Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting Started

It took me a long time to decide whether to try this diet with my son. I read everything I could get my hands on and researched for six months before deciding to try. Of course, I’m neurotic! (but in a fun way!)

Read, Read, oh, did I mention, READ!
If you are here, I assume you already have done some research and are trying to learn more. I have already mentioned some good books that will give you both the scientific medical theories as well as practical advice, like Lisa Lewis’ Special Diets for Special Kids or Kenneth Bock’s Healing the New Childhood Epidemics. I love websites, but I love books too. You could even be really old-fashioned and check them out from the library before committing to buying them. If you have a big health food store chain like Whole Foods, Wild Oats, or Trader Joe’s go and hang out at the book section. Look at the books and cookbooks there. Whole Foods has an in-store brochure listing the products they carry that are GFCF. It’s also available online:

Find some “real life”support
While the internet is a vast sea of information, it doesn't quite give you the same warm fuzzy feeling and shoulder to cry on as a real person. If you can find someone in your own corner of the world doing this diet, and I bet you can--it’s more common than you would think--take them out for coffee and ask all your questions. Maybe ask if you can tag along when they go grocery shopping. Your local ASA Society probably has information or maybe even a GFCF support group, call them. If your city has a Celiac Sprue Society, they can help you with the gluten aspects, which are really the toughest part anyway. Call your health food store. They may have free lectures on this topic or someone on staff might be able to help you. If you have the financial means, consult a nutritionist. Again, you might be able to get a referral from your local ASA or the Celiac Sprue Society.

Reasons to wait before starting the GFCF diet
If you have plans to visit a DAN! Doctor (those who follow the Defeat Autism Now approach), you might consider waiting to try the diet until you have had your first appointment. Most DAN! Doctors do suggest at least a trial period of GFCF, but there are also many other dietary interventions available, DAN docs also do testing specific to your child’s needs and may feel another dietary intervention is more appropriate. We all know DAN! Docs, while wonderful, are not cheap. Save your grocery budget pennies until you have had that first consult. You might be doing GFCF at the DAN doc’s recommendation, but then again, you might be doing something else too. By all means tell the doc you are interested in pursuing this diet.

You should also wait to get started if you have any suspicions that your child has Celiac Disease—for instance if it runs in your family, or you see symptoms in your child-- and are planning to have testing done. If you are working with a pediatric gastroenterologist, he or she may suggest a celiac test that requires your child to have ingested gluten in order for the test to be accurate. It would be better to have this test done before you even start the diet.

Simple changes you can make
While you are researching or if you are waiting for a DAN! Doc appointment, there are a few simple things you can do that may actually make a big difference in your child’s behavior. They are really just basic nutrition choices. Try to buy only 100% fruit juice with no sugar added, water it down if you can. Try to avoid any items that contain high-fructose corn syrup or artificial dyes or other artificial ingredients. If you can afford it, buy as much organic produce as you can, or at least those items your child eats the most. By doing these few simple things, you may see a happier child. It will also get you in the habit of reading labels, which will become second nature in time if you decide to pursue the GFCF diet.

Get ready, get set, GO!
If you are ready to get started, one of the best methods I have seen for easing your child into the diet can be found at Talk about Curing Autism Now, “Going GFCF in 10 Weeks” is a very easy and sensible approach. See We went cold turkey. I wouldn’t advise it. I wish I had known about TACA NOW then. I think the slow and steady approach is easier on everyone. TACA NOW has lot of other good information too, so I want you to check out their site, but here is a quick and easy summary of the approach with my editorial additions:

Step 1: Remove all dairy products. Start by choosing your milk substitute (see my post What can my Baby drink, if not milk?) Begin by mixing a little of the milk substitute in with your child’s regular milk drink. At first just a little, then gradually increase until they are drinking only the substitute. You can do this with yogurt too. This may take a couple of weeks, depending on how well your child accepts the new taste. The younger your child is, in general, the easier this will be to do.

