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Autistic Spectrum Disorder; Asperger's Syndrome; GFCF Food - Gluten Free, Casein Free Diet Is Best For Autism

Updated on April 6, 2012

Autism, Gluten, Casein and Research On Food Intolerances

This article examines how a gluten free and casein free diet might be the best option for people with Asperger's Syndrome - a form of autism. There has been some research evidence that suggests that people with autistic spectrum disorders and autism might benefit from this. It is thought that the effects of gluten and milk has a marked effect on dreamy and challenging behaviour. We will, therefore, be looking at practical solutions, diagnostics, management and provide tips on assisting someone with autism on a casein free and gluten free diet.

Research from The Autism Research Unit, now ESPA Research, formally at the University of Sunderland has found a link between those who are diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and food intolerances. These intolerances are associated with wheat and milk.

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World Of Autism A-Store

My A-Store is cram-packed full of the best specialist information and products especially picked and recommended by me to you!

Why not treat yourself to a better autistic understanding by clicking:

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The Diet Helped Reduce Behaviours Associated with Autism

As a mother of a 15 year old Asperger's syndrome young man, I have been through the process of symptoms, diagnosis and food intervention. As this article has been written with those who care for an autistic person, and those under the autistic spectrum disorders label, I hope that it might encourage you to seek further information, the best of which I have recommended.

Although not a miracle cure, food intervention in my experience has helped to alleviate some of the symptoms that my son’s behaviour. My son used to lack attention and appeared very dreamy. It was difficult to keep him to task, as his mind would often wander. He would be forgetful and inattentive. Although he is inclined to be like this even after the change in diet, I can report much improvement.

It has been three years since starting on a gluten free and casein free diet. A great improvement was seen only after two weeks, during which his urine test results came back. It was found that he was, indeed, gluten intolerant but seemed to be fine with casein or milk. I shall be going into more depth with the research aspect later.

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What is a casein free and gluten free diet?

This is where all milk, the casein component, and wheat products are eliminated from the diet. Gluten is not only found in wheat, but barley, barley malt, durum, durum wheat and oats. However, there are many products that gluten has been added to, so it is essential that the ingredients of all packets be read.

Some food companies give an allergy advice warning on their packaging. They may highlight this in the product being purchased. If the ingredients don’t appear to indicate its gluten or milk contents, try double-checking allergy warnings that may be listed on the packet. It may say, for example, that the product has been produced in a factory that manufactures other products with gluten or milk in them. Or that the item contains milk and/or gluten. This is useful as gives the customer an informed choice. Cross contamination can be a problem, for instance, so it is best that you check for this as well as the ingredients.

For people with autism, it is recommended that aspartame and monosodium glutamate, or disguised in the ingredients list as E361, is eradicated from the diet too. Although, yeast extract is a naturally occurring monosodium glutamate, it is also recommended on the ‘bad boys’ list. However, I have tried this out on my son and he seems to be all right with this, whereas the E361 seems to react badly with him.

  • Casein is a component from milk.
  • Gluten is found in wheat, barley, barley malt, durum, rye and oats.

Why eliminate casein and gluten?

Much research has been compiled on metabolic disorders and there is a train of thought that suggests that people with autism can’t break down casein and gluten in digestion. During the process, it appears that the reaction to this intolerance is an over production of opioid in the blood stream. This opioid is a morphine or heroin type of substance that we produce naturally. Somehow, the gluten and casein stimulates the over production in people with autism. It is thought, for this reason, that people with autism appear dreamy and unfocused. Essentially, they are out of their heads on their own endorphins. He/she is an opioid junkie.

  • Eliminate Casein and Gluten, eliminates an over production of opioid in the body of someone with autism - this is why the diet is best for people with Autism/

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People Asperger's and Autistic Spectrum Disorder Can Get A Test For Gluten & Casein Intolerance

Urine testing forms the basis of hard evidence.
Urine testing forms the basis of hard evidence.

Asperger's, Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders - Is there some hard evidence for diet intervention?

Many medics often dispute evidence because they simply believe there is not enough. However, there has been a urine test compiled that can actually highlight chemical entities that could provide insight to an underlying metabolic condition. This, I feel is the evidence that I needed for intervention in my son and, I would recommend to others with this condition. I think that it is like chicken soup and colds, there is never any harm in trying it. However, you need to be fully committed to this – there is no compromise or half measures. You can always get the urine analysed for reassurance.

