The Gluten-Free, Casein-free diet for Autism
Children with autism need extra care and attention as they often experience symptoms like chronic diarrhoea, headaches, stomach cramps, poor sleeping patterns, and irritable behaviour. Many parents try different things and follow various diets to make their kids‘ journey smooth. There is a subset of autistic children with gut difficulties who may benefit from a gluten and casein-free diet.
What are Gluten and Casein?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye milk, barley and foods made from them. For instance, bread, pasta, biscuits, breakfast cereals, etc. Casein is a protein found in cow, buffalo and sheep milk (to a lesser extent in goat’s milk) and foods made from them, for instance, cream, yoghurt and cheese.
According to the experts, Gluten and casein can worsen autism symptoms by causing inflammation in the gut.
What Is The GFCF Diet?
The gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet is an autism diet that eliminates all gluten and casein from the child’s diet. Many parents of autistic children report that it aids in positive shifts in nature, sleep, and speech.
The diet is thought to work by removing two proteins that autistic children may be especially sensitive to: gluten and casein. These proteins are more difficult to digest and, in the case of gluten, can harm the gut.
How does the Gluten-free/ Casein-free diet work?
According to the theory, children with autism digest peptides and proteins in gluten and casein-containing foods differently than other people.
This discrepancy in processing may, in theory, exacerbate autistic symptoms. Some believe that the brain treats these proteins as if they were synthetic opiates. They claim that a child’s reaction to these chemicals causes them to behave in a certain way. The diet is intended to alleviate symptoms while also enhancing social, cognitive, and speech skills.
How to switch to a gluten-free/dairy-free diet?
Replacing foods with gluten and dairy can be tough for both parents and kids. Some kids have no trouble changing their diets, but others have sensory and behavioural difficulties that make it all the way more problematic.
- Support is very necessary for the transition.
- It is better to introduce new foods during quiet, stress-free times.
- Let your kid explore new textures and tastes.
What to eat on a gluten-free / casein-free diet?
Adopting a GFCF diet is more than avoiding bread and milk. An optimal diet is balanced and full of nutrients. People with autism are oftentimes deficient in certain nutrients, so a food list for autism will contain foods with these nutrients. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and eggs are adequate items to add to your food list. Here are alternate grains and milks that you can add to your child’s meal plans.
- Rice (brown, red rice)
- Sabudana or tapioca pearls
- lentil flours
- Chickpea flour
- Kuttu (Buckwheat flour)
- oats milk
- Almond milk
- Soya milk and tofu
A few crucial things to remember.
- Use bean-based dishes and bake with alternative flours such as quinoa, rice, or sorghum flour.
- You should avoid refined foods because many of these items include both hidden gluten and dairy products and the ingredient list might not identify them as GF/CF.
- You can use almond milk, oat milk or soy milk, etc. as it’s accessible and healthy. Although be wary of the added sugars.
- Become creative: Your child can savour ice cream with no dairy in it at all. Just mix a frozen banana with berries in your food processor and add chia seeds or almond milk for a little added protein depending on your kid’s preferences.
Some autistic kids struggle with changes, so gradually replacing gluten and casein foods with alternatives may be the best option. Before making the change to a GFCF diet, consult a licensed dietician.