Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet (GFCF)

Gluten is the protein in wheat (and oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut) and casein is a protein in dairy.

I see so many children that will eat ONLY wheat and dairy – grilled cheese, pizza, yogurt, milk, pretzels, bread, etc. – with maybe a little fruit thrown in to appease parents.  This is a red flag! The opiates and endorphins created (when these foods are not processed properly) are very addicting.  Very picky eating is often gluten and casein intolerance.  Once gluten and casein are removed, dietary choices often expand dramatically.

There are dozens if not hundreds of hidden sources of gluten.  It is important to do this diet correctly.  Any small infraction will make the diet ineffective.  Read a book, join an online chat group, or work with a doctor or nutrition consultant to learn the nuances. The biggest error I typically see is when people have “tried” the diet, but only try it half way.  They often keep some sources of gluten or casein in the diet, assuming that reducing these foods will show some improvement.  Actually, if you have ANY infractions in the diet you may not see any positive result.  If you have tried it and it did not work, you may want to revisit it with this new understanding.  According to parents within DAN!, 64% of children receive moderate to significant improvement from the GFCF diet – this is more than any other supplement, medication, or dietary change.

Common symptoms of gluten/casein intolerance:  The same symptoms of intolerance for food sensitivities apply here. Where gluten and other food sensitivities typically cause diarrhea or constipation, casein intolerance is most often associated with significant constipation.  Additionally, vomiting clear mucus and leg aches or “growing pains” are most commonly a sign of casein sensitivity.  Fuzzy thinking, high pain tolerance, self-injurious behavior and other common opiate symptoms are associated with gluten and casein intolerance.

When to use this diet:  I recommend this as a starting point or foundation for all ASD diets.  If you skip straight to another diet, I always recommend you make those diets gluten- and casein-free.  For instance, if you do SCD I would not recommend including cheese and yogurt, which is allowed on that diet, unless you are confident these foods are not a problem.  GFCF often improves symptoms of constipation and diarrhea.  It also reduces many cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

Pitfalls: There are so many hidden sources that it can be difficult to eliminate all infractions, and it is essential to do so in order for the diet to be effective.  Also, GFCF foods do not necessarily mean healthy foods.  There are tons of GFCF cookies, crackers, candy, cakes that are loaded with sugar.  Be sure to have low sugar be part of the GFCF diet.  If you need to just substitute food for food (the regular waffle for the gluten-free waffle) at first during the withdrawal phase and reduce sugars later that is fine for the short term.  However, don’t get complacent with leaving the sugars in the diet.

GFCF is one of the best diets to try for anyone with digestive problems and inflammatory conditions.

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