This probably ranks #2 on the hot topic debates in the Autism community where parents are fighting with the ‘experts’. Basically that means that there is a whole lot more to this than a simple yes or no answer, there is no black and white here and therefore it causes a lot of tensions.
I’d like to cover this topic in a few areas: what is the diet, what is the theory behind it and will it work.
What is the GF/CF diet?
Breaking it down to it’s simplest form, the gluten is wheat and the casein is dairy. This isn’t limited to bread and milk however, it covers just about everything you can find in your local grocery store aside from meats and veggies/fruit. So cereal, pasta, cheese, cake, snacks, waffer cones you hold ice cream in… everything.
Moving to a GF/CF diet can be a rather huge step for the average person as it means no more sandwiches, switching to brown rice pasta and giving up just about everything you eat. No more hamburgers, cakes on your birthday, cookies, grilled cheese, kraft dinner… we’re talking about eliminating just about everything on some people’s regular diet.
In our house, we’ve put our son on soy milk, brown rice pasta, eggs, bananas and peanut butter and a few other things. You learn to find them when you have to. Also, you don’t have to be all that limited if you’re resourceful. There are some great sites around the internet with some absolutely amazing GF/CF recipes and grocery stores are growing their GF/CF sections a lot over the last few years.
The truth of the matter is, gluten is quite bad for you. There’s no healthy reason at all to eat it, it’s simply added to our foods to give it it’s texture, consistency, help preserve it… stuff like that. If everyone ate less gluten, we’d all be healthier so there’s no reason not to give the diet a try. Gluten proteins and Casein proteins are not essential to a healthy diet and therefore there’s not only no risk in being on the diet, it’s actually good for you.
What is the theory behind it?
I don’t think they’ve proven it scientifically, but they have narrowed it down pretty good… the theory is that some Autistic children have a digestive problem where their systems are unable to break down the gluten and casein proteins in their stomachs. This causes them to work through their systems, entering the blood stream and eventually finding their way to the brain where they act like a pretty powerful drug, causing the children to become very hyper, to see things (colours and trails behind moving objects), become irrational, unable to speak, clumsy and so forth. Imagine a grown man tripping out on heroin and you can begin to see similarities in your child after eating some bread.
Will it work?
Well, this is the tricky part and where the heated debates come into play. Even the ‘experts’ can’t agree because they can’t get the same results twice. In this article, you can see that they have concluded that the diet does help and further down the article lists another study where others concluded that it doesn’t: foodconsumer.org
Autism is a pretty tricky condition with seemingly thousands of causes, thousands of differences and thousands of different ways to ease it. This means that yes, the diet might work… might. However, some Autistic children simply are hyper, clumsy, unable to communicate… that’s how they function and unfortunately, the diet will not change that.
But a lot of times, the diet actually will help and therefore, I really recommend that you at least try it… a week, 2. Try.
In Cameron‘s case, we put him on the diet and saw a difference almost immediately… less repetitive motions, more eye contact, more calm. It was a miracle in our eyes and we never looked back. Our house is almost completely gluten free at this point.
And this is how I know that not all answers are guarantees for everyone. I said we’re almost gluten free, not casein free. People lump the two together but in reality, just as it may or may not work, in our case, it half worked.
Once we removed gluten from Cameron‘s diet, he was instantly a different child. The casein however, made very little difference. If he has too much, it does affect him a little. But for the most part, we can still give him orange cheese, yogurt and ice cream. We keep him on soy milk though.
Don’t listen to experts, don’t listen to parents. The only person you can listen to is your own instincts and your child’s results. There’s no harm in trying the diet, there’s no harm in not trying it. If you do try it, you may see results, you might not.
There’s only one thing I can say to all parents of all Autistic children…. try everything!! If it worked for 1 child out of one million, try it. It might work for you. Try the diet, you don’t have to commit to years of eating food you don’t like. Just try it.