GFCF Diet and Health

GFCF Diet and Autism

One approach for parents seeking ways to help their children with autism and pervasive developmental disorder is the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet.

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The use of the GFCF diet to treat autism is still not widely accepted within the mainstream medical community. However there is strong anecdotal evidence from families using the GFCF diet with their autistic children that avoiding gluten and casein can result in sometimes dramatic improvements in speech and behavior. Parents report reduction in negative behaviours like self injury and tantrums, increased eye contact and social interaction and improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms (like diarrhea, constipation and reflux). Some families report no improvement with the GFCF diet.

Studies have shown that many individuals with autism have elevated levels of urinary peptides (which can be caused by incomplete metabolism in the gastrointestinal tract). Many children with autism suffer from gastrointestinal problems. The theory behind the GFCF diet approach to autism treatment is that people with autism may not be able to completely digest gluten and casein proteins and that the incompletely metabolized proteins leak into the digestive tract and travel through the bloodstream to the brain. Incompletely metabolized proteins may have an opiate effect on behaviour, brain function and development.

The Autism Research Institute, a US autism organization, has developed the Defeat Autism Now (DAN) protocol, a controversial biomedical approach to autism treatment, which includes the GFCF diet, enzymes and nutritional supplements. There is extensive information about the GFCF diet and a list of medical practitioners who support this approach on their web site at as well as on the web site for the Autistic Network for Dietary Intervention at

Some parents report that their autistic children crave gluten and casein-containing foods and experience withdrawal-like symptoms when starting the GFCF diet, but that after a time these symptoms disappear and the improvements are apparent.

Currently there is a lack of long-term, double-blind, clinical studies on the use of the GFCF diet for autism. One long-term clinical trial by the National Institute of Mental Health is due to be completed shortly.

Helpful books on autism and the GFCF diet include: Unravelling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Mother’s Story of Research and Recovery by Karyn Seroussi; several books by Lisa Lewis including Special Diets for Special Kids: Understanding and Implementing Special Diets to Aid in the Treatment of Autism and Related Developmental Disorders, and Diet Intervention and Autism: Implementing a Gluten Free and Casein Free Diet for Autistic Children and Adults by Marilyn Le Breton.

Disclaimer: is for informational purposes only and its content is not intended to replace advice, diagnosis or treatment from a medical professional. Always seek advice and diagnosis from your doctor or other qualified health provider. If you think you may need emergency medical assistance, call 911 immediately.