Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diets
For most people, environmental risk factors include allergies, food intolerances, aluminum, pollutants and toxins, poor diet, etc. For most children with autism and ADHD, diet and food allergies are major environmental risk factors. Controlling exposure to environmental risk factors, including food and food components, can help our body heal and better overcome our genetic vulnerabilities.
Gluten and casein are two of the most immunoreactive proteins we can eat. Found in wheat, barley, oats, etc and milk products, these proteins are changed into peptides that cause a cascade of cognitive and behavioral symptoms in vulnerable individuals.
Peptides from gluten and casein can react with our body's endogenous opioid receptors in our brain. In vulnerable individuals, this can result in behavioral changes and "addiction" to foods caontaining casein and gluten.
This is a major reason for recommending a gluten-free, casein-free diet for patients—to minimize environmental exposure and risk factors that affect the way we express our genes.
What is a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free diet?
This diet eliminates dietary intake of gluten and casein proteins. Gluten is commonly found in what, barley, eye and oats, while casein is found in most milk and dairy products.
A gluten-free casein free (GFCF) diet eliminates these proteins from our diet.
Why might this diet be helpful?
In vulnerable individuals, including those with autism and ADHD, gluten and casein proteins affect the body’s physical and cognitive functioning. Examples of deleterious effects include: bouts of diarrhea and constipation, addiction behavior, fatigue, delay of language, behavioral disturbance, abdominal pain, inattention or foggy thinking, stunted growth, and others.
There is a strong and proven link between the gut and brain. Their connection is mediated by the immune system. Most of our body’s pain receptors are located in the gut. Children with autism, especially nonverbal children, may be experiencing negative effects from the foods they are eating and be exhibiting symptoms of pain such as aggression, anger, self-injury and others as a consequence of their diet.
Research confirms that parents who follow a strict GFCF diet noted improved GI symptoms, and increases in their child’s language production, social behaviors, eye contact, engagement, attention, and social responsiveness.
Getting Started on this Diet
We recommend that you download the following patient handouts to get you started.
In addition, you may find the following resources helpful: