Therapeutic Diet Is Not Working

Most child benefits from specialized attention to the food and nutrition they receive.

According to parents and autism groups, diet intervention is helpful in 85% of children.  This is an amazing success rate… with very little downside.   If you are one of those families who feel diet “didn’t work” for them, there may be reasons for that.  I encourage families to explore, learn, and give diet another try.

The top two reasons I have found that diet has not helped is because 1) the diet was not done completely or for long enough, or 2) there was something else in the diet or environment interfering with the positive results you would otherwise be seeing.

All special diets, particularly the GFCF (gluten-free and casein-free) diet (when gluten and dairy are a problem), most often need to be done without any infractions. Small infractions can interfere with the overall success.  I find people either inadvertently add hidden sources or misunderstand the important of infractions.   This means the complete elimination of dairy including butter, no infractions from the teacher or grandma, and no wheat-based cake at a birthday party.  Additionally, the diet needs to be done for long enough for the gluten and casein to get out of the body, a minimum of 3-6 months or longer.  Many families benefit from trying the diet again with a commitment to 100% compliance for 6 months.

Second, sometimes a food remains in the diet that is problematic or new food is substituted in that is also a problem.  These other foods can mask the benefits that would otherwise be seen on the diet.  A very good example of this is children that have a sensitivity to phenols/salicylates (in apples and grapes and other fruits).  When gluten and casein are removed, the child may have some improvements that are subtle, but the phenols creating hyperactivity or aggression mask the subtle benefits of the diet. In fact, sometimes, these other foods are added in greater quantity than before—so the child seems “worse” on the new diet.  It’s beneficial to consider multiple diet strategies and food reactions, when nourishing hope.  After all, you’re discerning what your child needs.

With the great results often reported from parents, it’s worth trying diet again.