The Autism Diet


The gluten free casein free diet, or the autism diet as I’ve heard it called has yielded major results for some autistic children. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. And then for others it has yielded no change at all. If you’re looking for the miracle treatment you shouldn’t get your hopes up about the autism diet. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy are treatments your child will surely require. This special diet maybe not so much. But if you’re looking to possibly improve your child’s health and maybe even lessen some of the symptoms of autism you might give this a try.

Be warned that keeping your child on this diet can deprive him/her of much needed vitamins and minerals such as calcium. And that can lead to osteoporosis. So make sure that your child is getting everything they need to maintain good health. Also, it should be noted that this diet is not scientifically proven to reduce the symptoms of autism.

The gluten free casein free diet is simple at its core, but not so simple to implement. All you have to do is eliminate all foods from your child’s diet that contain gluten or casein. Sound easy? Gluten can be loosely translated as wheat, rye, and barley products. Casein is contained in most dairy products. Once you start the autism diet it must be followed strictly, if at all. For example, when you buy a box of cookies you don’t buy them unless the package clearly states “Gluten Free” and “Casein Free” because buying anything else is taking a chance.

It’s doubtful that you’ll see results overnight but I’ve heard tell of some parents who saw just that, an overnight change. Going into it you shouldn’t expect that though. If you see results it will likely be over a few months. Once you commit to the diet, whatever you do, don’t allow your child to consume anything that doesn’t say it’s gluten and casein free.

Usually health food stores are the best places to purchase these items but even your neighborhood grocery store could stock a few gluten and casein free products in an effort to help you with the autism diet. My wife and I found some GFCF foods at Trader Joe’s that were much less expensive than at the local health food store.

You might have figured out that we tried the gluten free casein free diet with our son. We gave it a try for about 6 months when he was 2-years-old. It was difficult at first because he was, and still is, a picky eater. But we found foods he liked such as soy pudding and rice snacks to replace his usual pudding and potato chips. He was happy. Yes, all this food was MUCH more expensive and harder to find. Sometimes this food was about 2 to 3 times more expensive than regular food. But he’s our son, so like any parent we were prepared to spend any amount of money and any amount of time and hassle if it meant that Braden would benefit. If this autism diet changed him and made the symptoms of autism disappear then we’d have him on this diet still today. But it had no affect that we could see, so we switched back to regular food.

Some children with autism have stomach problems and I’ve heard that the GFCF diet has had more profound results for them. My son has never had health issues of any kind aside from low iron in his blood.

I know some parents who keep their autistic children on a natural foods diet. I know of others who keep them on a vegan diet. And then there’s families like ours where we just try to get everything edible into our child so we can add some weight to his slender frame.
Gluten free pasta label
Buying for the Whole House

It can be difficult to cook two separate meals for one house. A lot of families end up using the GFCF diet for the entire household. Imagine doubling or tripling your grocery bill!

Another reason for switching everybody in the house to the autism diet is because of this scenario; You’re eating Pringles potato chips and your child with autism walks into the room and sees you eating these delicious snacks. Now he wants some and you have to deny him because Pringles aren’t gluten free. A meltdown happens. Nobody wants to be in that position if they can prevent it. One less meltdown makes for a happier house. So if every product in your house is gluten and casein free this scenario will never take place. And you’ll all probably be a little healthier for it.

When we had Braden on this diet we couldn’t afford to buy this food for all of us. So my wife and I were extra careful not to eat foods around our son that we couldn’t share. Usually we broke out the Pringles after he was in bed.

If you decide to put your entire family on a GFCF diet, or your child is older and sneaking Pringles is not longer an option consider preparing meals in advance. I find that if you get your child involved with cooking it will help save time, and the kitchen is a great place for sensory exploration. Making meals days or weeks in advance only poses one financial problem and that is investing in a deep freezer to store all these GFCF meals. Ask around your church, community center, or family to see if you can find a deep freezer that is broken that they would be willing to give to you. More times than not people have these types of items in a basement unable to move them. Once you get the freezer you can get online and go to partselect to get replacement parts and fix it yourself.

Let’s Talk Labels

As you can see, you’ll pay significantly more for the GFCF foods.

In the top comparison between Better’n Peanut Butter and Skippy Peanut Butter it’s worthy to note that the label on Better’n Peanut Butter does NOT say “Casein Free”. It says Gluten Free and it says Dairy Free however. Some parents wouldn’t buy it unless it strictly specified that it was casein free.

In the bottom comparison Mrs. Leeper’s organic pasta specifically reads that it is Gluten Free and Casein Free. Any parent that has their child on this autism diet would have no problem buying Mrs. Leeper’s. It’s a rice pasta and its only ingredients are organic brown rice flour and paprika.