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What is Gluten Free / Casein Free (GF / CF Diet)?  Bright Tots - Information on child development - Autism information.
Gluten Free / Casein Free (GF/CF Diet)
Gluten Free / Casein Free (GF/CF Diet)
This diet insists on an entire avoidance of all gluten products and all dairy products. Researchers and parents say after using this
diet for three months large improvements are observed in social isolation, eye contact, mutism, learning skills, hyperactivity,
stereotypic activity, and panic attacks. The protein found in gluten and casein may cause disruption in normal brain activity as
well as an inflammatory response resulting in the symptoms seen in autism. Many foods have a trace of contamination with
gluten, such as coating on French fries and raisins with wheat powder to keep them from sticking, so it can be very difficult to
avoid all foods and contaminated foods.        

To see full benefits from this diet parents must devote consistency.  This kind of commitment is often difficult because of the
complexity of the diet, and even minimal amounts of gluten or casein will affect the outcome and you may not see any benefit.
The diet has to be followed at home, school, and wherever the child eats. Even eating a small graham cracker (which contains
gluten) could hinder the effectiveness of the diet.

Food restriction is a difficult task as there are many hidden sources of gluten found in the ingredients of many processed foods.
For example, gravy made with wheat flour would be forbidden on a gluten-free diet. Gluten is found (in wheat, rye, barley, and
possibly oats) and casein (in all dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, calcium or salt of casein) can cause
two problems:

•        They are common food allergens especially in children and adults with autism. The basic theory is that a subgroup of
children with autism may not be able to fully metabolize gluten and casein (casein is a protein found in milk). Peptides, part of
the gluten and casein proteins, can be detected in abnormally high amounts in the urine of this subgroup of children. This fact
has been scientifically documented. However, whether these peptides cross the bloodstream barrier into the brain and influence
the behavior of children with autism is a theory that needs further investigation.

•        Certain peptides from gluten and casein can attach to opioid-receptors in the brain, and can have a potent effect on
behavior (like heroin or morphine), causing problems including sleepiness, giddiness, inattention/”zoning out”, and aggressive
and self-inflicted behavior. In some individuals the proteins also known as peptides cannot be completely digested by enzymes
in the digestive system.

These problems appear to be due to:

•        A failure of the digestive tract to fully digest the gluten and casein peptides into single amino acids.

•        Inflammation of the gut, allowing the gluten and casein peptides to enter the bloodstream and reach opioid receptors in
the brain.

Benefits from the Gluten and Casein Free Diet

Children who most crave dairy and/or wheat, and who eat a lot of it, are most likely to benefit from this particular diet. Casein-
free diets usually achieve results within a month, and sometimes within a week. Gluten free diets usually take 1-3 months to
produce benefits. In some children there is a worsening of symptoms for a few days (similar to a drug withdrawal) followed by
improvement in behavior.

Outcomes from the diet usually fall into three categories:

•        Neurological improvements, such as reduced head banging, improved eye contact, or calmer, less agitated behavior.

•        Gastrointestinal improvements, such as more regular, solid stools which make toilet training easier.

•        No improvement at all, indicating the child is not sensitive to gluten or casein.

Parents should continue the diet at least until gastrointestinal problems are addressed, and in that case duration is possibly
everlasting. It is important that a calcium supplement be taken while on a dairy-free diet unless a child has an exceptionally
nutritious diet rich in calcium. There are tests available for allergies to wheat and dairy. However, a negative allergy test does
not mean that dairy and wheat are ok, as they can also cause problems due to opioid reaction. A trial of avoiding the foods is
the best test.

When any child is on a restricted diet, the family should be working with a registered dietitian to assess the need for vitamin and
mineral supplements and to discuss alternative sources of calcium, fiber and protein.

Acceptable Milk Replacements:

Soy milk, Rice milk, Almond milk, Potato milk, Coconut milk

Many children with autism also benefit by removing corn and/or soy products.
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