Monday, September 13, 2010

Autism Diets Article Part 4: Gluten Free Casein Free Diet GF/CF

Laura Schmitt NE

Did you miss Autism Diets article part 3? If so, click here.

Diet Step One: Gluten Free and Casein Free.

Removing dairy AND gluten from a standard American diet is not an easy task for anyone, and it is complicated by self limited diets, convenience, education on nutrition, and texture issues. Still, over 65% of parents surveyed by the ARI (Autism Research Institute) reported improvements in a variety of areas when they implemented this diet. Many parents try this plan and many are converted when they see improvements in GI function, attention, skin irritations, behavior, bowel frequency and more.

What does it mean to become gluten free and casein free? Primarily, it means you remove wheat and dairy from your diet, but there is more. Gluten is a tricky (and sticky) substance. It is also found in oats, barley, spelt, and rye. Becoming a label detective is a requirement for the parents who buy gluten free foods, as gluten can be found in many common American prepared foods and sauces. Dairy is a little more straight forward. With removal of dairy, you omit milk, cow yogurt, cheese, butter, and cream.

Now that we’ve just removed the majority of foods eaten by the average child in our country, what is left that they CAN eat and HOW can it be done? A shift in focus will help this transition. Instead of focusing on all the foods you cannot have with a GF/CF diet, change that focus to all the foods you CAN have. You can have meats, vegetables, many gluten free grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. That leaves plenty to work with. In the beginning it is easy for many people to start by purchasing premade gluten free/ dairy free breads, cookies, crackers and cakes. After 1-3 months, most parents find that the GF/CF program becomes second nature and they are finding mixes they like and alternate recipes that work for their family.

Start with meals that are based on a protein (meat or legume) with rice, vegetables, and fruits. Most of my nutrition clients who have transitioned to a GF/CF program tell me that they eat a wider variety of foods and healthier food choices AFTER their transition than before. This is a great positive to the GF/CF program. This leads us to another important point: For all of those children with damaged gut and GI disturbances, switching to a diet high in refined gluten free grains and refined sugar will not aid in healing and it can lead to increased GI upset. Of course there will be occasions for cookies and treats, but look to include vegetables, proteins, and fruits as well as the grain choices. When you have the option to choose items made with whole grains instead of mainly starches, that is a good way to get extra fiber in those foods. Consulting with a Dietitian or trained Nutrition Educator can help make the process easier.

How do you know if a Gf/Cf diet is for you? If you or your loved one has frequent GI upsets/issues (diarrhea, IBS, constipation, other), if you or your loved one has a very limited diet that is based primarily on wheat and / or dairy, if you or your loved one suffers eczema, dermatitis, skin rashes otherwise unidentified, if you or your loved one is on the Autism Spectrum, then you are a good candidate to try the GF/CF program. When we went gluten free and dairy free, as a family, we saw immediate improvements for my daughter’s health. Her chronic diarrhea stopped, her skin rashes began to disappear, but the biggest change we saw was in her behavior. As if a cloud had been lifted, she came back with dietary intervention. Without noticing it at first, we all began to feel better on the GF/CF diet. My lifelong battle with eczema stopped completely, my hypoglycemia symptoms disappeared, the diarrhea my youngest daughter battled with stopped. We all felt better. At this time, I can eat some gluten without repeat eczema. My youngest can eat it without any trouble, but my oldest child gets immediately ill if she has even a small amount of gluten. She stays strictly gluten free, and this change has been well worth it for her in so many ways.

Now, if it were only this easy, then we’d be finished, but of course…it isn’t. There are other food additives and intestinal upsetters to talk about. In the next article we’ll discuss the Feingold program and how all of us can benefit from implementing principles of this plan.

Some Online Resources for GF/CF Diet

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