Gluten Free Cassein Free (GFCF) Diets and Autism

What is a GFCF Diet?:

GFCF stands for "gluten free casein free." Gluten is found in wheat, casein in dairy. So a diet free of wheat and dairy products is a GFCF Diet. In addition to eliminating gluten and casein, some practitioners recommend eliminating all soy, artificial dyes and sugar.

Why are GFCF Diets Recommended for People with Autism?:

Some autism experts believe that autism is caused, at least in part, by chemical by-products of gluten and casein.

This theory is not supported by mainstream medical practitioners, but many parents and practitioners say they've seen amazing results. For details of this theory, read: Why Alternative Practitioners Recommend Special Diets for Autism.

Are GFCF Diets Effective?:

This is a controversial question, but the answer seems to be "sometimes." The reason for the diet's success is also up for debate: Some medical experts feel that a GFCF diet may simply relieve gastrointestinal discomfort, which would naturally lead to better behavior and focus. For more on this issue, read: Can Wheat or Dairy Cause Autism?.

What are the Pros of GFCF Diets for People with Autism?:

If your child responds positively to a GFCF diet, then the pros are significant -- improved digestion, behavior, and focus. Some parents even say they see better language and social skills. Generally, these improvements happen after an initial negative reaction and several months on the diet.

What are the Cons of GFCF Diets for People with Autism?:

GFCF diets are expensive. Gluten- and casein-free foods are hard to find and are often available only at specialty stores and high-end online sources. GFCF diets can be difficult to follow, since they eliminate many "typical" American foods. And without gluten or cassein, it can be tough to ensure appropriate nutrition for your child.

The Bottom Line:

Since gastrointestinal (GI) problems do impact a large percentage of people with autism, monitor your autistic child's GI health. He may be suffering from constipation, bloating, reflux or related issues. Misbehavior may be his only way to communicate his discomfort. If you do suspect a GI problem, ask for a referral to a pediatric gastroenterologist. Also, consult your doctor about a GFCF diet for your child with autism.

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