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GFCF Diet and Autism

Heard that a gluten-free, casein-free diet can be helpful in kids with autism, but not sure if it’s worth the hassle? I get it, dairy and gluten are in everything! And your kid is already a picky eater.


Gluten and Casein can cause inflammation which makes symptoms worse.


But let’s talk about what those foods are actually doing in their bodies. More and more research is coming out saying that there is an autoimmune aspect to autism. Part of this autoimmunity includes antibody reactions to casein (the major protein in dairy), and to gluten (the major protein in wheat). These food reactions are different than the typical anaphylactic food allergy that most people think about with foods like peanuts. It’s pretty obvious when you have these food allergies as they occur immediately and can be life threatening. Fortunately, the food reactions to gluten and casein are not life threatening, but they do create more inflammation in the body and brain. This increased inflammation flares up autoimmunity and exacerbates symptoms.


Studies have shown that part of this antibody reaction is actually happening at the level of the brain! So these foods actually have a direct impact on brain function! Removal of these offending foods from the diet has been shown to ameliorate symptoms and improve developmental outcome for many people on the autistic spectrum.


Removing gluten and casein can have amazing effects on symptom reduction


So what symptoms should you expect to see improvement with using a GFCF diet? Just like most things, this is individualized for each person. However, many parents have reported improvements in tantrums, self-injurious behaviors, speech, eye contact, and digestive complaints.

How much improvement you should expect to see with the diet also depends on the individuality of each child. Some children also have food sensitivities to soy, as the major protein component in soy is similar to casein and gluten, and therefore removal of soy in the diet is also needed to achieve optimal effects. Other children may have an intestinal yeast or bacteria overgrowth that needs to be addressed. Other common pitfalls are not sticking strictly to the diet, as gluten and casein are commonly found in many foods, especially processed ones. This is why consulting with your doctor about the best individualized treatment for your child is essential.


A gluten and casein free diet is effective for most children with autism.


The bottom line is the GFCF diet is effective in most children with autism and is worth trying. Sure the diet change is hard to implement, but you might be surprised to see that the benefits of the diet might far exceed the challenges!


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