protocol And Autism

    The Nemechek Protocol for Autism and Developmental Delay is the most scientific and refined approach to reversing the devastating effects of autism, ADD, ADHD, SPD and the myriad of other developmental disorders.

    Youre probably wondering what The Nemechek Protocol is. Basically, its a nutrition/supplement protocol consisting of fish oil, olive oil, Inulin fiber, and an emphasis on avoiding Omega 6 oils.

    I am not a fan, however, of its claim that it can reverse autism. Its recommendations do not appear to stem from evidence-based science, relying on what seem to be anecdotes to make its case. Im all for giving our kiddos supplements, but you dont need to buy a book to do that.

    As a whole, though Im not an expert, Im not against the nutrition in these autism diets. But you have to be careful with whats out there, to challenge claims that are too good to be valid, and to remember that the primary help your child needs should come in other, more direct ways. If youre concerned about your kiddos nutrition, a blood test from the doctor is the perfect way to learn what their body might be lacking. Physical health is essential, but remember, its just one component of a holistic view of health.

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    The Science Behind A Gluten

    Understanding the science behind an autism diet plan is important.

    Many well-meaning friends, family members, therapists, and even health practitioners, may try to steer you away from this approach. Most often its from lack of knowledge, so the more knowledge you have the more you can advocate for your child and stay motivated in the face of any negativity. It will also help you speak more knowledgeable with your healthcare professional so you can know when they have an important medical point or when they are being dismissive because of their own lack of scientific understanding.

    As we discuss the science behind gluten and dairy, in addition to the multitude of effects gluten and casein can have on the brain directly, also pay particular attention to inflammationboth in the gut and brain. Inflammation is at the root of most diseases and disorders. Inflammation of the brain is found in autism, as well as other neurological conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and more. It can cause many of the symptoms of autism. Additionally in the gut, inflammation affects our ability to digest our food properly and prevents us from absorbing the nutrients we need for our brain to function.

    Are There Tips For Eating At Home Or Eating Out On A Gluten

    New Autism Study: Gluten

    There are a large number of online retailers who specialize in food products for people following the GFCF diet. Some parents make GFCF food in large quantities and freeze portions for a later meal.

    Before making the change to a GFCF diet, consult your child’s doctor. It is important for kids to still get a balance of the necessary vitamins, protein, fats, and carbohydrates in order to support healthy growth and development. A licensed dietitian can educate you about the GFCF diet and help you tailor the diet to your child’s health needs and taste preferences.

    In addition, before starting a child with autism on a gluten-free/casein-free diet, beware the hidden sources of gluten. Gluten can be found in fried foods that are dusted in flour, and even in cosmetics and some medications. Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts may be safe. But avoid using packaged mixes because there may be traces of foods containing gluten that are not listed on the nutrition label.

    Some restaurants are now categorized as GFCF-friendly. If you are concerned, ask the manager or server to show you a list of ingredients used in the establishment to make sure its dishes are gluten- and casein-free. Vegetarian/vegan restaurants are accustomed to serving people on special diets and may be more willing to prepare dishes that adhere to the restrictions of a strict GFCF diet.

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    Focus On What You Can Eat & Getting Your Child To Eat

    As mentioned above, there are a lot of restrictions and if youre only focusing on those restrictions it might feel really discouraging.

    If you are trying a gluten-free casein-free diet for autism and your child has food aversions it might seem like there is nothing left to feed them.

    Create an inventory of safe foods and recipes that your family can start trying. Its a good idea, to begin using GFCF recipes that are versions of foods your child already enjoys.

    It may be helpful to even create a positive reinforcement plan for trying new foods.

    Give your child choices, and let them help you in the kitchen, if possible.

    Whole foods which are naturally gluten and dairy-free are the most nutritious option to stock up on.

    Packaged and processed foods labeled as gluten-free may be more convenient but not as healthy.

    They are fine to have and eat, but you shouldnt build your entire diet around these items. However, two things you do want to buy already made are gluten-free pasta and bread.

    Also, be aware that swapping a food for its GFCF version wont always be successful .. they never taste the same.

    So more on finding new tastes that your child likes.

    Reduced Autism Behaviors Increased Social And Communication Skills With Gfcf Diet

    This report reviewed existing scientific literature and found consistently positive results with a GFCF diet for autism. The literature included papers where groups of children were studied, as well as individual case studies.

    Researchers found there was an overall reduction of autism behaviors, increased social skills, and communicative skills.

    They also noted that autism traits reappeared after the diet had been broken.

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