Gluten-Free/Casein-Free Diet in Autism – A Great Starting Place for Biomedical Treatment

July 1, 2008 at 8:07 pm 4 comments

Yanti had a question on the effectiveness of the gluten-free/casein-free (GF/CF) diet in autism and whether hyperactivity or non-hyperactivity was a factor in deciding whether to follow the GF/CF diet. 

Hi Yanti, 

I think the best answer is to try the gluten-free/casein-free diet to see if it works!  The Autism Research Institute publishes the results of the information they receive from parents on the effectiveness of various biomedical interventions.  According to the “Parent Ratings of Behavioral Effects of Biomedical Interventions,” 66% of parents reported that their children “got better” on the GF/CF diet.  You can find this parent rating form at 

I have consulted with and interviewed quite a few doctors using biomedical treatments for autism, and they all say that the GF/CF diet is a must for children with autism and should be the first place to start.  It is my understanding that the diet really must be followed very, very strictly for at least 6 months to one year.  The reason for this is that the peptides created from the incomplete digestion of gluten and casein actually build up in the bloodstream (and enter the brain) and must be allowed to clear the body.   Another reason for following the GF/CF for an extended period of time is to permit the intestines time to heal.  Gluten and casein can cause injury to the digestive tract in some children, so it is necessary to completely remove gluten and casein to stop the source of injury and allow time for healing.  During this time, can also be helpful to use products that promote intestinal healing and integrity such as high-potency probiotics and colostrum.   

For this reason, I think it is really important to note that this diet really mandates strict compliance.  Gluten is not like other things we might keep our kids away from like sugar – even though a lot of sugar is bad for any child, maybe a little bit of sugar won’t hurt too much.  Not so with gluten and casein!!!  A little bit can be very harmful!  For this reason, we use only products that can certify they are gluten-free and casein-free.  For example, if a product with generally gluten free grains (such as rice flour) states that it has been produced in a facility that also produces wheat and that there may be trace amounts of wheat, we do not use the product!  One doctor I interviewed also instructed me to have a separate toaster for gluten-free breads and another for regular bread to eliminate any cross contamination! 

A note about your question – you stated that your daughter is not hyperactive.  My research shows that the GF/CF diet is extremely helpful to children with autism, whether they are hyperactive or not.  Many doctors and researchers believe that the peptides formed from the incomplete digestion of gluten and casein travel through the bloodstream and into the brain and attach to the opiate receptors in the brain.  This could be why so many parents report that their children seem addicted to wheat and milk products.  Many parents also say that as their children begin the GF/CF diet, they act as if they are coming out of a “brain fog.”  

I will admit that the GF/CF diet is extra work – homemade meals, no eating out at fast food restaurants, and always packing a lunch…..   However, I believe most parents who try it for their children (and even for themselves!) say that it is worth the effort!   

Blessings to you as you walk strongly forward in this journey!   

“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you.”  Numbers 6:23-24 NASB 

Just a note – I began the GF/CF diet with my son to be a support to him and have been following the GF/CF diet for almost three years now.  I must say that my health has considerably improved as a result.  It is now a life-long commitment for me!


Entry filed under: Autism Resources, biomedical treatments, Gluten-Free/Casein-Free & Specific Carbohydrate Die. Tags: , , , , , .

Immune System Help! Overcoming Sensory Issues with Food in Autism

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kattie  |  July 14, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    my child was diagnosed with autism 2 years ago. he has been tested and does have mild alleries to wheat,milk,eggs. meal time is such a battle..he only eats about 5 foods. cheese, ramein noodles, cherios, bread, and strawberries. trying to get him to eat anything other than that he gags himself to the point of vomitting.any advise on where to start??? i do have a gluten free casein free cookbook, however it is very hard to follow. do you suggest any books or food stores that can be any help?
    his doctor hasn’t really been any help. thank you.

  • 2. acttoday  |  July 14, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Kattie,

    I hear your struggle! My son gagged for a long time too, (and had to drink water to wash down every bite) but no longer does it. My suggestion as far as food is to see if your local grocery store or health food store has a section with gluten-free items. There are alternatives to his favorite foods. Instead of cheerios, we use “Perky O’s” made by Perky’s 100% Natural brand. I think it is this brand that also makes a cereal called Nutty Rice (no nuts in it though). It is not like Cheerios, but so good that it is worth mentioning. For pasta, there are lots of brands that make rice pasta – we particularly like the rice pasta (in spaghetti, penne, spirals) made by Mrs. Leeper’s brand. I use coconut oil on the pasta with a bit of Celtic Sea Salt and it tastes great! There are also many gluten-free breads. Food for Life makes great gluten-free bread and has many choices. Also, Enjoy Life brand makes fantastic gluten-free cereals and snack bars. We use Rice Milk – make sure it is labeled as Gluten Free. We use Rice Dream, Original Plain. We do NOT use the flavored or enriched because these have items which have been shown to be excitotoxins and harm the brain. (See writings by Dr. Russell Blaylock and Amy Yasko).
    As far as cheese goes, I haven’t found a casein-free cheese. Most soy cheese contains caseinate or casein. Also, most DAN doctors advocate not having soy because it is problematic for children with autism.
    I would then start slowly incorporating different tastes – just a bite at at time of other foods. Try some yummy vegetables like butternut squash with cinnamon and a little bit of stevia for sweetness. Or, cauliflower steamed very soft and mashed with oil, a touch of rice milk, and salt. For a long time, my son did not like the texture of red meat or chicken so I created recipes for gluten-free, casein-free meatballs and chicken meatballs (or hamburgers). You can also make them egg-free with egg replacer. In the coming weeks, I will share some of my invented recipes that are easy (15 minutes or less!), so check back here.
    In addition, and I believe most importantly, what I did for my son was to address the physical causes for the gagging and food aversions. I obviously do not know what is causing these problems for your son. I can only share with you what worked for my son.
    I put my son on a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement to address deficiencies. I noticed that this helped with many of his sensory issues, including his aversions to foods (ex. he then liked avocadoes, which he previously choked on). I also found that one of the most-helpful things for my son early on in treatment was digestive enzymes, taken with everything he ate. They helped him to actually digest the food he was eating, and his behavior relating to food dramatically improved within three weeks!
    It is a struggle, but keep trying. The extra effort is worth it. Now my son gladly eats everything I give him – he even LOVES swiss chard and broccoli!
    Blessings and endurance to you as you press on!

    “Therefore, my beloved bretheren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corin. 15:58 NASB

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Autism-Changing Tomorrow (ACT) blog is maintained to provide a place where ideas and thoughts relating to autism and treatments for autism may be exchanged. The information on Autism-Changing Tomorrow is of a general nature and is provided with the understanding that ACT or any individuals or entities associated with ACT are not engaged in rendering medical advice or recommendations. Any information in the postings, messages, articles, comments, and publications in or on the ACT blog must not be considered medical advice or recommendations and such information should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board certified physician to address individual medical needs.

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