Thursday, February 10, 2011

The GFCF and other "autism diets"

Put the word autism in a search engine and all variety of information results. The top hits are typically the pro or anti-vaccination sites and the sites dedicated to special diets. The most popular one of those is the gluten free casein free (shortened GFCF) diet. No wheat, dairy, or other foods with gluten or the protein casein in it.

All this information can be hard to evaluate to parents recently overwhelmed with the autism diagnosis and not knowing which way to follow to help their child. This was the situation I found myself in 4 years ago when we began to have E tested. Feeling a need to do something immediate, I settled on the GFCF diet. After reading several books and perusing various cookbooks, I found The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) and Other Interventions to be the most helpful. It breaks down why children with autism may be more susceptible to gluten or casein sensitivity. It explained that there would likely be a withdrawal period as the gluten and casein create an opiate like reaction in the child, and removing the substance from the diet will cause intense withdrawal symptoms.

At the time I imagined it couldn't be worse than it already was. E was having intense tantrums, had difficulty transitioning, was not interacting with peers, and was trying to run away from her day care. It couldn't be any worse. I was wrong. We went through 6 weeks of hell as she rebelled against the idea that she would not be having goldfish crackers at every meal. She fixated on those. I was able to find acceptable replacements for what she already ate except for yogurt and goldfish. Then - the turnaround point. I can't explain it except it seemed like her mind was not as foggy.  She was still having the tantrums and the inflexibility but suddenly I could calm her down a lot easier, and negotiate a transition faster. We did that diet for just over 2 1/2 years.

Then one day at a birthday party someone served regular pizza and she had a slice and she was okay. At the next birthday party, she had regular ice cream and she was constipated for a week. After consulting with her pediatrician, we tried re-introducing wheat and dairy but one at a time and with enough time in between to be sure which affected her. It turns out she can handle gluten and one form of dairy - cheese. If she has cow's milk, or yogurt or ice cream made from cow's milk she has intestinal issues.  Oddly though if she eats the goldfish crackers or the knockoff version of it (even the Annie's natural version) she has intense behavioral issues the next day. And so that is why we stick to a mostly dairy free diet for her. And she is thankfully accepting that her body cannot handle certain foods.
And in her own words: "I don't like cow's milk anyway".

No comments:

Print button