How to Tell If the Diet Is Working
This is one of the hardest questions to answer. The science for this therapeutic diet is still emerging, and to date the results have been mixed. Most outcomes have been reported by parents but have not been proven in scientific journals. There does seem to be a relationship between this diet and changes in behavior for some children with autism.
It is important to note that not all children respond to the diet, and not all children who do respond have the same outcome. People report changes in behavior, changes in skin issues, changes in bowel habits, and changes in interactions. It is important to talk to your doctor about starting this diet and monitoring your child while on the diet for adequate growth and development and for any potential nutrition deficiencies that can result from a restrictive diet.
A Typical Day on the Diet
What does a typical day on the gluten- and casein-free diet look like? This diet focuses a lot on what your child and family cannot eat! There really are foods left to eat that can be prepared quickly, economically, and healthfully.
Breakfasts can be gluten- and casein-free waffles with maple syrup or eggs cooked in olive oil and gluten- and casein-free bacon with a side of potatoes cooked in oil. Try a Banana Soy Yogurt Milkshake. The Breakfast Pizza is great for a treat. Orange juice can be enjoyed as a drink or make a Orange Pineapple Smoothie.
Dinners can be a baked meat or fish, baked potato fries, side of vegetables, and a glass of soy milk. Try Barbecued Tofu and pair it with Cheesy Polenta with Roasted Vegetables. Try Baked Honey Pescado to give your child a boost of omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamins, Minerals, Medications
Once your family has mastered the gluten- and casein-free diet, look into other hidden sources of gluten and casein in your lifestyle to eliminate.
Gluten and casein are often found in nonfood items. It is important to look at the label of each medication, herbal supplement, vitamin, and mineral that your child ingests. It may even be necessary to call the manufacturer of each of these items to clarify the composition of the ingredients in these products.
Manufacturer's information should be on the back of the packaging, and they should be able to provide a full list of the ingredients in their products. Milk protein is often an added ingredient in lotions and cosmetics, as well. This could be a hidden source of casein if your child frequently puts his recently lotioned hands into his mouth.
This diet is restrictive and could lead to nutrient deficiencies if not followed properly. Please consult a physician and a registered dietitian before beginning this diet. Children should be monitored closely while on this diet to ensure they are meeting their growth goals and are not developing nutrient deficiencies. Each child should begin taking a daily gluten- and casein-free multivitamin, along with a calcium and vitamin D supplement, while following this diet.