It’s A Strict Elimination Diet
The GFCF diet removes two proteins: casein, which is found in all milk and dairy products, and gluten, which is contained in wheat, barley, rye, and some brands of oats . The obvious culprits, like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, most breads, cereals, and pasta, should be avoided. But thousands of processed foods contain ingredients made from gluten or casein, so staples such as hot dogs, lunch meat, bottled salad dressings, jarred sauces, and even some margarine may not be allowed. Examining labels and ingredients is a must, especially since some substitute-dairy products may actually contain casein. For the GFCF diet to have a chance of working, the proteins need to be gone for good. In one study, kids who strayed from the diet just once every other month showed fewer improvements than those who broke the diet two times or less during a year.
Increase: The Body Isn’t At A Healthy Number
Most women do not like discussing their weight, and while pregnant most women gain at least twelve pounds. Researchers claim that going into pregnancy at an unhealthy weight as well as gaining too much weight during pregnancy can both be linked to autism. In fact, for every five pounds of extra baby weight a mama gains she increases her kiddos chance of autism by one percent. This is a very easily avoidable issue. Before trying to conceive it is always a promising idea to meet with the doc to see if your body is healthy enough for pregnancy. Starting a good eating and exercise regimen can set yourself up for an excellent lifestyle during pregnancy. Losing as much weight as recommended before pregnancy is a sure-fire way to avoid your baby becoming autistic. While pregnant, gaining weight slowly and at the recommended amount is also a good idea.
Identifying Gluten And Casein In Your Child’s Diet
Removing gluten and casein from a child’s diet is not as simple as saying goodbye to milk and bread. According to Carol Ann Brannon, a nutritionist who specializes in diets for children with autism, gluten is not only ubiquitous but may also find its way into your child’s system through the skin:
“Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, and any derivatives of these grains, including, but not limited to malt grain-starches, malt wash, hydrolyzed vegetable/plant proteins, grain vinegar, soy sauce, and natural flavorings. Casein is found in milk and milk products from mammals. Gluten is in even in Play-Doh, adhesive on stamps and stickers, and many hygiene products. Soy, another common food allergen, is in many foods and hand lotions, make-up, etc.”
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Having Patience Is Important
Some parents notice improvements quickly, within a matter of days or weeks. But for others, improvements can take months, and some parents may not see any change at all. Although casein clears from the body in just two to three days, it can take four to six months for all traces of gluten to be gone from your child’s system. Plus, if your child has been diagnosed with celiac disease , it can take months for damaged intestines to heal. So give the diet at least six months before passing judgment.
Increase: Going The Natural Route
Some mamas live what they call a natural life style. Many people live a homeopathic lifestyle. Those who live this way have strong justification for their decisions, but some do not know that it can actually be pretty risky to the baby. There are many different brands and types of natural medications that can cause many issues for baby. There have been links to some natural medicines and autism for unborn babies. Women with too much of certain types of vitamins increase their risk of having a child diagnosed with autism. Some women take extra vitamins or try out certain supplements and herbs during pregnancy. Although it all sounds good because it is thought to be healthier than the more popular options, there are also risks.
Starting Your Autistic Child On A Gfcf Diet
According to Brannon, there are two ways to start a GFCF diet: dive in head first or the slower, get your feet wet approach.
The dive in head first parents prefer to go GFCF all at once and decide to place the entire family on the diet. Often, siblings and parents may also experience benefits from the diet. The get your feet wet parents opt to go gluten-free first, and then progress to excluding casein-containing foods and beverages.
An increasing number of GF foods are available due to the increase in celiac disease. A parent should select the approach that best suits their personality and their lifestyle. Many parents begin the diet with dread and fear, but soon find it is more manageable than they had imagined. GFCF diet support groups can be a tremendous help to parents. In addition, there are many websites and blogs for parents.
What Causes A Glutamate And Gaba Imbalance
There are a multitude of factors going on in the brain that contribute to the excessive glutamate and reduced GABA, especially for children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. Excessive glutamate found in the brain convert to GABA automatically through an enzyme called Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase .
This conversion through GAD can be impaired due to the following interfering factors:
- Too much free glutamate coming from dietary sources
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What Causes Gastrointestinal Problems In Autism
In a study published in 2014, gastrointestinal dysfunction was present in 49% of 164 children with ASD. Additionally, 22% showed signs of diarrhea, and 26 percent had constipation.
The findings confirm what many parents of children with ASD have long suspected: autism and gastrointestinal issues are connected.
Gastrointestinal dysfunction or GID refers to diseases that occur in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of these conditions include:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the protein gluten. Many parents of children with ASD have found that excluding gluten from their childs diet improves symptoms as a response to the protein can damage the villi , which interferes with absorption and can lead to other health problems.
