The road to autism recovery begins with diet. That is, making calculated omissions and additions to food choices is the first step to improving children’s health and well being. Certain food substances (most notably gluten and casein) are known to be problematic, and should be avoided – and other foods rich in healing nutrients are beneficial when added to children’s diets. Attention to these factors is intended to balance biochemistry, affect systemic healing, and provide relief of autism symptoms. In simple terms, these are the underlying tenets of diets for autism.
There are many “autism diets” to choose from and deciding how to begin nutritional intervention can seem overwhelming. Ten years ago, it was a simpler choice-do diet! And, “do diet” meant do the Gluten-free Casein-free Diet (GFCF). Eliminating gluten (the protein in wheat) and casein (the protein in dairy) was the primary focus of diet for autism for many years, and provides many positive benefits. Since then, significant advances in biomedical nutrition research and mom-centric anecdotal data have resulted in broader dietary strategies for autism.
Now, one has to decide which diet to do. This can inhibit even the most recovery focused parent from getting started. Parents hear “You need to do this diet,” or “my son improved on that diet.” Because each diet has its group of supporters, parents whose children did well with a particular diet aptly tout it. How can there be so many varied opinions? It’s because every person is different-each has unique biochemistry, genes, environment assaults, and eating preferences. A diet that helps one child, may not be the best for the other.
My clients are relieved to learn that I do not spout the dogma of any one diet. As a Nutrition Consultant, I practice nutrition intervention focused on improved systemic health and relief of physiological and neurological symptoms. Autism diets are food-based strategies employed toward this objective. I help parents choose the best initial diet for their child and then work to customize that diet to further to meet their specific needs.
In my book, Nourishing Hope for Autism, I discuss thirteen different diets that are recommended for autism. While each diet has merit, some include advanced components that are best supported by an experienced practitioner and not necessarily required to get started. In this article, I will explain the top three diets for autism – they include the most immediately helpful dietary principles and practices and there is much literature and community support to help aid successful implementation. In addition to these diets, I’ll discuss the most common food allergies and substances, as addressing these comes hand in hand with diet.
The most popular autism diets are:
o Gluten-free and casein-free diet (GFCF)
o Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD
o Body Ecology Diet (BED)
Gluten-Free Casein-free Diet (GFCF)
Does your child crave milk?
Does your child only eat wheat and dairy foods?
Does your child seem spacey after consuming gluten or casein, and agitated before?
Are you just beginning to look at diet for the first time?
When parents decide to “do diet,” they typically begin with GFCF. There are many good books about it, and the food marketplace is increasingly GFCF friendly. This diet entails the removal of all gluten and/or casein containing foods. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and commercial oats, and casein, the protein found in dairy.