Can Gluten And Casein-Free Eating Help Manage Autism?
It used to be thought that autism was caused entirely by genetics. However, recent findings have pointed to a greater impact of environmental factors on the development of autism. In addition, some have suggested that autism may be linked to brain functions that can be healed or reversed with proper treatment.
The seriousness of this problem has been magnified by the growth of autism diagnoses in recent times. According to the CDC, autism saw a 119% rise in children in the U.S. from the year 2000 to 2010. This has made it the fastest growing developmental disability. Parents of such children find themselves grappling for answers and seeking solutions. One strategy that has shown promise for many parents of children with autism has been dietary therapy, which involves the removal of gluten and casein from the diets of autistic children.
Autism and the Gluten Free/Casein Free (GFCF) Diet
Gluten, a protein found in many grains, and casein, found primarily in dairy, have been implicated as possible contributors to autism. The theory behind such implication has to do with how the bodies of autistic children process gluten and casein. Such substances are believed to produce peptides which have an opiate-like effect. In fact, these peptides have been observed in autistic children while shown not to be present in other children.
When gluten and casein have been removed from the diets of some autistic children, the effects have ranged anywhere from mild to dramatic change. This effect has been seen in both speech and behavior of autistic children. While research remains mixed and inconclusive, many have found such dietary changes to be helpful in managing autism in children.
Challenges of Eating GFCF
Eliminating all gluten and casein from one's diet can be extremely difficult. Gluten, especially, is abundant in the American diet. Finding good substitutes can take much additional time, thought, and money. Also, vitamin supplements may be necessary to replace nutrients that are found in the foods being removed from children's diets.
Fortunately, there is support and assistance for eating a GFCF diet. As interest in the diet grows, so do resources for eating this way. Many stores, especially health food stores, have entire sections devoted to GFCF eating. Websites displaying recipes and advice on GFCF diets have abounded in recent years. Also, as more people eat GFCF, it becomes easier to find others from whom you can gain wisdom and knowledge.
Is the GFCF Diet Right for You?
Research has been unable to pin down one solid cause of autism and related developmental disorders. This would lead one to believe that perhaps there isn't a single cause, but many causes that can apply to different people. Some respond wonderfully to dietary changes. The GFCF diet may be one avenue that you want to explore on your quest for help and healing through developmental pediatrics. Best wishes as you search out the answers you seek for your family.