Characterization Of The Fragile Gut
Abnormal gastrointestinal functions in children with ASD include diminished digestive capacity. It is generally assumed that well-nourished, healthy children and adults who lack a history of gastrointestinal symptoms or pancreatic insufficiency have little or no undigested or unabsorbed nutrients in the feces. The gastrointestinal tract digests and absorbs nutrients from consumed food matrices while excluding harmful bacteria and toxins. Pancreatic enzymes are produced in amounts that exceed substrate requirements allowing for complete digestion. Brush border enzymes and transporters have expression levels and activities capable of ensuring total absorption of nutrients in the small intestine . However, these normally successful processes may be disturbed in children with ASD and gastrointestinal symptoms.
The gut is the largest immune organ and the main site of immune system development . Considering that the gut immune system constantly encounters foreign material, immune imbalance can cause a lack of tolerance to dietary components and commensal microbes . The gastrointestinal tract is the second largest site of neurological tissue in the human body playing roles from nutrient sensing to appetite regulation .
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Specific Carbohydrate Diet For Autism
The SCD diet is one of the many diets that show supporting good digestive health can provide multiple benefits. It is a grain-free, low-sugar, and low-lactose diet developed by Dr. Sidney Haas in 1920 to treat celiac disease. It has been known to reduce the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease .
The SCD diet aims to aid digestion and prevent gastrointestinal problems by avoiding most grains rich in carbohydrates, which are harder to digest. This approach also reduces inflammation in the gut and helps people with GI disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohns disease, and celiac disease.
Foods that are not allowed in the SCD diet include:
- Sugars: lactose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, molasses, maltose, isomaltose, fructooligosaccharides, and any processed sugar
- All canned vegetables
- All grains: anything made from corn, wheat, wheat germ, barley, oats, rye, rice, buckwheat, soy, spelt, and amaranth
- Some legumes: chickpeas, bean sprouts, soybeans, mung beans, fava beans, and garbanzo beans
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes, yam, parsnips, seaweed products, agar, and carrageenan
- Canned and processed meats
- Dairy: milk, milk products, ice cream, whey powder, commercial yogurt, heavy cream, buttermilk, sour cream, and the following cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, processed cheeses, and cheese spreads
- Canola oil, commercial mayonnaise, commercial ketchup, margarine, baking powder, and balsamic vinegar
- Candy, chocolate, carob
Medical Assessments For Feeding And Eating Skills
First, if not already done, it is important to conduct a thorough dental exam to check teeth and gums for cavities, infection and/or other abnormalities. These sometimes hidden problems may be causing a child pain and lead to eating and feeding difficulties. Due to sensory sensitivities regular teeth brushing and oral care may be difficult for children on the autism spectrum.
Going to the dentist may also be difficult due to these oral sensitivities and fear of unfamiliar people and places. Working with an experienced pediatric dentist can help if this is the case with your child.
In regard to feeding and eating skills, medical assessments can include evaluation of oral motor function including swallowing studies, assessments of food sensitivities and allergies, medications, and their effect on eating, and a profile of the childs diet and resulting nutritional issues.
An eating history should be taken. The eating history should include gathering the following information:
- Details of extensive choking, coughing or gagging when eating;
- Loss of oxygen while eating;
- Pattern of liquids or foods that emerge through the childs nostrils when eating; and
- Reoccurring respiratory difficulties and/or pneumonia.
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Special Diets To Help Ease Autism Symptoms
Diet does not cure autismthat is a fact. However, there are also no known adverse effects of specific diets that are believed to worsen symptoms of autism. Lets review some well-known diets developed for specific dietary needs and conditions. Keep in mind that benefits are not guaranteed for every child on the spectrum.
Techniques For Tackling Mealtime Issues
Techniques for addressing various mealtime behavior issues are similar but they have to be broken down into manageable steps. Below is a practical guide for parents that will help both parents and their kids achieve their goals and reduce mealtime stress.
Prioritize: Too often parents try to tackle all mealtime behaviors at once. Thats a mistake and just leads to both kids and parents becoming overwhelmed and giving up. When Dr. Lee works with families she asks them to prioritize their goals. Is it increasing the number of foods their child will eat? The amount they eat? Or is it sitting at the table less disruptively? Parents need to identify their primary target.
Start small: No matter what the goal, its important to start with baby steps. For example, when trying a new food with a child, Dr. Lee will begin with a miniscule amount so small the child might not even be able to taste it. If the initial goal was simply trying the food, once the child tries the bite, Dr. Lee would provide significant praise and might count it as the childs no thank you bite. Meaning, Dr. Lee says, you take a bite and then you say no thank you calmly, and you dont have to have it again for the rest of that meal.
Heap on the praise: Praising your child for every aspect of progress is key, Dr. Lee explains. And praise comes in different forms:
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Foods That Can Make Autism Worse
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder , is diagnosed in 1 in 54 children, according to the CDC. The condition is associated with an array of challenges, including abnormal social skills, developmental delays, communication problems, and behavioral issues.