Once your child is happily drinking a milk substitute 100%, then try some of the cheese products. I have to tell you, from the perspective of my GFCF Mommy palate, while I enjoy soy and rice milks, but I can’t quite get into the cheeses. However, for my son, all that seemed to matter was how it looked and that it melted!

Step 2: Find 5 GFCF breakfast foods your child will eat. I would first start with items that are naturally GFCF. Eggs, bacon with no nitrates (see my “Kid Friendly” list), fruit, soy or rice yogurt. Then try some of the breakfast items in my “Kid Friendly” list such as Envirokidz cereals or granola bars, or the Van’s waffles. Remember to use a butter substitute when cooking eggs or on waffles. Find a “real” maple syrup you like from your regular grocery store.

Step 3: Find 5 GFCF lunch foods your child will eat. Keep up the breakfast routine, and slowly add in some lunch items. Again, try some of the “naturally GFCF” foods, hot dogs without a bun (no nitrates, see my “Kid Friendly”), fruit, soy or rice yogurt, lunch meat like Boar’s Head from my “Kid Friendly” list rolled into little wraps, Lays potato chips and Fritos are GFCF. Maybe offer a breakfast item your child likes for lunch.

Step 4: Find 5 GFCF dinner foods your child will eat. Maintain breakfast and lunch routine, adding new things there as you feel your child is ready and slowly add dinner items. You will be surprised how much is naturally GFCF here. Roasted meats are fine, as long as there is no breading. Home-made hamburger patties, rice (using butter substitute), mashed potatoes (with butter substitute), baked potatoes, beans and rice, veggies of your choice if your child will allow green items to pass through his lips! Dinner is one area where you may find your options are the easiest. You could mix a little hamburger with some rice. Beans and rice are a nice option. You can purchase rice pasta, Tinkyada is a wonderful brand and many commercial tomato sauces are GFCF, just check the label. You can also try the chicken nuggets and fries from my “Kid-Friendly” list. Again, breakfast and lunch items your child likes could be served here too.

Step 5: Replace all snack items: See “Kid Friendly” list above. This is actually the area where we found we had the most items containing gluten and casein.

Step 6: Consider replacing non-food items: Surprisingly, there are many non-food items that contain gluten and casein such as Playdough, some crayons, tooth pastes, glue, shampoo, medications. Those who have Celiac Disease must be strict about this. If your child is very sensitive or tends to mouth items, you may want to take this additional step of insurance. TACA NOW has a list of items to avoid and substitutes.


Elissa said...

I have really enjoyed reading your blog (first time here) and I'm so impressed, I'm hoping you won't mind if I put you on my blogroll.
Thanks for all your wonderful posts!
Elissa :-)

Deanne said...

I was diagnosed with Celiac a little over a month ago and I have a 7 year old son who has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS. I am also in the process of having my two daughters tested for Celiac, one of which is showing symptoms. I cannot tell you how impressed and excited I am to come across your blog!!!

Thank you so much for all the information!!


GFCF Mommy said...

Elissa and Deanne,

You are very welcome! I am glad you find the information helful. Plus, I've had a lot of fun blogging too!


Alissa said...

Thank you so much for listing this out! I tried yesterday to go cold turkey gf with my 9 year old son and i was having resistance from him and then my mother. So I came on here for help and I am so glad to read this! My son does not have autism but I have Celiac and while he has minor tummy problems, he has major defiant,anger, anxiety, and irritability issues. So I have been researching and reading that the gf diet may help. I went cf and low oxylate yesterday for myself due to new tummy developments with me and i am considering this for him. Your help is greatly appreciated!!!!!

GFCF Mommy said...


You are very welcome! I am glad this was helpful to you.


Anonymous said...

Love the info & thought I'd add one since my daughter is a pasta freak. Corn pasta is fantastic, once cooked it tastes exactly like regular pasta except the color remains a little yellow. My daughter can't tell the difference!