Tuesday, January 3, 2012

GFCF diet for Autism


Nutrition and Diet for Autism and Special Needs

  • why the diet works, finding a nutritionist
  • what can my child eat? He already doesn’t eat anything!
  • special diets like Gluten Free, Casein Free (GFCF) and Specific Carb (SCD)
  • vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes
  • getting started: start simple and add things as you go
  • where to shop (Target, Meijer, Kroger, Nature’s Pharm)
  • easy recipes (like pizza made with bread, sauce and “cheese” that you pop in the oven)
  • good books, blogs and websites

Diet To D0 List:

1.      Remove milk from everything your child eats. Read labels. Give it two weeks before you give up.  Milk takes 2 weeks to completely leave the digestive system.  Wheat can take up to 6 months.
2.     Make an appointment with a dietitian.
3.     Get on the waiting list for a DAN / MAPS doctor.
4.     Read!  Blogs, books, and websites will give you ideas and hope.



Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet
Handout For Teachers & Aides

Revised July 2009
Authors Mary Fry, Diane Gallant & Moira Giammetteo

What Is the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free (GFCF) Diet?
This diet lessens the digestive and behavioral issues sometimes found in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Recent research indicates that there are children with a genetic predisposition to the disorder, which is then triggered by some as yet undetermined event: a vaccine, environmental toxin, or virus, which can cause a “leaky gut,” sometimes evidenced by resulting chronic loose stools as the child cannot properly digest these proteins. If this happens, wheat and dairy are then metabolized as opiates, entering the blood system and attaching to the brain like a drug.

It is believed that by eliminating gluten (wheat) and milk protein (casein), the gut will begin to heal and the child’s overall condition will improve somewhat. Sometimes additional factors are in play and must be addressed as well before positive change is seen (such as yeast overgrowth, as an example).

Because the diet is considered an “alternative” therapy, some school administrators, medical personnel, and others often view it with skepticism. But for some children, eliminating gluten and casein helps lessen self-stimulating behaviors, increases focus, and resolves gastro-intestinal distress. That’s why many parents swear by it.

The diet is not a cure for autism nor is it a substitute for traditional one-on-one intervention. Rather, by making the child more comfortable, the child becomes more receptive to learning (not to mention the potential positive impact in the child’s overall health, demeanor, and possible reduction in negative behaviors).

What Do the Children Eat?
Children eat a wide variety of meat, chicken, eggs, fruits, vegetables– anything that does not contain wheat gluten or milk protein (both proteins are very similar in molecular structure, and it is estimated that as high as 91% of children with autism who follow the GFCF diet can benefit). Furthermore, gluten is also found in oats, barley, rye, and most processed foods. Milk protein or casein is found in every dairy product imaginable, and is even used as a binder in canned tuna fish and lunch meats.

Many children who are on the diet will react to the slightest bit of wheat gluten or milk or soy protein. A single bite of a goldfish cracker may cause a week of bad stools, aggressive and disruptive behavior, rashes, etc. A child who "gets into" regular Play-Doh may become non-compliant, withdrawn, and regress. One bite of a graham cracker could result in severe tantrumming, head-banging, and unusually strong, aggressive behaviors, sometimes lasting several days.

What Happens When We Have Special Treats For Birthdays or Holidays?
Teachers must give the parent at least a few days notice to provide similar "special treats." Parents who are using the GF/CF diet cannot run to the store and buy cupcakes for the next day—these cupcakes have to be made from scratch using a combination of special flours that can be hard to find. Given enough notice, though, most parents can come up with substitutes. Try to make birthdays and holidays less food-oriented; substitute with crafts, carnival or piƱata type toys, music, or movement activities, instead of cookies and cupcakes.

We Have Many Hands-On Activities That Involve Food - How Should We Handle This?
Give the parent at least several days notice – the more the better – and start planning some alternate activities that do not involve food. Example: If the class is going to make a loaf of bread from scratch, ask the GF/CF parent to supply the flours for the dough.

