Is the GFCF diet right for my family?

Autism, Aspergerís and the Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) Diet

By Dr. Leslie Carter

(503) 807-7413  www.DrLeslieCarter.com  

  

I am often asked, ďIs the GFCF diet a good choice for my child with Autism?Ē  The answer to this question needs to be decided by each family.  Here are some of my ideas for thinking about this decision. 

The Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) diet helps the gut problems found in 50 - 70% of people with autism.  People who try the GFCF diet must not eat food with gluten or casein in them.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, and spelt.  Casein is a type of cowís milk protein.  The GFCF diet might help people who have stomach pain, gas, constipation, bloating, or diarrhea.  These people often get sick after they eat or have trouble sleeping.  Sometimes these people do not eat very many foods.  They may eat too much milk or bread than is healthy.   They might get a red face or ears after eating.  They can also have dark circles around their eyes.   

Not everyone who needs the GFCF diet has to eat this way for life.  Most people who need the GFCF diet only need to be on it for one or two years.  By not eating gluten and casein the stomach can get well.  After healing happens they can try eating wheat or milk again.  If they do not get sick then it may be safe to eat wheat and milk again.  Some people, however, have many people in their family who cannot eat wheat or milk.  For these people the GFCF diet may need to be life long.     

People with Aspergerís Syndrome often feel better with changes in their diet too.  They can usually eat more types of food than autistic people can.  People with Aspergerís Syndrome may only get sick from one or two types of food.  The most common problem foods for these people are wheat, milk or sugar.  Most Aspergerís people can eat gluten without getting sick. 

If you think a person in your family is sick always try to see a doctor.  Not all doctors know about these types of stomach problems or how to treat them.  Ask your regular doctor (pediatrician, internist, or family practice doctor) about this first.  He or she may want you to a specialist.  Gastroenterologists (medical doctors who specialize in stomach and gut problems) can help spot some of these problems. Naturopathic physicians (NDís) also know about how diet can help gut problems.  Both types of doctors can do tests to find out if you are sick.  

When a food makes a person sick they may have a food intolerance.  Food intolerances may be caused by gut problems.  They often cause diarrhea, gas, constipation and many of the problems listed above.  Food allergies are different.  For example, a person with a peanut allergy can get a skin rash or have breathing problems if they eat peanuts.  Autistic people may have both food allergies and intolerances.  This article, however, is mostly about food intolerances.  A dermatologist or allergist (i.e., an MD specializing in skin problems or allergies) can test for allergies. 

It is possible to get tested for food intolerances to find out if diet changes would be useful.  A blood test testing for IGG mediated food intolerances is often used and can be requested through a doctor (e.g., MD or ND).  This test will show a list of foods eaten recently and the degree a person seems to be sensitive to them.  Some NDs also offer electro dermal testing of food intolerances, which gives quick results and does not require a blood to be taken.  Both types of tests are estimated to be accurate at about 85%.  Remember food intolerances are only one reason to make diet changes.   

Because testing takes time, is costly, and is not 100% accurate some families decide to try the diet without formal testing.  There is no problem with this approach.  Because, however, the stomach and gut illnesses that make diet changes needed are very serious and can be life threatening, having a doctor (MD or ND) help with treatment (whether testing is done or not) is strongly recommended.  If you live in the country, many doctors will talk with out-of-town families using the Internet or telephone after meeting them in person once.  This type of arrangement can help keep travel costs down.  For a list of doctors who may be able to help see www.cgiworker.com/danlist/danlist.html.

Sometimes treatment includes the use of nutritional supplements, large doses of vitamins, and minerals (more than an over-the-counter multivitamin) in addition to diet changes.  I do not recommend anyone use nutritional supplements or large doses of vitamins and minerals without the direction of a doctor who is trained in their use.  Nutritional supplements, vitamins and herbs are real medicine and should be used carefully.

While diet changes can be complicated so can taking care of a person with autism when he or she does not feel well.  If a family member has the symptoms listed about see a doctor of your choice who is good at this type of treatment to see if it might make a difference for your family.

I am often asked, ďIs the GFCF diet a good choice for my child with Autism?Ē  The answer to this question needs to be decided by each family.  Here are some of my ideas for thinking about this decision. 

The Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) diet helps the gut problems found in 50 - 70% of people with autism.  People who try the GFCF diet must not eat food with gluten or casein in them.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, and spelt.  Casein is a type of cowís milk protein.  The GFCF diet might help people who have stomach pain, gas, constipation, bloating, or diarrhea.  These people often get sick after they eat or have trouble sleeping.  Sometimes these people do not eat very many foods.  They may eat too much milk or bread than is healthy.   They might get a red face or ears after eating.  They can also have dark circles around their eyes.   

Not everyone who needs the GFCF diet has to eat this way for life.  Most people who need the GFCF diet only need to be on it for one or two years.  By not eating gluten and casein the stomach can get well.  After healing happens they can try eating wheat or milk again.  If they do not get sick then it may be safe to eat wheat and milk again.  Some people, however, have many people in their family who cannot eat wheat or milk.  For these people the GFCF diet may need to be life long.     

People with Aspergerís Syndrome often feel better with changes in their diet too.  They can usually eat more types of food than autistic people can.  People with Aspergerís Syndrome may only get sick from one or two types of food.  The most common problem foods for these people are wheat, milk or sugar.  Most Aspergerís people can eat gluten without getting sick. 

If you think a person in your family is sick always try to see a doctor.  Not all doctors know about these types of stomach problems or how to treat them.  Ask your regular doctor (pediatrician, internist, or family practice doctor) about this first.  He or she may want you to a specialist.  Gastroenterologists (medical doctors who specialize in stomach and gut problems) can help spot some of these problems. Naturopathic physicians (NDís) also know about how diet can help gut problems.  Both types of doctors can do tests to find out if you are sick.  

When a food makes a person sick they may have a food intolerance.  Food intolerances may be caused by gut problems.  They often cause diarrhea, gas, constipation and many of the problems listed above.  Food allergies are different.  For example, a person with a peanut allergy can get a skin rash or have breathing problems if they eat peanuts.  Autistic people may have both food allergies and intolerances.  This article, however, is mostly about food intolerances.  A dermatologist or allergist (i.e., an MD specializing in skin problems or allergies) can test for allergies. 

It is possible to get tested for food intolerances to find out if diet changes would be useful.  A blood test testing for IGG mediated food intolerances is often used and can be requested through a doctor (e.g., MD or ND).  This test will show a list of foods eaten recently and the degree a person seems to be sensitive to them.  Some NDs also offer electro dermal testing of food intolerances, which gives quick results and does not require a blood to be taken.  Both types of tests are estimated to be accurate at about 85%.  Remember food intolerances are only one reason to make diet changes.   

Because testing takes time, is costly, and is not 100% accurate some families decide to try the diet without formal testing.  There is no problem with this approach.  Because, however, the stomach and gut illnesses that make diet changes needed are very serious and can be life threatening, having a doctor (MD or ND) help with treatment (whether testing is done or not) is strongly recommended.  If you live in the country, many doctors will talk with out-of-town families using the Internet or telephone after meeting them in person once.  This type of arrangement can help keep travel costs down.  For a list of doctors who may be able to help see www.cgiworker.com/danlist/danlist.html.

Sometimes treatment includes the use of nutritional supplements, large doses of vitamins, and minerals (more than an over-the-counter multivitamin) in addition to diet changes.  I do not recommend anyone use nutritional supplements or large doses of vitamins and minerals without the direction of a doctor who is trained in their use.  Nutritional supplements, vitamins and herbs are real medicine and should be used carefully.

While diet changes can be complicated so can taking care of a person with autism when he or she does not feel well.  If a family member has the symptoms listed about see a doctor of your choice who is good at this type of treatment to see if it might make a difference for your family.

I am often asked, ďIs the GFCF diet a good choice for my child with Autism?Ē  The answer to this question needs to be decided by each family.  Here are some of my ideas for thinking about this decision. 

The Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) diet helps the gut problems found in 50 - 70% of people with autism.  People who try the GFCF diet must not eat food with gluten or casein in them.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, and spelt.  Casein is a type of cowís milk protein.  The GFCF diet might help people who have stomach pain, gas, constipation, bloating, or diarrhea.  These people often get sick after they eat or have trouble sleeping.  Sometimes these people do not eat very many foods.  They may eat too much milk or bread than is healthy.   They might get a red face or ears after eating.  They can also have dark circles around their eyes.   

Not everyone who needs the GFCF diet has to eat this way for life.  Most people who need the GFCF diet only need to be on it for one or two years.  By not eating gluten and casein the stomach can get well.  After healing happens they can try eating wheat or milk again.  If they do not get sick then it may be safe to eat wheat and milk again.  Some people, however, have many people in their family who cannot eat wheat or milk.  For these people the GFCF diet may need to be life long.     

People with Aspergerís Syndrome often feel better with changes in their diet too.  They can usually eat more types of food than autistic people can.  People with Aspergerís Syndrome may only get sick from one or two types of food.  The most common problem foods for these people are wheat, milk or sugar.  Most Aspergerís people can eat gluten without getting sick. 

If you think a person in your family is sick always try to see a doctor.  Not all doctors know about these types of stomach problems or how to treat them.  Ask your regular doctor (pediatrician, internist, or family practice doctor) about this first.  He or she may want you to a specialist.  Gastroenterologists (medical doctors who specialize in stomach and gut problems) can help spot some of these problems. Naturopathic physicians (NDís) also know about how diet can help gut problems.  Both types of doctors can do tests to find out if you are sick.  

When a food makes a person sick they may have a food intolerance.  Food intolerances may be caused by gut problems.  They often cause diarrhea, gas, constipation and many of the problems listed above.  Food allergies are different.  For example, a person with a peanut allergy can get a skin rash or have breathing problems if they eat peanuts.  Autistic people may have both food allergies and intolerances.  This article, however, is mostly about food intolerances.  A dermatologist or allergist (i.e., an MD specializing in skin problems or allergies) can test for allergies. 

It is possible to get tested for food intolerances to find out if diet changes would be useful.  A blood test testing for IGG mediated food intolerances is often used and can be requested through a doctor (e.g., MD or ND).  This test will show a list of foods eaten recently and the degree a person seems to be sensitive to them.  Some NDs also offer electro dermal testing of food intolerances, which gives quick results and does not require a blood to be taken.  Both types of tests are estimated to be accurate at about 85%.  Remember food intolerances are only one reason to make diet changes.   

Because testing takes time, is costly, and is not 100% accurate some families decide to try the diet without formal testing.  There is no problem with this approach.  Because, however, the stomach and gut illnesses that make diet changes needed are very serious and can be life threatening, having a doctor (MD or ND) help with treatment (whether testing is done or not) is strongly recommended.  If you live in the country, many doctors will talk with out-of-town families using the Internet or telephone after meeting them in person once.  This type of arrangement can help keep travel costs down.  For a list of doctors who may be able to help see www.cgiworker.com/danlist/danlist.html.

Sometimes treatment includes the use of nutritional supplements, large doses of vitamins, and minerals (more than an over-the-counter multivitamin) in addition to diet changes.  I do not recommend anyone use nutritional supplements or large doses of vitamins and minerals without the direction of a doctor who is trained in their use.  Nutritional supplements, vitamins and herbs are real medicine and should be used carefully.

While diet changes can be complicated so can taking care of a person with autism when he or she does not feel well.  If a family member has the symptoms listed about see a doctor of your choice who is good at this type of treatment to see if it might make a difference for your family.