Gluten-free/Casein-free (GFCF)


I recommend most people try GFCF regardless of the IgG and opiate test results.  The test results can be incorrect and so many children show some level of improvement that the diet is worth the effort.  Some DAN! physicians require their patients to be on the GFCF diet before they will see someone in their practice.  Other physicians feel it is really important to test for celiac before starting the diet so an accurate diagnosis can be determined. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, commercial oats (there are special gluten-free oats you can order online,, kamut, and spelt. Casein is the protein found in dairy.  There are dozens if not hundreds of hidden sources of gluten.  It is important to do this diet correctly because any small infraction can make the diet ineffective.  Read a book, join an online chat group, and/or work with a doctor or nutrition consultant to learn the nuances (more in Resources section).    Common symptoms of gluten/casein intolerance:  The same symptoms of intolerance for food sensitivities apply here. Where gluten and other food sensitivities typically cause diarrhea or constipation, casein intolerance is most often associated with significant constipation.  Additionally, vomiting clear mucus and leg aches or “growing pains” are most commonly a sign of casein sensitivity.  Fuzzy thinking, high pain tolerance, self-injurious behavior and other common opiate symptoms are associated with gluten and casein intolerance. When to use this diet: I recommend this as a starting point or foundation for most diets.  If you choose to begin with another diet, I would recommend that this diet be gluten- and casein-free as well.  For instance, if you do SCD I would not recommend including cheese and yogurt which is allowed on an SCD diet, until you are confident these foods are not a problem.  GFCF often improves symptoms of constipation and diarrhea.  It also reduces many cognitive and behavioral symptoms for many children. Pitfalls:  There are so many hidden sources of gluten and even casein that it can be difficult to eliminate all infractions, and it is essential to do so to see if the diet is effective.  Also, GFCF foods are not necessarily healthy foods.  There are many GFCF cookies, crackers, candy, cakes that are loaded with sugar.  Be sure to implement a low sugar version of the GFCF diet.  If you need to just substitute food for food (as an example, the gluten-free waffle for the regular waffle) at first during the withdrawal phase and reduce sugar later, that is fine for the short term.  However, don’t get complacent about leaving sugar in the diet.  Also, be careful of corn and soy as wheat and dairy substitutes—these are common food sensitivities for many. When dairy and wheat are removed from the diet, many helpful nutrients and properties are lost.  Dairy (particularly raw dairy) has been found to reduce risk of asthma in children. Butter and raw butter contain butyric acid, which nourishes the brain and intestinal lining and has antimicrobial properties.  Dairy is rich in methionine, an important amino acid for methylation.  Of course, dairy is a good source of calcium (a calcium supplement is important with a GFCF diet). See Calcium in Impact of Nutrients for non-dairy sources of calcium.  Whey (a protein in dairy) is rich in the precusor to glutathione (cystein), lactoferrin, immunoglobin and growth factors.  Fermented dairy is a wonderful way to get probiotics.  When dairy is removed, hydrogenated margarine and other unhealthy oils are sometimes substituted adding junk to the diet.  Whole wheat has a high level of fiber and phosphorus, a moderate level of protein, thiamine, magnesium, and iron, and even a small amount of methionine.  When a GFCF diet is implemented, these helpful nutrients and properties can be difficult to obtain.  Clinical experience:  One two and a half year old boy went from zero words to over 200 in 3 months of GFCF.  Many parents report their child will expand their very narrow food choices once the addicting opiates (gluten and casein) are removed—one child starting eating vegetables for the first time, a couple others started eating meat.  Many therapists and learning specialists notice the child is paying attention and learning much better (and asking the parents what they changed).  Digestion is often one of the biggest areas to improve—constipation is eliminated when dairy is removed, diahrrea goes away when gluten is removed, gas and pain are reduced or eliminated. From Nourishing Hope

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.