This is one of the most common questions I get asked by parents. Parents with typically healthy children as well as those with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) or other learning difficulties.
My reply is always that there is no harm trying. Of course, do check with your child pediatrian first. But if your child simply becomes happier, more energetic and responsive with a GFCF diet, why not? Some benefits are simply not quantifiable but is felt tangibly by the child and their family. Most medical diagnosis is able to rule out if a child has Celiac disease (genetic autoimmune disorder that adversely reacts to gluten) or an allergy or intolerance to gluten. However, there are possibilities that individuals diagnosed with an absence of gluten intolerance still have a sensitive gut or intestine to gluten that standard diagnosis kits are unable to detect. Something to think about?
What is ‘gluten’?
They are the proteins found in wheat, spelt, barley, rye, and other widely used grains. It is the substance that gives wheat products the chewy texture and ‘spring’ in dough.
What is ‘casein’?
It is the main protein found in most dairy products like milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream. Milk derived proteins like whey, protein powder, powdered milk do contain casein.
How can a GFCF diet benefit my child?
A GFCF diet usually relieves a child’s gastrointestinal problems like bloating, pain, cramps, etc due to an allergy or intolerance to gluten and casein. Your child’s gut will be less inflamed and the symptoms will improve. Even in the absence of a diagnosed intolerance, your child’s immune response can still lead to behavioral symptoms. We have had parents who shared that they see positive behavioral changes like improved moods, few tantrums and better attention span in their children. Think about it. If you are constantly uncomfortable and ‘messed up’ in your gut, would you be able to keep your focus on the tasks at hand? Or even be happy and energetic?
Will being on a GFCF diet deprive my child in any vitamins and minerals?
Honestly speaking, whether or not gluten and casein are in our daily diets, most people are still deficient in some, if not many, key nutrients our body requires. To name a few, your child can still obtain their fiber and calcium sources from GFCF foods like fruits and vegetables which are more wholesome and calcium enriched rice milk or soy milk. The trick is to eat a wide variety of foods.
There are many online information available that can give you detailed explanations and insight. You will also read opposing views about GFCF diets. Be discern and I would caution you to take a look at the funding sources for some of the research. Are they backed by some manufacturing giants that produce gluten and casein rich products? A food for thought.