There is nothing more rewarding in seeing the results in black and white of the urine test. Real evidence is a way of controlling the sceptics and gives clues as to why your child or adult with autism lacks concentration. It also helps you justify and enlist the co-operation of others to help with the complexities of the diet. Click on the ESPA Research link here for more details. I would like to add that I am in no way affiliated with the researchers, but I did do the test for my son and the reports were comprehensive. Also, submitting a urine sample helps their database, thereby helping in the research process.

  • A urine test provides hard evidence.

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Are there any side effects with the diet? My Asperger's Son was a Drug Addict - He Had Withdrawal!

ell, you are dealing with a drug addict here, so you are going to get some signs of cold turkey. I know it might sound ridiculous but it is true. Half the problem is that the autistic gluten addict enjoys the buzz of its glutinous affects – just like a heroin addict. You will probably get some resistance when withdrawing the offending catalyst (casein and gluten) because this is exactly what the addict craves. Once the levels start to drop, you will probably get the following symptoms over a period of two weeks. My son did get these affects and many parents have reported similar in the past. However, we are all individual so one person may have more symptoms than others. These are the ones to watch out for.

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach Ache
  • Anxiety
  • Wanting more attention than usual
  • Agitation
  • Upset in sleeping patterns
  • Temper
  • Feeling Tired
  • Higher Temperature
  • Night Sweats
  • Cold and Clammy
  • Headache

Now my son is clean, when he has accidentally eaten gluten, monosodium glutamate or aspartame, I can tell straight away! I know this sounds strange. How would I know my son had eaten gluten? Well, his eyes appear glassy, his pupils are either dilated or like pinholes and he gets nasty. He also displays similar behaviour as before the diet. This gives me the indication and acts as a trigger for further investigation. As Inspector Clueso, I re-check packets and go through the days diet. You also have to watch that the addict hasn’t eaten something he shouldn’t have sneakily. As addicts you must appreciate the buzz that is gained creates a demand for these types of food. Once the source has been established we get straight back onto the wagon. Try not to beat yourself up over the consumption of the ‘bad guys’. Accidents do happen, we are only human. We can only do our best.

  • Watch out for signs of Gluten and Casein consumption. These addicts might actively seek out gluten products to get their fix!

A word of warning. The manufacturers may decide to change the ingredients and add gluten/casein without warning. You might be using a product for months and suddenly it changes. This is why it is essential that you keep checking the ingredients.

  • Never take product ingredients for granted, always check the ingredients.

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A specialist diet is best. How can we live a normal life? So What's 'Normal' with Asperger's & Autism anyway?

Well, what is normal anyway? We create our own normality. In this instance the new normality is getting into a routine of baking. If you are well off, however, you can get lots of gluten free food in the supermarkets or health food shops. It isn’t as specialist today as it used to be. Celiac have a gluten free diet and a market has been discovered for them, even though being on a specialist diet is a good excuse to charge top dollar.

If you check lots of products ingredients, you can identify gluten and casein free items. Notice how the gluten free version is almost twice the price for the same product!! For example, most beef burgers state 100% beef. This is kidology. If you check the ingredients you may find 80% beef, wheat and seasoning. So, yes, it is true that beef on its own is 100% but only 80% in the context of the ingredients listed. I have highlighted this because such advertising may make you think ‘ah, gluten and casein free!’ when this isn’t true. I can’t emphasise how important it is to check the ingredients.

  • Don’t be fooled by the manufacturers – always check the ingredients for changes!

My best piece of equipment is my bread maker. Gluten and casein free bread is not doughy like wheat bread – it is more of a cake consistency so not easy to handle. You can buy your own bread, but the bread maker makes it easy. Click here for a recipe for gluten/casein free bread.

Going out for food is problematic. However, lots of restaurants can cater for special diets and I would advise that you ring them to see what they can do for you. If they can’t cater for your needs, many are happy for you to bring in your own prepared food so as those on the specialist diet don’t miss out. The key here is to prepare and plan. Just because people are on a specialist diet, doesn’t mean they can’t live like everyone else.

  • Communicate, plan and prepare for going out. To be on a special diet doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life.

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Where can I get Best Gluten and Casein Free Recipes?

So now you think you will give gluten and casein free baking a try?  It really is the best form of intervention for someone with autism. If so, great! I will be providing some recipes here on hub pages, but you will also find many from other writers. Once you get in the swing of things, you will find a way of converting traditional baking into gluten and casein free versions. It is all about trial and error.  Below, I have made some essential recommendations that will help you on your journey.  These really are must haves!  You can always check out my world of autism store situated at the top of this article.

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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Diet Intervention and Autism, implementing the Gluten Free and Casein Free Diet for Autistic Children and Adults. – A Practical Guide for Parents

I strongly recommend Diet Intervention and Autism, implementing the Gluten Free and Casein Free Diet for Autistic Children and Adults. – A Practical Guide for Parents by Marilyn Le Breton. The book explains in layman’s terms what the diet involves, those foods that need to be excluded from the diet and those which are safe to use. This is the first book of its kind to be written specifically for those living in the UK.

This has been my bible for my son and has changed our life as a family. It is comprehensive, gives great advice and provides recipes and resources to help implement the diet.

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A User Guide to the Gf/Cf Diet: For Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Ad/Hd (Paperback) by Luke Jackson - Another Strong Recommendation

A User Guide to the Gf/Cf Diet: For Autism, Asperger Syndrome and Ad/Hd (Paperback) by Luke Jackson.

Product Description

What is the glueten and casein free diet? Does it work? What's it like to go on it? Luke Jackson, who is 12 years old and has Asperger Syndrome, tells you everything you need to know - both good and bad. He offers encouragement and practical advice on what to expect when beginning the diet, how to alleviate any initial discomfort, and how to live with the diet. Appendices by Luke's mother provide some of the family's favorite recipes, extensive lists of useful addresses, a food diary for an average week, and suggestions for packed lunches, making the book a really practical source of information.

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All information provided in my hubs is not intended as medical advice.  Any decision to act on any of the interventions or services discussed in this or any of my hubs must reside entirely with the person with autism and/or their carers.  The involvement of a registered medical practitioner is strongly recommended prior to the adoption of any intervention.


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    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 5 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you icmn91. Sometimes it feels like you are hitting your head against a brick wall, doesn't it? I am glad that you have 'normalised' (whatever 'normal' is? lol), through an intensive programme. You are a real inspiration to everyone who is involved with ASD! Blessings!

    • icmn91 profile image

      icmn91 5 years ago from Australia

      I was diagnosed with severe ASD when young but have made a dramatic recovery through a long and tedious home program to the point where I can socialise and do most of what others my age do (when I'm healthy that is). There's just one limitation - my need for gluten free food.

      The University residence I attended violated my gluten free dietary requirements and marked meals containing gluten and dairy on the board as Gluten Free and Dairy Free respectively. The kitchen staff had absolutely no clue.

      But, it did give me an opportunity to join the HubPages community and exchange comments.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 5 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you blissful writer. I am under this idea too. It is strange how one son of mine has Aspergers and the other is insulin dependant diabetic!

      I am sure there is a link. My asd son has told me that many of his peers who have aspergers have brothers and sisters with diabetes. A bit too much of a coincidence, dont you think?

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      I've done my own research and I too believe that a gluten-free and casein-free diet is advised for autism. I would also advise the same for autoimmune conditions. (And some say that autism is a form of autoimmunity).

      However, there are many out there who are not familiar with the benefits of a gluten and casein free diet. Therefore, I'm "sharing" this and voting up.

    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 6 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      I'm hoping that will be true for my son as well as he is only 5 now :)

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

      That is very true elderberry!

      The good news is that some actually grow out of the intolerance when they hit adulthood - my son did, so it is worth keeping an eye on this );

    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 6 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      I have had great success with this diet for myself and my son. Testing should we were both wheat and milk intolerant among other things. It can feel overwhelming at first and you have to read labels on everything as they seek in where you would least expect it but it does get easier and in my experience is well worth it.

    • okmom23 profile image

      Donna Oliver 7 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Great information! Nice job.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      Aguasilver - now this is good to know. Glad it has been successful to you. Yes, lets get the word out there!

      Thank you :)

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 7 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Brilliant hub and so true, we put our epileptic daughter on a gluten and lactose free diet and she has not had any more attacks since then (10 months ago) except when she has inadvertently been fed gluten or MSG.

