Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and other cereals, while casein is the protein found in dairy.
Gluten and casein, when not tolerated, can cause an inflammatory response that can create digestive disturbances, poor nutrient absorption, moodiness, as well as pain and many other physical, mental, and behavioral challenges.
These proteins can be problematic for children with autism, as often their digestive system is impaired and unable to deal with these proteins.
Research shows gluten intolerance is a factor in depression, anxiety, ADHD, and schizophrenia. And there are a number of studies on the opiates in autism, a decrease in GI symptoms on a GFCF diet, and a reduction in autistic symptoms with a GFCF diet.
If the proteins are not properly digested, they can become opiate compounds, fit in the opiate receptor of the brain, and mimic other opiates like morphine. This opiate effect can directly influence the brain and result in symptoms similar to morphine—foggy thinking, insensitivity to pain, opiate addiction and withdrawal, and irritability. inattentiveness, constipation, and more. This can not only have an effect on your child’s moods and cognitive function, but are very addictive, often causing an intense food preference – or cravings – for wheat and dairy foods like bread, milk, and cheese, This can make meal times challenging and picky eating habits a real struggle for any parent.
Soy has the same properties and challenges as gluten and casein, including the difficult-to-digest protein and opiates, so soy is removed on a GFCF diet as well.
Gluten-Free, Casein-Free, Soy-Free (GFCFSF) Diet
A gluten-free, casein-free, and soy-free diet, can help reduce:
- ADHD symptoms
- Autism symptoms
- Anxiety and depression
- Tummy aches
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Congestion and sleep apnea
- Picky eating
A gluten-free diet is also used with Down Syndrome as a larger percentage of people with this condition, also have Celiac disease (as well as non-celiac gluten intolerance).
Parents typically begin dietary intervention with the GFCFSF diet. I’ve found it one of the most effective ways to begin.
The GFCF diet avoids all foods containing gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and commercial oats, and casein, the protein found in dairy.
There are many new commercially available products and recipes, making it easier than ever to go GFCF.
Some of the foods to avoid (sources containing offending proteins) are obvious. You’ll need to avoid any breads, crackers, pasta, or bakery items made with wheat and other gluten grains, and any dairy foods such as milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and cream from any animals. But some sources can be sneaky and/or may contain undisclosed (gluten or casein-containing) ingredients, i.e:
- Soy sauce (except gluten-free)
- Potato chips and fries (often dusted with gluten during processing, may not be listed)
- Malt (derived from barley)
Use my GFCF Success Guide to plan and implement the GFCF diet for your child:
- Gluten and casein-foods to avoid
- GFCF alternatives
- Meal ideas
- Further GFCF tips (avoiding cross-contamination, using supplementation)
Your child is unique and so are their diet and nutritional needs. Learn how personalized nutrition can help your child today. Download our guide: “12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.”
Explore our GFCFSF recipes below. Be sure to read all of the instructions before beginning in case diet-compliant substitutions are described in the introduction.
Gluten-Free, Casein-Free and Soy-Free Recipes
Choosing to implement a gluten-free and dairy-free diet for a child with autism can be beneficial in many ways. Reports from parents include improvements in cognition, receptive and expressive language, development, skin conditions, as well as reduction in behaviors,...
Ingredients 5-6 carrots, chopped 1 red/purple beet, peeled and chopped 1 small or 1/2 large onion, peeled and chopped 2 celery stalks, chopped 1 ½ cups water Directions Place all chopped and prepared vegetables and water into a pot. Once water boils, reduce heat,...
Avoid pepper for LOD and FG. Ingredients 1 head of cauliflower 3 eggs ½ teaspoon salt Black pepper (optional) Directions Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash cauliflower, cut cauliflower chunks off base stem/leaves. Put cauliflower in food processor and process until a...
The Rutabaga, also known as a swede, Swedish turnip (though distinctly different than a turnip), and neep (in Scotland). Rutabagas are root vegetables and a member of the cruciferous or brassica family, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts,...
This is a great recipe because it’s compatible with so many diets. To make it low salicylate or SAG, use ghee or sunflower oil. For 100% dairy-free, avoid ghee. For keto, eat sparingly. Ingredients 3-4 Rutabagas Ghee or expeller-pressed coconut oil Salt Directions...
Egg-Free Chicken Nuggets GFCFSF/Low Oxalate/Low Salicylate, Egg-Free, and Nut-Free Use white vinegar for low salicylate. Ingredients 2 Chicken breasts or thighs 2/3 cup GF flour (I use 2/3 brown rice flour and 1/3 potato starch or tapioca starch or a combo of...
GFCF Gingerbread Recipe This recipe comes from my dear friend and Nourishing Hope team member, Terri Hirning. She originally created this recipe when her son Matthew was in Kindergarten (he is now a Junior in high school!) Like many special needs families, she wanted...
GFCFSF, Paleo, Keto, Nut-Free, Egg-Free To make Paleo or Keto, use Lily's chocolate, or an unsweetened chocolate and add your own compliant sweetener. To make soy-free confirm your chocolate does not contain soy. (Enjoy Life Mini Chips are soy-free.) Ingredients: 12...
The turkey is usually the star of your Thanksgiving show! Many traditional recipes can be converted for food allergies or intolerances. Here is an easy guide for a perfect bird! Let's start by discussing how much turkey you will need to buy and how to safely...
Rice Porridge (Slow Cooker or Instant Pot) GFCF/ Nut-Free, Egg-FreeCan be made egg-free by eliminating egg – while it will not be quite as thick, it’s still delicious. For an elimination diet and other egg-free diets, avoid the eggs. For Low FODMAPs, use maple syrup...