Gluten Free Diets


Gluten is a protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye.  A Gluten free diet is a diet from which any foods containing gluten have been removed.  Eating a gluten-free diet can help people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.  Gluten free diets can sometimes be very important for Autistic children because they often have celiac disease.

It can seem very difficult to utilize a gluten-free diet at first because there are many foods that have Gluten in them. Most prepared foods contain gluten. For example, foods that contain wheat, barley ,oats, or rye must be eliminated to have a gluten-free diet. Some vinegars and sauces, and some artificial flavorings, may contain Gluten.

In order to avoid eating foods that contain gluten, it is important to carefully read all labels on foods. Choose foods labeled as gluten free or made with gluten free grains such as corn, rice, or soy.  Although it is not clear if people with celiac disease are harmed by eating oats, it is usually recommended that oats be avoided unless they are specifically labeled as gluten free.

It can be expensive to follow a gluten-free diet. Gluten free products are often sold in specialty, or health food stores. Stores such as these may charge a higher price for food items. Gluten free products are now being carried in some major grocery stores. Look for flour, pancake mix, waffles, cookies, snacks, and other foods that are  gluten free. Parents often find that it is less expensive to make their own Gluten free food. Recipes can be found in Gluten free cookbooks or on the internet. In some cases, parents go together with other families who are following a gluten free diet to buy food items in bulk quantities. Sharing the foods in this way can help reduce the cost of using gluten free foods.

Autistic children who are following a gluten free diet can eat fresh meats, fish, and poultry (not breaded, batter coated, or marinated).  They can eat most fruits, vegetables, potatos, nuts, eggs, and dairy products. It may be difficult to keep a child from eating their favorite snacks, and treats. However, some of this type of foods can be made by using Gluten free products. Muffins and cookies, for example, can be made using gluten free flour. Getting used to a new way of eating may be hard, but the benefits may make it worth the effort.

In many cases, people who are following a gluten free diet will also remove all dairy (Casein containing) products from their diet. Allergy testing can reveal whether your Autistic child is allergic to certain foods.  Your doctor can arrange to have allergy testing done.

You should be prepared to follow a gluten free diet for several months so that you can tell whether it will make a difference. The body retains gluten for quite a long time. Many times, people do not allow enough time to know if the diet will work. Trying it for just a week or two will not be sufficient time to allow any remaining Gluten to be cleared from the body. You may begin to see improvements in your Autistic child right away, but it may take some time before you see significant changes.

A gluten free diet is not a cure for Autism. It will not work with every autistic child. When it is used, it is primarily just to help control some of the symptoms of Autism.