Understanding the Gluten-free, Casein-free Diet for Children with Autism
A gluten-free, casein-free diet is designed to reduce the symptoms of a child on the autism spectrum. These disorders disrupt a child’s ability to communicate and engage in social interaction. There is little research to support the benefits of the gluten-free, casein-free diet in autistic children; however, despite the lack of evidence, it has risen in immense popularity across nutrition circles and holistic therapists.
It is primarily believed that children who have autism and autism spectrum disorders limit their own consumption of certain foods and nutrients. They generally prefer bland food items, such as white bread. It makes it challenging to understand whether the gluten is the cause of autism, or is it autism that is restricting the diet variety of the child.
The gluten-free, casein-free diet is considered as a holistic alternative treatment for autistic children, and it comes with a plethora of restrictions. All food items containing wheat, barley, rye, milk, and dairy products are eliminated from the diet. In this article, we will take a closer look at the GFCF diet to understand its potential benefits and risk factors.
What is a gluten-free, casein-free diet?
A gluten-free, casein-free diet is an eating plan that is focused on avoiding all food items that contain gluten and casein. These include all kinds of bread, cereals, dairy products, and milk-based products. This diet eliminates gluten and casein from the diet to bring about improvements in the behaviors and symptoms of autistic individuals. It is known to bring about marked enhancements in social skills, learning capabilities, and other behavioral improvements.
All these speculative benefits bring us to a fundamental question: will a gluten-free, casein-free diet help your child?
It is known to be beneficial for many children with autism and autism spectrum disorder. However, there is a need for further research and clinical studies that shed light on the potential benefits and risks associated with this diet. It is immensely popular across nutrition circles, but studies on this diet have just started a few years ago.
It is important to note that this diet is certainly not easy to follow. You see, gluten and casein are huge elements of a healthy daily diet. This diet will reduce your child’s consumption of vitamins A, D, and B complex, calcium, and fiber, alongside reducing their overall caloric consumption.
How does the GFCF Diet work?
Many parents with autistic children believe that their children have a gluten allergy or a sensitivity to the nutrients present in these food items. Before you embark on this diet, it is vital to undertake some tests for allergies and sensitivities. Parents who have tried the GFCF diet have reported several benefits, such as changes in speech and behavioral improvements.
The benefits of a gluten-free, casein-free diet are based entirely on the theory that autistic children tend to harbor allergies or higher sensitivity to foods that are rich in casein and gluten. According to this theory, autistic children have different capabilities of breaking down and processing the proteins and peptides found in gluten and casein-based food items as compared to healthy children.
This difference in processing and digestive capabilities can aggravate the symptoms of autism. Many experts believe that the brain breaks down proteins like false opiate-like chemicals, and the theory supports that the reaction to these chemicals cause the child to act in a certain way. Therefore, a gluten-free and casein-free diet will aid in reducing the severity of autism symptoms, and enhance social skills, speech patterns, learning abilities, and other cognitive behaviors.
However, before embarking on this diet, it is vital to consult your child’s doctor and other nutrition professionals to ascertain its benefits for your child.
Gluten-Free Flour Alternatives
Breadfruit is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry family originating in the South Pacific and that was eventually spread to the rest of Oceania. British and French navigators introduced a few Polynesian seedless varieties to Caribbean islands during the late 18th century, and today it is grown in some 90 countries including the Caribbean.
Its name is derived from the texture of the moderately ripe fruit when cooked, similar to freshly baked bread; it has a potato-like flavor. Before being eaten, the fruits are roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. The Fiber in breadfruit inhibits the absorption of glucose from the food we eat, thus controlling diabetes it also flushes out the toxins from the intestine, aiding in the proper functioning of the bowel and intestine.
When cooked, the taste of moderately ripe breadfruit is described as potato-like, or similar to freshly baked bread. Very ripe breadfruit becomes sweet, as the starch converts to sugar. Breadfruit flour is perfect to use in a muffin or baked goods recipes as you can substitute 1 cup of breadfruit flour for 1 cup of wheat flour.
Coconut flour is a soft flour produced from dried coconut meat. It is a natural by-product of coconut milk production.
When coconut milk is pressed from coconut meat, bits of solid coconut meat is leftover and this coconut meat that is left over after the production of coconut milk is then dried at a low temperature and ground until it produces a soft, fine powder which is then suitable for baking.
Coconut flour can substitute regular flour, every cup of flour would be ¼ to 1/3 cup of coconut flour. Coconut flour can be more absorbent, you may need to add more liquid to keep a good consistency.
Almond meal is made from grounded sweet almonds. There are no major differences between almond meal and almond flour. Almond flour is usually made with blanched almonds (no skin), whereas almond meal can be made both with whole and/or blanched almonds. Almond meal will be a 1:1 substitute for flour.
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