Dietary Restriction - Gluten (wheat, rye, oat and barley) and Casein (dairy) Free
Parents who have children diagnosed with autism are finding that removing gluten and dairy from their child’s diets help to improve symptoms. While there are many different theories as to why, many parents, including actress Jenny McCarthy have found this to be true. Jenny was recently quoted in People magazine, “ While I waited for services, I decided to educate myself on diet. I read that after beginning a gluten and (dairy-free) diet, mothers reported huge changes in their autistic children. I asked Evan's pediatrician. ‘Another desperate attempt at healing autism,’ he said. All I knew was if there was hope in anything, I was going to try.”
The article goes on to state, “When she removed wheat and dairy from Evan's diet; he seemed more responsive and was speaking in full sentences.”
Amy’s Kitchen offers over 50 items that do not contain gluten or dairy, including our Baked Ziti Kids meal that was designed specifically for kids that cannot tolerate gluten or dairy.
Here’s an excerpt from an article posted on Autism.com that explains more about how this kind of diet can help children with autism. Below the article are letters from grateful parents who can say it better than we can.
Exerpted from Autisminfo.com
The purpose of this summary is to give parents valid reasons to consider trying the Gluten / Casein Free Diet. It is, indeed, daunting. But, frankly from my perspective, the part of a parent is easy compared to the difficulties a child must endure and battle with. We know because we live this diet.
The Gluten / Casein Free Diet is an extremely important part of treating Autism. While the answers for implementing the diet are varied and complex, the single most important reason to do it...... is that it may help your child!
Essentially, casein and gluten are very similar proteins. The way the body processes these, and even other similar proteins, may affect a person adversely. There are several theories and truths that abound regarding the ingestion of these proteins.
Casein is a protein found in dairy. Gluten is a similar protein found primarily in wheat, rye, oat, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, and semolina. Anything made from these items is suspect, however, wheat is used most often in other ingredients. For example, modified food starch, bouillon, caramel color, are some, but not all, of the ingredients that contain gluten. In order to ensure that the products being eaten are indeed free of these substances, it is best to know the content of even your ingredients. There are a number of ways to go about this. Check the internet, join an egroup that shares information on the GFCF diet, buy books (http://www.autisminfo.com/booklist.htm), or subscribe to publications like the ANDI newletter.
1. Gluten and casein can act like opiates in the body, known and casomorphin and gludiamorphin/glutomorphin. This is surmised to occur in people who have profound bowel and yeast issues. The thought is that, as yeast grows uncontrolled in the intestine, it adheres to the intestinal wall making it permeable. Substances that are not fully digested can then get into the blood stream and wreak havoc in the brain. This theory is very controversial, however, the proof, for many, is in the pudding.
2. Casein and gluten can induce an antibody response, like in Celiac disease. Although, celiacs have varied symptoms, it is thought that many kids with autism may be experiencing similar symptoms. These may include nausea, gas, distention, diarrhea, fevers etc.
3. Some kids are simply allergic to either or both of these substances. In this case, the only treatment is to remove the allergens, work on desensitizing the patient with an immunologist/allergist, or take medication.
Testing is a potentially helpful medium to determine your course of action. However, the best test is the diet. The following is a little scenario of what occurred when one family tried to test for casomorphin and gludiamorphin (the opiates).
One lab that tested a child and found no signs of casomorphin and glutomorphin peptides in the urine. Skeptical, the parents tested the child’s urine again with another lab. The second lab found astronomically high levels of casomorphin and a noticeable amount of glutomorphin. Trying the diet IS the best test for efficacy.
Since the child fit the profile of one who will benefit most from this diet, the parents opted to give it a serious try. The parameters of the profile include, but are not limited to, chronic diarrhea, dark circles under eyes, red ring around anus, eczema on scalp or elsewhere, fevers, rashes, and self limitation to a large number of foods containing casein and gluten. Note: However that the profile was misinterpreted by the parents. They were thinking opiates, but symptoms were more closely related to celiac sprue & allergies.
Elimination of casien is easiest and was attempted first. Within a few days of removing dairy, the parents noted the obvious disappearance of a chronic runny nose and cough. Within a few weeks the child’s eye contact and ability to stay on task improved. It was quite remarkable! Needless to say, by now the parents realized that the first lab urinalysis was incorrect.
Next came the procurement of a book entitled, “Special Diets for Special Kids” by Lisa Lewis, PhD. It is an excellent source of information and mail order companies that specialize in the foods and beverages needed to implement this kind of diet. It is an excellent how to book. The best source of “why to” may be also be purchased on this website. It has just been released and is entitled, “Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and PDD” by Karyn Seroussi.
With resources in hand this family was able, over time and through trial and error, to make the transition to a completely Gluten Free / Casein Free diet.
At one time, they wondered, as many do, is the gluten free portion of the diet contributing anything. The results from removing this element from the diet were not as noticeable as with the removal of casein. They experimented by allowing plain oat Cheerios back into the diet. Within a few days, the child’s behavior became a little more irritable, however, the most notable symptoms was the return of very dark circles under the eyes and a red ring around the anus. The Cheerios were quickly removed from the diet. Although the circles still appear under the child’s eyes from time to time, they are not as pronounced and are fading very slowly.
GFCF Diet FAQs
Dramatic changes bring us incredible joy, however, even more critical is to note that subtle changes are just as important and worthwhile of our efforts. BEST OF LUCK!
Over 3 months ago, we started our son on a gluten-free, casein-free diet to treat his gastrointestinal issues and help to treat his autism. The results have been amazing, and Amy's Black Bean Enchiladas & Shepherd's Pie has been a regular part of our 3-year-old's diet! He LOVES his enchiladas, especially. Thank you for creating these products for the people who need them.
From Christina Stearns
My son was recently diagnosed as "on the autism spectrum". We are trying the gluten-free, casein-free diet. Your products are a godsend! Especially the new spinach pizza. THANK YOU and keep those GFCF meals and pizza coming!
From Becky MacDicken
I just discovered your Baked Ziti Kids Meal and my daughter loves it. She is 5, lives with autism, and has had a lot of success being gluten, casein, and soy free--though she is a very self-limited eater. Because your Ziti Meal contains just a small portion of soy cheese, she can have it, but I would be so grateful if you would continue to venture into more GF/CF/SF foods. There is something very motivating for her about having a "big kids meal," coupled with your great kid friendly packaging, that has made my daughter want to try it and consider that she may enjoy it. (Just trying it, in itself, is a very big deal!) Thank you, thank you, thank you.... and please continue creating!
Thanks so much for making a gluten AND dairy free pizza! I have been waiting a long time for this day! My son has autism and has been gluten and dairy free for several years now. I have patiently made him his own pizzas, which he appreciated. However, your pizza has won the prize!
It tastes delicious and even more importantly (to him), it looks like a real pizza! That is very special to a 6 year old.
Our family loves your pizzas, but our little one got diagnose with Autism and like most of the other autistic kids is on a strict Gluten, caseine and soy free diet. Do you think you can create one pizza for these kids on this very strict diet? thanks
Reply from Amys:
Thanks for writing to us. In fact we now have a gluten and dairy free pizza. Check out our Rice Crust Spinach Pizza. We’re sure your little one will be pleased.
All the best,
Thank you sooooo much for making such a great product (your rice crust gluten free, vegan spinach pizza). My son is autistic and like many parents we have him on a gluten, casein free diet. It is very hard to find products that are reasonably priced that he actually enjoys. He is only 5 years old and to be able to eat pizza was a big deal for him. He isn\'t usually crazy about all things green but I covered the spinach with some extra vegan rice cheese and he gobbled it up. I hope that you will consider adding some more kid friendly, delicious gluten, casein free products to your line. The Autsim community is a close knit one and I was tipped off about the pizza by another mom. I will be telling all my mommy friends about it. Thanks again. BRAVO!!!!
Reply from Amy’s:
Thanks for writing. Actually, we have made a brand new pizza just for people like your son. It is a gluten free/dairy free cheese pizza. Best of all, it comes in a single serve size. It should be on the shelves of your supermarket by the beginning of ’08.
For more information the effects of diet on Autism symptoms: