Popular Dietary Changes
The gluten- and casein-free diet is the most popular dietary change for people with autism, but it is not the only one considered. Many alternative therapies for autism exist. Families often try combinations of the many treatments to determine which is going to help their child. Changes to the diet are often the first line of defense that families use to try to treat autistic behaviors.
Each family and each child is unique, and there are many options for families. Treatments should be tailored to the specific family and child. What works for one child and family may not work for others. Families need to support each other in their individual choices and not pressure each other to adopt their beliefs and strategies.
Food allergies are increasing in the general population and, therefore, are on the rise in children with autism. Many families choose to pursue allergy testing for their children with autism to screen for potential food allergies. A child with special needs may require special testing procedures to help identify these allergies. If your child does have specific food allergies, the only treatment is complete removal of those allergens from the diet.
However, if you are considering trying the GFCF diet as a therapy to alleviate autism-related behaviors, allergy testing will not indicate whether it will be of benefit. The theories behind behavioral changes and the GFCF diet, as mentioned above, are separate issues from food allergy. This means that a child who is not allergic to milk or to wheat might still benefit from a gluten- and casein-free diet.
Organic eating and supporting an organic lifestyle is on the rise. The organic lifestyle is becoming more and more popular as a method to better care for the planet and our families. The effects of some food manufacturing techniques and the amount of pesticides used in the food supply is a concern for families.
The way to determine if a product is organic is to read the label. Read carefully! Products labeled “100 Percent Organic” are made entirely from organic ingredients or components. Products that are made up of at least 95 percent organic ingredients or components, and have remaining ingredients that are approved for use in organic products, can display the “USDA Organic” seal. Products that are made up of at least 70 percent organic ingredients or components can list “organic” before those ingredients on their ingredient lists.
One way to limit your family's exposure to pesticides is to change to an organic diet. Choosing organic foods is becoming easier and easier in our grocery stores. Organic eating can often be combined with other dietary changes and diet therapies. Many families choose to follow an organic gluten- and casein-free diet.
Additives, Colorings, and Preservatives
Another dietary change that some families choose is to limit their child's exposure to certain food additives, colorings, or preservatives. Although not well documented in medical literature, some families report positive changes in behavior and sleep patterns when these items are limited.
Food additives have long been associated with changes in children's behavior, and children with autism are no different in that regard. Most of the dietary changes recommended for children with autism also limit the presence of food additives, colorings, and preservatives. The gluten- and casein-free diet encourages more whole food consumption, which may also contribute to improved behavior by limiting these additives and preservatives in your family's diet.