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GFCF Diet and Autism: Does it Really Help?

There is a lot of discussion surrounding whether or not a gluten and casein-free diet is helpful in minimizing some of autism spectrum-related symptoms. The truth is, regardless of whether your child has autism or not, the food they eat matters. Yet, is eliminating so many products from your child’s diet going to extremes? Find out here.

The Autism Research Institute concludes that dietary intervention is an effective treatment for autism. Research, however, shows mixed outcomes and further studies are necessary.

Many parents report an improvement in behavior after completely eliminating gluten and casein from their child’s diet, however, it isn’t for everyone. Completely eliminating gluten and casein is a big undertaking. There are no “cheat days” with the diet. It has to become a lifestyle change in order to maximize any potential benefit. If you are up to the challenge, it is important to look at it as your own personal study. This will allow you to accurately measure if your child truly benefits from the diet change.

Step One: Consult a Nutritionist or Dietician

Most experts agree that in order to accurately determine if the diet works, a three-month trial should be completed. Before starting, consult with a nutritionist or dietician. Gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diets can be found online, however, when considering an elimination diet, for a growing child, a professional should be involved. This helps ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition for their growing body.

Step Two: Create a Diet Diary

As part of any good study, documentation should be created showing your child’s dietary history. Document everything they ate for at least three days and provide this to the dietician before getting started. Include behaviors noticed after eating certain foods (i.e.: hyperactivity, anxiety, agitation)

Step Three: Measure Results

Once your child begins the study it is important to document how they respond to the change. Having a baseline of how they responded to different foods before beginning the diet will help you accurately measure any change. Document what kind of behaviors they exhibited when eating certain foods. When those foods are eliminated, do their behaviors change? How do they change? Enlist help from your child’s teachers and therapists to monitor change as well.

If the diet is improving your child’s autism-related symptoms, consider the reason. More than half of all children with autism have gastrointestinal disorders. People, autistic or otherwise, tend to exhibit negative behaviors when they are uncomfortable. If the changes noted by your study outweigh the work and cost associated with a GFCF diet, you may decide it is well worth the sacrifice.

If you are considering a GFCF diet for your child, contact your pediatric provider today for an appointment. We can help steer you in the right direction by providing recommendations to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

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