Does eating gluten free and casein free help children with autism

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Gluten Free(NaturalHealth365) New science reveals that we can help children with autism by eating gluten free and casein free foods. A study from Penn State earlier this year stated that a gluten-free/casein free (GFCF) diet can lead to behavior and physiological improvements in children with autism spectrum disorders. Positive responses in children included: increases in their children’s social behaviors, such as language production, eye contact, engagement, attention span, requesting behavior, and social responsiveness, when they strictly followed a gluten-free, casein-free diet.

This comes as no surprise to the myriad of parents who have had their children on these diets and witnessed not only a relief in behavior, but bowel movements and improvements in overall digestion as well.

The link between digestive disorders and autism

The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition reported that in the group of children they tested, 36.7 percent of those with autism had intestinal permeability (IP) compared with 4.8 percent of children who were not diagnosed with autism. Further, they discovered that relatives of children with autism were also more likely to have IP; meaning having a relative with this issue, puts a child with autism at greater risk of having IP. They concluded that measuring intestinal permeability in children with autism could identify patients with autism who would benefit from a gluten-free diet.

But for parents who can’t afford the test, simply putting your child on the diet can show you if it would be beneficial.

Getting started on a gluten and casein free diet

This is usually a concern for parents when I begin to see their children with autism. Their child eats so few items how can they possibly go GFCF? This is a legitimate concern and my answer varies somewhat based on the child.

Sometimes the child’s favorite food, such as pancakes, can be easily done in a GFCF format by using a tasty mix and coconut or rice milk. Other times we introduce a new food like a hamburger (organic ground beef with organic vegetables mixed in and baked or fried in coconut oil), cut it up and give pieces to their child to discover what their child will eat it. Celebrating with your child when they eat something new is essential!

The best approach is to start slowly by adding new GFCF foods gradually (about one food every 3 days). If a new food causes an issue, you will know which one it is. Buy small amounts of the new foods, buying only in bulk when you know your child likes them and can tolerate them. It may take 6-8 weeks to become fully GFCF.

It is important to thoroughly read food labels as gluten and casein are found in many forms and under many names. Brands like Udi’s, Food for life, Namaste and more can be found easily at most grocery stores and can be purchased online as well. I have found researching and buying online easiest as it gives me more time to read labels and I can do this while my daughter is sleeping.

Keep a food and behavior log. Write down any behavior changes that occur; this includes positive behavior changes. Celebrate those and communicate your observance to your child.

Your child may resist these changes initially. Supplements such as vitamin D, calcium, zinc, magnesium and others can help provide essential nutrients for your picky eater as they transition over to a diet that can provide relief for their bodies, minds and souls.

About the author: Sima Ash of Healing 4 Soul is a clinical and classical homeopath and certified clinical nutritionist who utilizes a unique approach pioneered by Tinus Smits, M.D. called CEASE therapy. The aim of CEASE treatment is systematic detoxification of the causes of illness, leading to step by step improvement and restoration of health in the individual. For additional information, please visit –

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  • Jill Busl

    I’ve become aware of an excellent food sensitivity test called the Mediator Release Test that shows food sensitivities to 120 foods and 30 food chemicals/additives. It’s available from Oxford Biomedical Technologies. They used Registered Dieticians who are trained in their protocol, and have had great success with children who have autism, ADHD, ADD, etc. Their website is

  • Gerd

    GFCF and GFDF diets as a treatment for autism spectrum disorder

    One of the most visible advocates for the GFCF/GFDF diet is the Autism Research Institute. The ARI recommends the GFCF/GFDF diet as a treatment for autism and related conditions.[1][2] The organization believes that, “Dietary intervention is a cornerstone of a evidence-based medical approach, and there is convincing empirical evidence that special diets help many with autism. The ARI lists two studies: Knivsberg, Wiig, et al. “Dietary Interventions in Autistic Syndromes” in the journal Brain Dysfunctions 3 and Knivsberg, Reichelt, et al. “A Randomised, Controlled Study of Dietary Intervention in Autistic Syndromes” in Nutritional Neuroscience as scientific publications that support their theories.[11]

    The ARI also has a presence in mainstream, popular publications such as The Kid-Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook. In the book’s foreword, ARI’s “Publication 34,” a parent-recorded data set of their autistic children’s responses to special diets is cited: “50 percent of autistics improved by avoiding milk products (based on 5,847 responses); 49 percent improved with avoidance of wheat (3,367 responses); and 65 percent improved on a gluten and casein-free diet (1,818 responses).” [12]
    7.^ Reichelt KL, Knivsberg A-M, Lind G, Nødland M. Probable etiology and possible treatment of childhood autism. Brain Dysfunct 1991; 4: 308-19
    8.^ Reichelt et al. (1981) ‘Biologically Active Peptide Containing Fractions in Schizophrenia and Childhood Autism’, Advances in Biochemical Psychopharmacology 28: 627–43.

  • Madeline Joseph

    I was wondering, whether this GFCF diet would also benefit adults with autism.

  • Todd

    Finally. I was just explaining to my partner how I felt “autistic” for many years. I couldn’t focus, concentrate, had poor memory, thinking hurt, freaked out when people would change my daily routine and the list goes on. I’ve had trouble learning new things, especially French. People here think I’m lazy and not willing to learn the language, they just won’t listen when I try to explain my problems. I spent 3 yrs learning French and only have basic skills – I should be fluent! After adhering to a gluten free/mucus free diet for a month I noticed a significant difference. My symptoms were slowly diminishing &/or improving. My wife noticed the difference and finally believes me. I started adding gluten, eggs & cheese back into my diet and the symptoms slowly returned. Remember also that gluten sensitivity test(s) are not accurate. They only look for “gliadin” even though there are 5 others that can cause a reaction – agglutinin, glteomorphin, gltueinin, prodynorphin, omega gliadin. So even though you tested negative as I did, you still may have a problem. Bonne chance mes amis…

  • Sima

    HI Madeline,

    GFCF diet can help just about everyone, even those who are not on the spectrum. I have a patient who is 32 years old who’s been on the GCFC diet for a long time and he credits the diet for his ability to speak. You also have to be aware that we are all unique individuals that may or may not respond to a particular treatment.

    All the best,

  • Sima

    Hi Todd,

    Thank you for sharing your story and I wish there were many more like you to take their health seriously and realize that gluten/caesin is nothing but poison to our brain/gut/immune system.

    Happy New Year!

  • ujjwal

    want to know the list of food which is GFCF free and where to get it.

  • Sima

    Hi ujjwal:

    The Mayo Clinic has a list and it’s a good place to start:

    A lot of grocery stores now have lists as to which products in their stores are GF.

    Lastly, this list from TACA is very detailed and brand specific. I hope it helps: