Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Food Obsessions

The general public often doesn’t realize what parents
of autistic children are keenly aware of: It is a
physical condition as much as a mental one.

Research shows that more than 50 percent of autistic
children have gastrointestinal problems such as
Crohns Disease or colitis.

Some scientists theorize that autism begins in the gut,
with the gastrointestinal walls being damaged and
allowing toxins to leak into the bloodstream and
effect brain activity.

For this reason, parents of children with autism
must monitor not just their children’s behavior but
their eating habits, too.

In particular, products containing gluten (found
in wheat, barley and rye) and casein (found in dairy
products) seem to exacerbate autism symptoms,
apparently because the person’s body cannot digest
them properly and the incompletely digested (and
therefore poisonous) proteins are leaking into the
circulatory system.

A gluten-free, casein-free diet, known as GFCF, has
become very popular among parents of autistic children.

Some members of the medical community continue to be
skeptical of it, but other doctors and organizations
-- including those working with Defeat Autism Now
(DAN) -- wholeheartedly support the GFCF diet.

Many parents report remarkable improvements in their
autistic children after removing gluten and casein from
their diets.

They find their children having longer attention spans,
making better eye contact and in general behaving
less aggressively and more “normally.”

The difficult part is implementing the diet.

Cereals and dairy products comprise a major part of
the typical American diet.

People with gluten allergies already know how hard it
is to find gluten-free products; adding dairy to the
list of prohibited items makes it that much more

In addition, many autistic children will latch on to
particular foods they like and refuse to eat anything

Since so many foods have gluten or casein, chances are
good that something on your child’s “favorites” list
will be an offender.

Also, because gluten and casein foods act as opiates,
autistic children may crave them in particular --
the very foods that are doing them the most harm!

So weaning your child off these foods can be difficult.

To start with, many parents find it best to eliminate dairy.

A lot of people are lactose-intolerant, after all, and
dairy products don’t make up nearly as big a part of
most people’s diets as gluten products do.

It’s fairly easy to replace casein foods with other

Gluten is trickier. Not only is it in a lot of foods,
but even foods that don’t have it are often contaminated
with it, due to having been processed in the same

You’ll need to examine ingredients lists carefully, and
check with the manufacturer directly if you’re in doubt.

Often, parents say their autistic children won’t eat
anything else, and they worry they’ll go hungry if
these foods are taken away.

It is necessary to be loving but firm, and not to give
in if your child behaves badly in response to having his
or her favorite foods taken off the menu.

Within a few weeks, you’ll probably see a change in your
child’s behavior, and you may be surprised at what he
or she will eat that previously was unacceptable.

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