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Originally published March 29 2009

GFCF Diet Shows Promise as Natural Treatment for Autism

by Sheryl Walters

(NaturalNews) Autism is a developmental disorder that appears during the first three years of life. It is classified as a neurological disorder that affects social skills and interaction. The number of children diagnosed with autism has been on the rise. The Autism Society of American reports that autism is growing at a rate of 10-17% per year. One out of every 150 boys will be diagnosed with autism; the number is slightly less for girls. Although there is no cure for autism dietary changes can make a difference in functioning of an autistic individual. Research and anecdotal evidence has shown improvements when these individuals follow a gluten-free and casein-free diet.

Gluten and casein are proteins that are naturally occurring in foods that are a staple of the diets of most people. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Casein is found in dairy products. In addition to these whole foods, gluten and casein are often found in many processed foods. Careful reading of ingredient lists is necessary as well as familiarity of the other names that gluten and casein can be "hidden" as, such as natural flavorings, curds, caseinate, spices, lactose, and others. The prevalence of these proteins makes it difficult to avoid them but there are numerous manufacturers that produce products using soy, potato, quinoa, and other substitutes.

Research done at the Autism Research Unit at the University of Sunderland in the U.K. has shown behavioral improvement in autistic children after five months of being on a gluten-free and casein-free diet. The researchers hypothesized that autism is a result of incomplete breakdown and increased absorption of proteins in gluten and casein. This irregularity results in changes to neurological processes which accounts for autism symptoms. Direct observation, parental questionnaires, and teacher questionnaires all showed an improvement in these children in numerous behavior areas.

Changing to a gluten-free and casein-free diet is ideally done with the help of a healthcare provider and nutritionist. Healthcare providers who are familiar with autistic treatments, both conventional and alternative, can be found through the "Defeat Autism Now" (DAN) program. Nutritionists can provide listings of "hidden" gluten and casein as well as advise parents on what food their children can eat including rice, potatoes, buckwheat flour, quinoa, soy, fruits, vegetables, sorghum, tapioca, and teff among others.

There is more research that needs to be done to truly prove the benefits of a gluten-free, casein-free diet but preliminary research and anecdotal evidence seem promising.


A Gluten-Free Diet as an Intervention for Autism and Associated Spectrum Disorders: Preliminary Findings, (

Autism Society of America, (

Defeat Autism Now!, (

The Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet, (

About the author

Sheryl is a kinesiologist, nutritionist and holistic practitioner.
Her website provides the latest research on preventing disease, looking naturally gorgeous, and feeling emotionally and physically fabulous. You can also find some of the most powerful super foods on the planet including raw chocolate, purple corn, and many others.

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