According to research, over 70% of children with autism have at least one co-existing physical or mental health condition, and 40% have two or more of them. Among children with autism:
- 30-61% have ADHD
- Over 50% have chronic sleep problems
- 32% are overweight
- 16% are obese
In addition, kids with autism are 8 times more likely to have gastrointestinal issues compared to those who dont have the condition. And among adults with ASD, 26% have depression and 4-35% have schizophrenia .
All of these challenges and symptoms can range from mild to severe. And food can have an impact on severity.
Staying In Good Health
Regular check-ups with a family physician and obstetrician are important. Maternal health throughout pregnancy has a significant impact on unborn children. Mothers should be immunized against German measles and get an influenza shot. Research at the MIND Institute found that viral infections can interfere with the babys brain cells and alter neural connections. Taking all precautions to avoid gestational diabetes can help lower the risk for autism. If possible, pregnant women should avoid prescriptions, especially antidepressants, with medical supervision. Having a dentist remove mercury-based amalgam fillings before conception could be beneficial. Babies neurological function is naturally enhanced by passing through the birth canal, so avoiding unnecessary Cesarean sections can help.
Autism is a complex disorder without a single known cause or trigger. Scientists agree that genetics is responsible for up to 90 percent of the autism risk. Whether a child develops ASD is usually out of the parents control. However, a study in the Molecular Psychiatry journal found that autism rates are 15 percent higher in children born to mothers in their 40s and 66 percent higher for fathers over 50. Births spaced two to five years apart are typically healthiest. Good pregnancy planning and the above health-conscious steps can effectively help expecting women prevent autism.
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Autism Diet And Nutrition: How Does It Affect Autism Health
Many parents and caregivers of children with autism are using nutrition to modify and manage some behaviors that come with being on the spectrum. Before learning about popular autism diet options for your child, its important to understand how nutrition plays a part in autism. While nutrition or special diets do not cure autism, there have been reports indicating the positive effects of a modified diet.
Maintaining A Nutritious Diet
Pregnant women can lower the risk for autism by eating a colorful, organic diet rich in green vegetables and fruits containing antioxidants. At least 80 grams of protein per day from lean sources like turkey, chicken, and nuts is recommended. Many health experts support reducing white foods, including bread and sugar. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggest soon-to-be mothers take 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid. Increasing intake of Vitamin D has been linked to better neurological development in fetuses. Pregnant women should also drink eight glasses of filtered water, limit mercury levels from fish, and increase omega-3s. A modest weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy is optimal.
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How Do I Start The Gf/cf Diet
Start the diet slowly. Don’t try to take out all gluten- and casein-containing foods at once. Add new gluten-free and casein-free foods gradually, about one food every 3 to 7 days. If a new food causes a problem, you will know which one it was. It may take 3 months to become fully gluten- and casein-free.
Buy small amounts of the new foods. Buy them in bulk only when you know your child likes them.
Read all food labels. Gluten and casein are found in many forms and go by many different names.
Keep a food and behavior journal. Write down what your child eats and any behavior changes that occur. If there is a connection between certain foods and behaviors, keeping a journal will help identify it.
Because calcium and vitamin D are limited on this diet, encourage other calcium-rich beverages, such as:
- calcium-fortified orange juice.
Decrease: Beware Of Chemicals
Maternal exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy seems to increase the risk for ASD. A way mama can eliminate the risk is to avoid certain chemicals. Limiting the intake of processed/prepackaged/ and canned foods, avoiding water bottles made of plastic or aluminum, and steering clear of personal care products that contain fragrance as an ingredient may be beneficial. Avoiding or limiting use of certain household cleaning products and weed killers absolutely cannot hurt as well. Of course, it is impossible to avoid every chemical. There needs to be much further research done on additional chemicals and the correlation to autism, but to be safe, avoiding as much as you can cannot hurt. Avoiding toxic chemicals can be very helpful in the mission to avoid autism.
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The Ketogenic Diet For Autism
The ketogenic or keto diet is a popular diet that involves reducing carbohydrates and replacing them with fat. The body is then forced to use fat as an energy source which results in a faster metabolic state called ketosis. The keto diet was first used to treat patients with epilepsy, which is a condition present in some children with autism.
A small study suggested the possibility that a modified ketogenic diet is beneficial for people with autism. The study was done in 15 children ages two to 17 years old for three months. The children went under a modified ketogenic diet with supplemental MCT . MCT is a dietary supplement that contributes to weight loss and lowering inflammation.
The study concluded that: Components of the KD are possibly beneficial in improving social effect in children with ASD. Additional studies are needed to understand how the KD improves behavior.
To go on a keto diet, you need to avoid foods high in carbohydrates. Meats, high-fat dairy, low-carb vegetables , nuts and seeds, avocado, and artificial sweeteners are the main staple in this diet. These foods are not allowed in a keto diet: