Following every possible lead for your autistic child? Consider an elimination diet. One of the most popular and, according to many parents, one of the most successful, is the gluten-free, casein-free diet.
This may look like a sure-fire catalyst for food wars, especially if your child is already a picky eater. However, the more a child demands grains and dairy, the more likely it is that they need to avoid the stuff.
Some digestive systems simply can't break down gluten and casein. Both, if undigested, will leak into the gut and head straight for the opiate receptors of the brain. This produces a little "high", a little "buzz". When it wears off, the desire is strong to do it again. A food addiction is born.
A child who can't get his daily fix of his favorite cereal or cheese sandwich can be a very cranky child. But the longer gluten and casein are off the scene, the less gastrointestinal, and immune system and neurological damage can occur, and -- as a bonus -- the quieter the craving for it becomes.
Try to hang in there a good three months to see if these eliminations make a difference.
It's no easy task. Many foods contain gluten and casein. Even more unfair, many have names you'd never recognize without somebody cluing you in.
Gluten is also called hydrolyzed plant or vegetable proteins, and may go by the nebulous term "natural flavorings". It's found in soy sauce and grain vinegar. Gluten can be absorbed through the skin, so you'll want to know that it may be in Play-Doh, and in the glue on stamps and stickers.
As for casein, remind yourself that cow's milk is made for baby cows. It's not so perfect for baby humans, and some baby humans can't handle the stuff at all.
So what can you feed your child? Any meats and legumes, vegetables and fruits. Gluten-free products are becoming more common. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, as they may contain hidden gluten and casein.
Many parents credit this elimination diet with enabling better sleep and better digestion in their autistic children. It may increase their ability to absorb nutrients, and enhance their immune system. Many are seeing less allergic reactions, less impulsive or chaotic behavior, less problems with language.
This diet is tough, and comes with no guarantees. But the potential benefits are well worth considering.
Wheat-free, milk-free diet for autism and PDD
'Leaky Gut' and the Gluten- / Casein-Free Diet
Autism Canada Foundation: Diets - Gluten-free
Dietary autism treatment
Casein-Free Diet for Autism
Medical and Biomedical Approaches
Starting Your Autistic Child on a Gluten Free/Casein Free Diet
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