What Should I Do If the Child Eats or Gets Into Something They Shouldn't?
Call the parents as soon as possible for instructions – be prepared to tell them what the food was, the quantity, and the time that the incident occurred. Do not wait – even though it is not a medical emergency, in a parent's mind, it may be. Some parents will come and pick up the child to give them digestive enzymes and over-the-counter medications. They may wish to rush the child home to soak in an Epsom salts bath to possibly help minimize the potential damage.

To you it may be “just a cookie,” but you wouldn’t give a diabetic child sugary candy that you know would hurt him. It is the same for the GFCF diet. The wrong foods will HURT the child, even in small amounts.

An Infraction Has Happened, What Is To Be Expected?
  • Change in behavior
  • Change in bowel movements
  • Rash on face, bottom or anywhere on the body
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Tantrums/crying/aggression
Typically these changes occur immediately after ingestion or as long as 2-4 days after ingestion of, or exposure to, the problem food or products. In addition, milk takes 1 to 2 weeks to leave the digestive system, while gluten can take up to 6 months. This means infractions have long-term effects on the child’s health.



Going GFCFSF in 10 Weeks!
TACA also has recipes, meal plans, ingredients and substitution lists, and a guide to reading food labels.
The Steps to GFCFSF
Be Prepared! Read through the TACA website and pick a date to start the diet. Just pick a weekend and start. There is no time like the present!  This timeline is merely a suggestion.


Weeks 1-2 – Remove all casein (milk, cheese, ice cream, sour cream, etc). Do not replace them with soy. Begin calcium supplementation.
Weeks 3-4 – Remove gluten – wheat, oats, barley and rye.
Weeks 5-6 – Remove all soy. Now your child is considered to be “on the diet!”
Weeks 7-8 – Recheck everything and refine diet, if needed. Replace any personal care items such as shampoo, toothpaste, laundry soap and classroom supplies.
Weeks 9-10 – Recheck everything and refine diet, if needed. Do an inventory of sugars and carbohydrates, adjust diet to good levels.  Remember, this is a suggestion, you may not get this far this quickly, and that’s ok.

Hints for Diet Success
The first few weeks can be hard on both the child and the parents. The children typically have meltdowns and regress when the foods they are used to are removed and replaced with new things they are not used to. How long this lasts depends on a few factors – how bad their addiction to the foods is, if you replace gluten, casein or soy with foods he’s allergic to, diet sabotage, and how committed you are.

To make it easier on the parents:
·         Be committed. Know that research shows that 91% of ASD kids improve on the GFCFSF diet. The diet will only make your child healthier, and healthy is the goal after all. Yes, the diet can be confusing at first, but everything you will need is on the TACA site to help you make sense of it all. And remember this, YOU CAN DO IT!!!
·         Make sure your spouse is on board. If your spouse keeps giving your child things that are not on the diet, there is no point to doing it. The diet is 100% or nothing.
·         Do your research before you start. Know what he can and can’t have. Learn how to read labels.
·         Get a blood test for foods, IgG and IgE Foods Panel, before you begin if possible so you don’t start giving your child other foods they are allergic to.
·         Think of five of his favorite foods and find substitutes for them.
·         Go through our recipe database and pick a few things you think you can make that your child would like and get all those ingredients.
·         Use our menu plans to help you plan out your days.

To make it easier on your child:
·         Remove all his old favorites from the house so he can’t see them. If he can see them, he won’t understand why he can’t have the usual and the tantrums will be worse and last longer.
·         Don’t take him with you to the grocery store for a few months if you can help it, or be prepared for a fight in the store.
·         Some kids do better with substitutes if you put them in the old container. Get some empty (make sure they are new or very clean) containers from his old favorites and put the new things in them.
·         Don’t eat his old favorites (like pizza) in front of him for a few months.
·         Consider locking your pantry or refrigerator.
·         School – Make sure you get the diet written into his IEP and that the school staff understands the diet. It’s federal law that they must follow it. Include in your IEP that they give you a week’s notice for all food-related events so that you can supply a substitute. Supply the school with GFCFSF school supplies and a list of what he can and cannot have. See School Supplies and Essential Handout for Aides and Teachers.

Things that can cause failure:
·         Well-meaning relatives – Some relatives don’t understand the need for the diet and don’t see what harm a little cookies and milk would do. Once your child is on the diet, you will see what harm it can do though. Days of diarrhea and crying, stomach pains, headaches and tantrums will convince you but they may not see those things if they don’t live with you. Explaining it in terms of a diabetes-type medical issue usually helps. Cookies and milk are all good, unless you are allergic to them and they make you sick, then they are like poison, and they wouldn’t knowingly want to give your child poison. Some relatives will think you are crazy, some may even tell you to your face! But once your child starts making improvements, you can show them that it DOES work.
·         Schools – School staff can sink your diet if they don’t understand it. It is not optional for them to follow it, as its federal law that they must. Most parents merely supply ALL of the foods that the child will consume at school, taking the guess work out of the way for the staff. School supplies like glue, stickers, paint and playdough all need to be checked too.
·         Creating a carb-junkie – When most people begin the GFCFSF diet, they merely substitute GFCFSF versions of the things their child was addicted to – fries, chips, bread, yogurt, milk etc. The problem then becomes that there are no nutrients in those foods and they are all carbohydrates. That won’t make him healthy in the long run. Carbs also feed yeast, a recurrent problem in ASD children. The goal is to make your child healthy so while those foods are ok during the transition period, you should focus on reducing those foods as much as possible and introducing foods like meat and vegetables – things with nutrients.
·         Supplanting Calories – Giving large quantities of juice or milk substitutes, or other empty calories like potatoes can cause feeding problems. The body will pull the easiest calories it finds first and then tell the brain that it doesn’t need the rest. What that means is that a child who is drinking a lot of juice or milk substitutes (which are VERY high in sugar,) or candy, the body will take the calories from those first and then tell the brain that it’s not hungry anymore. What happens then is that a child just drinks the juice and will eat very little to no food and starts losing weight. This can create a viscous cycle and cause a feeding disorder. A child should not have more than six ounces of juice, soda or milk substitute per day. Then the body will pull the calories out of the more complex foods, along with their nutrients, which is your goal!

Calcium Supplementation
The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for calcium for children is 800-1200 mg per day. Without dairy products, this is virtually impossible to meet without giving a supplement. Fortunately, calcium supplements are cheap and available in pills, liquid, chewable and powder forms.

Some GFCF flours:  Almond, pecan, and rice flours; potato starch, tapioca starch

Some Milk Substitutes
  • Almond Breeze Almond Milk (plain, vanilla and chocolate)
  • Rice Milk (many brands are available in local grocery stores, make sure they are GFCF as some aren’t) plain, vanilla, chocolate, organic, some are in the refrigerated section too.
  • Coconut Milk
Oil and Butter Substitutes
  • Coconut Oil/Butter (substitute 3/4 cup coconut oil/butter for 1 cup shortening)
  • Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread – Soy-Free
  • Use fruit butters in place of oils in recipes

Recipes, ideas, information
 tacanow.org/tag/gfcf         TACA’s GFCF page
The book Nourishing Hope  by Julie Matthews    nourishinghope.com

Indy Resources
Nature's Pharm      www.natures-pharm.com     GFCF foods
8215 Us 31 888-0557 Open Mon-Sat 9am-8pm; Sun 12pm-5pm
www.tacanow.org/local-chapters/indiana           Noblesville TACA Meetings
www.greenbeandelivery.com           Delivery of organic produce to your house
 websites.msdpt.k12.in.us/staffd/special_needs        My Special Needs resources site for parents and teachers

Where to buy vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes
 houston-enzymes.com           Houston Enzymes
kirkmanlabs.com             Kirkman   (vitamins and supplements)

Message me through my Facebook page if you have questions! : )  Sheila
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