Implementing a gluten-free diet involves eliminating foods containing gluten from the diet of an autistic child. Gluten is present in numerous prepared foods, making it challenging to adhere to this dietary plan. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, oats, and rye, as well as in some vinegars and sauces. Artificial flavorings often contain Gluten.
- Label Reading Is Crucial
When using the gluten-free diet, careful label reading becomes essential. Gluten might be present in unexpected items, such as spices. The theory behind removing gluten from an autistic child’s diet is based on the belief that consuming gluten causes their body to react differently than a child without autism.
- Cost Considerations
The gluten-free diet can be expensive to follow, as most the products are sold in specialty or health stores that often charge higher prices. While some major grocery stores now carry gluten-free products, many parents find it more economical to make their gluten-free food. Recipes are available on the internet or in gluten-free cookbooks. Some parents collaborate with another family following the product, buying in bulk and sharing foods to reduce costs.
- Food Alternatives
Autistic children on a gluten-free diet can consume meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and products made with gluten-free ingredients. Making familiar snacks and treats with gluten-free alternatives, such as muffins and cookies using gluten-free flour, helps the child adjust to the new eating habits.
- Potential Dairy Elimination
Individuals following a gluten-free diet often eliminate all dairy (casein) products as well. Allergy testing can determine if an autistic child has an allergy to specific foods.
- Commitment and Duration
To assess the impact of the gluten-free diet, it must be followed for an extended period, typically several months. Gluten remains in the body for a prolonged duration, and short-term trials may not yield conclusive results. Some individuals observe improvements in their autistic children immediately, but a more extended commitment is often necessary for lasting effects.
- Not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution
The gluten-free diet may not be effective for every autistic child. Improvement is often seen in those with pre-existing gluten sensitivities. It’s crucial to recognize that while it is not a cure for autism, it aims to alleviate symptoms associated with the condition.
- Seeking Additional Information
For those interested in more information about gluten-free dieting, several books are available at local libraries or bookstores. Online searches using popular search engines can yield a variety of gluten-free recipes.
The gluten-free diet requires commitment, awareness, and adaptation to new eating habits. While not universally applicable, it has shown positive effects in mitigating symptoms for many autistic individuals with gluten sensitivities.