      Thanks for the hub, people need to know this, and YES I have upped it!

      ....and I just Facebooked it!

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      infonolan - thanks for your contribution. I would love to have known what the behaviour was like before the diet. Also, it would be brilliant to see what the whole typical day consisted of, rather than a few seconds snippet. Thanks for reading:)

    • infonolan profile image

      infonolan 7 years ago from Australia

      Here's a video I recently came across that may bear some relevance to a GFCFSF diet

      Thanks for the great hub, shazwellyn

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      Hi angldevil! Maybe you could buy 'Diet Intervention and Autism, implementing the Gluten Free and Casein Free Diet for Autistic Children and Adults. – A Practical Guide for Parents' for her as a present. It is my bible and I learned everything I know from it. It contains the why's, how's and reasons behind autism and diet and has some really good gluten free recipes. I really do recommend it!

      Maybe you could direct your mother to this hub? There are some scientific 'measurable' evidence that forms the basis to the effects of gluten on people with autism - surely she would listen to the facts?

      I wish you luck :)

    • angldevil2004 profile image

      angldevil2004 7 years ago

      I have an adult brother who is autistic, he has yet to follow a gluten free diet. I have been following a gluten free diet for going on six years. I did not realize that about the hamburger. Something that I needed to know and is very useful!! I really think that my brother should go on the GF diet but all I can do is keep telling my mother how much it would benefit him.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you Infonolan. Dan can not have soy. No monosodium glutamate, yeast extract or malt vinegar. The book that I have recommended has been a god send to me and is my bible. ~Dan doesn't have a casein intolerance and his test showed this to be true.

      Great you have been successful on the diet.

      Thank you for visiting and I will have to pop over and check you out my friend :)

    • infonolan profile image

      infonolan 7 years ago from Australia

      Autism seems to be heavily impacted upon by what we eat as a population. I would suggest having a look at some of my hubs (i'll be adding a few on autism soon as I was affected by it when young and have almost made a full recovery on a GFCFSF (gluten, casein and soy free diet). Does your boy have to avoid eggs or soy at this stage? I sometimes wonder if an EF diet as well as the GFCFSF would have helped but...... can't relive the past, can we! ;)

      You might find some of these hubs on gluten interesting. I will be adding some on A2 casein soon. Some autistic guys can seem to tolerate dairy as long as they avoid A1 milk protein. Anyways here are my hubs:

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      Hi Island Hopper... you will find many more of my articles interesting.... it seems that you are one of the undiagnosed generation - we are the lost ones, but, thankfully, we are found! Check out the other articles - I know they will help! x

    • Island Hopper profile image

      Island Hopper 7 years ago from USA

      Great article. I wish more people on the spectrum would try this diet. Only as an adult (they didn't know much about AS in my youth) did I realize I'm very likely an aspie. I also have young relatives with autism. Honestly, gluten and cow's milk are toxic to me. Gluten makes my sugar fall (reactive hypoglycemia) and milk gives me rashes, and I'm lactose intolerant. Also can't eat eggs. I also have lots of GF, CF products on my hub.

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you CassidyS. I will take a look! :)

    • CassidyS profile image

      CassidyS 8 years ago from OK

      Just wanted to let you know I put a link to this hubpage on my "Everyday Living on the Autism-GFCF Diet" hub.

    • CassidyS profile image

      CassidyS 8 years ago from OK

      We just started the gfcf diet in our family this past July because my son has PDD-NOS and Sensory Processing disorder. Loved your hubpage and all the information! Seems like your doing a great job. All the time I still find foods we've eaten with hidden casein and gluten. To see our story see

    • knowledgeispower profile image

      knowledgeispower 8 years ago

      Thanks for your insights on a diet that can help autistic children improve.

      I came across an article that tells about another interesting treatment for autism. You can read about it at:

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Well a gluten and casein free diet does improve the condition and I want to shout it out the roof tops! Let the world know that there is a way helping autism.

      Thank you sooooooo much for reading!

    • Georgiakevin profile image

      Georgiakevin 8 years ago from Central Georgia

      As a teacher who works with students who face the daily challenges of Autism and as one who has taught in WA, CA, and now Georgia I have long suspected that food allergies and the environment have had something to do with Autism. Your hub reinforces my suspicions! Thank you!


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