Mindd Diet Protocols
The growing “special diet” section online and in your local bookshop is reassurance that you are a part of a large and growing group of people whose digestive tracts are demanding that we reconsider our modern diet, medications, environmental toxins and stress levels. By offering a comprehensive overview of some important healing diets and a great selection of cookbooks, we endeavor to give families an idea of how fun and easy “special diets” can be.
There are many dietary protocols and principles that help children with ADHD, asthma, allergies, and autism also help individuals suffering from Coeliac, Colitis, Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, anxiety and depression.
Individuals dealing with metabolic and digestive disorders require special diets to avoid foods that trigger allergies or harm the digestive tract. There are a number of “elimination” diets that can help in this way. While elimination is sometimes necessary, in many instances certain foods can be reintroduced once the gastrointestinal tract has had time to heal.
In general, we recommend an organic, fresh, whole food diet with no/minimal refined flours and sugars and no processed foods, artificial additives, colorings or preservatives. And plenty of filtered water containing minerals is essential.
Following here is a valuable dietary protocol, the Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) diet. The implementation of a GFCF diet involves removing all sources of gluten and casein from a person’s diet. This is a common approach to take whilst treating children with autism.
Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet
Adopting a Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) diet is a common approach to take whilst treating children with autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by deficits in a child’s ability to communicate and interact socially.
These children may also have repetitive and restricted interests and behaviors. The range and severity of the condition in a child can vary greatly.
The Theory Behind the Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet
The theory behind using a gluten-free casein-free diet for autism is that if a person is experiencing gastrointestinal reactions to gluten and/or casein, it will cause inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract. The inflammation, in turn, may cause nutrient absorption issues, as well as intestinal hyperpermeability or ‘leaky gut’.
Leaky gut can result in large molecules being absorbed into the bloodstream, which are not normally able to pass through. Increased absorption of gluten, casein and their metabolites into the bloodstream and potentially across a ‘leaky’ blood-brain-barrier, in combination with a pre-existing metabolic defect, may worsen autistic symptoms. These molecules may interact with a child’s brain and pose negative effects on their mood, and general wellbeing, further provoking anxiety, sensory issues, mental difficulties and worsening behavioral symptoms.
Additionally, abnormal metabolism of gluten and casein may also result in excess opioid activity in the central nervous system, altering its function and causing negative effects on mood and behavior.
Casein is also rich in glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter which can also increase anxiety.
Eating a gluten free diet
The gluten free diet was developed for people with coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition where the immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in certain grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye). This immune reaction causes damage to the inner wall of the small intestine, in turn, flattening intestinal villi, which are responsible for nutrient absorption. Flattening of the intestinal villi may lead to multiple nutritional deficiencies, as the surface area of the gut becomes greatly reduced. Malabsorption issues usually accompany this.
A diet that is free from gluten strictly omits all gluten-containing grains and their derivatives. It aims to aid with intestinal healing, allowing the villi to grow back, and for nutrient absorption to be optimized.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a rubbery protein present in wheat, rye, barley, and oats as well as other ingredients which are derived from these grains. It is in obvious foods such as breads, pizza, pastas, porridge, cakes, pastries, noodles, and cereals. However, it is also present in some commercial products such as sauces, non-dairy creamers, malt drinks, some chocolates, beer, gravy, mayonnaise, stocks, and it may even be found in some processed meats.
How do I know if something is gluten free?
In supermarkets, health food stores and grocers, you can identify whether or not a food contains gluten if it fits into one of these 3 categories:
1. Naturally gluten free foods
- All fresh fruit and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Unprocessed meat, poultry, and seafood
- Herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, dill, sage, coriander etc…)
- Spices (chilli, cloves, star anise, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, turmeric etc…)
- Alternatives to gluten containing grains: Rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth, tapioca, sago, sorghum, arrowroot.
2. Foods which are labelled “gluten free”
These may include gluten free:
- Beverages (including alcoholic beverages like beer)
3. Gluten free products by ingredients
If a product is not labelled gluten free, it does not necessarily mean that it contains gluten. A lot of products in supermarkets or health food stores do not have a gluten free label placed on them, and it may be worth reading the list of ingredients to check if it does or does not contain gluten.
In Australia, under the Food Standards Code, any ingredient derived from wheat, oats, rye, or barley must be declared. Ingredients, where the source grain is not identified, will be from a grain which does not contain gluten and therefore, it can be assumed that the food is gluten free. Essentially if you do not see wheat, rye, oats, or barley on a food label, none of the ingredients in that product are derived from a gluten containing grain.
Eating a casein-free diet
Casein is a protein, found in the milk of mammals. This differs to lactose, the sugar component of milk. Eliminating casein from the diet requires omitting all dairy products, as well as breast milk if your child is still breast fed, as breast milk also contains small amounts casein. However, each case must be assessed individually in order to determine whether the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the effects of casein on the child.
Foods to eliminate include:
- Ice cream
Some ingredients containing casein include:
- Magnesium caseinate
- Brown sugar flavoring
- Caramel flavoring
- Chocolate flavoring
- Non-dairy substitutes containing caseinates
- Artificial butter flavor
What can be eaten on the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet?
Meat, Fish Poultry
|Allowed||All, raw or cooked.||Fresh meat
|Rice (white, brown, red, wild, sticky)
Gluten free noodles
Gluten free pasta
|Avoid||Eggs in gluten or dairy based sauces. Eg: Wheat based white sauce||Pre-prepared meats
Luncheon meats and sausages containing
Pasta and gnocchi
Fresh, canned, frozen, dried peas, beans and lentils
|All fresh canned, frozen and stewed fruit.|
|Avoid||Creamed vegetables in gluten-containing sauce (eg: grain thickeners)
Vegetables in cream sauce
Some baked beans
Some commercially prepared vegetables and salads
|Thickened fruit sauces
Dried fruit dusted with flour
One day on the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet
Gluten free bread
Nuts and seeds
Rice or corn crackers
Mari-Bauset S, Zazpe I, Mari-Sanchis A, Llopis-G A, Morales-Suarez-Varela M, 2014, ‘Evidence of the Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review’, Journal of Child Neurology, 29(12), 1718-1727
Piwowarczyk A, Horvath A, Lukasik J, Pisula E, Szajewska H, 2017, ‘Gluten and casein free diet and autism spectrum disorders in children: a systematic review’, European Journal of Nutrition, 1-8.
Diet Profile Research and Writing: Kimberly Kushner BHSc (Nutritional Medicine), BHSc (Naturopathy) for MINDD