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What is a GFCF Diet? | Why GFCF? | Sample Daily Menu | The Next Level
What is a Gluten Free Casein Free Diet (GFCF)
The GFCF Diet is simply no Gluten (found in wheat and other grains) and no Casein (found in dairy products - there is even a bit in goat dairy products, I understand). What is difficult is finding products that are delicious without these ingredients and realizing the hidden gluten and casein already in our diet. Now some people want to limit more with the GFCF diet - processed sugar, preservatives, corn and corn syrup and soy. These things are extras on the GFCF diet, but concerns for children on the autism spectrum... I mean a child that is essentially allergice to milk and bread could be sensitive to other common allergens.
It's always a surprise for people to find out that many candies and snacks have wheat or dairy in them - Twizzlers have wheat and Doritos have dairy. It's also surprising to find out that you need to get gluten free baking powder - who would have thought there was wheat in there? While we are getting the gluten free baking powder, how about if we do the aluminum free baking powder - did you know there is aluminum in most powdered products to keep them from clumping?
To do well on the GFCF Diet, we need to read the labels on everything. We also need to be creative - and remember how many things we already eat that have no wheat or dairy. We can enjoy most meat, vegetables and fruit with no wheat or dairy - and there are lots of products available now that we can have most everything we love on this diet, too. Check out the recipes and product recommendations to see how many options we have.
Why GFCF? How will it help?
The problem with gluten and casein in the diet has been explained to me in 2 ways. To start, we need to understand that gluten comes from wheat and grains. It is a sticky part of the grain that is there until sprouting occurs - it seems it is used by the wheat in the sprouting process. Our wheat is harvested before it sprouts, in most cases, and it is that sticky gluten that makes pasta, bread and cakes stay together once cooked. Wheat flour is sticky - add water to it and stir and see how hard it is to get the spoon through, with a pasta dough for example. When a sensitive person eats that wheat - and essentially adds water - it gets gluey and gums up the system, making it hard for toxins to pass or for nutrients to be absorbed.
Similarly, casein is a sticky part of cow's milk. Ever wonder why there was a picture of a cow on the Elmer's glue bottle? It's because Elmer's glue is made with casein - something so sticky we use it for glue! Similarly, when a sensitive person eats it, they get gummed up - most of us either have a stronger digestive system that can cut away at this stuff easier, or maybe the processing has changed the product enough that the little ones aren't strong enough to process it, but many of us adults are sort of immune, having grown up with the change.
The second theory I have heard about the need for GFCF is that an autistic child's system is missing an enzyme or something that does not allow them to process and digest casein and gluten to the point where it acts as an opiate on the brain. To better understand this, think of the idea that some races on Earth can't digest alcohol and it has a surprising and terrible affect on them, simply because they are missing something in their biochemistry. If this theory is true, then it is possible that we are seeing a child who's brain is struggling against a sort of intoxicating toxin that makes it hard for them to perceive and function as others do.
I am less concerned with the reason, frankly, than I am with the results. I have been hearing many, many stories of autistic kids who stop eating wheat and dairy and in a matter of weeks can talk and behave much like everyone else. Jenny McCarthy was in the news not that long ago with the same story - and through Generation Rescue is trying to spread the word. According to People Magazine, Jenny McCarthy was so distraught about her autistic son, that she pleaded with God to help her cure him - and she promised that if he did, she would tell the world and shout it from the rooftops to help others. This is how she is fulfilling that promise - interesting, wouldn't you say.
Now many people are daunted by the GFCF diet - my mother is nearly famous for saying "One of the hardest things for people to change is their diet" and I have tried this diet several times and ultimately failed with it, though I have tried to feed my autistic daughter with a mind to minimize these things for many years. With a change of home situation, we have been inspired to try again, and we have seen great results after just removing dairy from her diet for about 6 months - and the funny thing is, it was not that hard (though I think she still misses pizza). Now, I have gathered more resources than ever before and I think, armed with this information, I can be successful at entirely removing wheat and dairy from her diet (save the occassional cup cake at school for birthday parties, though some families can't afford to allow even that).
The trick, for many of us, is to get over the feeling that there is nothing left to eat. There is so much to eat - really delicious, healthy things - that have no wheat or dairy. Baked chicken and rice, egg salad, steak and potatoes, fruit, veggies, sushi, osso bucco, pork chops and applesauce, even! You will find wheat and dairy in processed foods where you did not expect them - there is wheat in twizzlers, dairy in caramel and milk chocolate - and so will have to read more labels. You will have to find some of the packaged foods that are gluten and casein free - and here I can help you. I have tried a lot of these, because I am just too busy to make everything from scratch, so I have included my recommendations and even recipes to help you along the way.
If you are embarking on the GFCF diet, let's do it together. You can connect with me by email or on Facebook - come and share your successes and favorite recipes with others!
Sample Daily Menu
I am just going to put some ideas here - some we use, some we are trying to use, but all are GFCF. Protein is super important for a child's diet - meat and nuts are the easiest sources of protein. I also want to mention here that since we are limiting the amount of calcium the kids get by not serving milk, a good GFCF calcium supplement is important. If your kids resist veggies, then a good multi-vitamin is also important. Please check out the product recommendations for these and other ideas.
Scrambled eggs and bacon (I put a little mustard in the eggs for extra flavor)
Gluten free cereal (like Chex) and plain or vanilla flavored rice, almond, soy or coconut milk
Gluten free waffles or french toast (Van's does these very well in the frozen section)
Granola and granola bars can be gluten free
Oatmeal - I don't see wheat or dairy in the Quaker Instant's Apple and Cinnamon flavor
Egg salad - eat it with a fork or on gluten free crackers or bread
Tuna salad - delicious when eaten on cucumber slices instead of crackers
Peanut butter on apple slices or celery sticks
PB&J on gluten free bread - my kids like cashew butter too
Thick cut or rolled deli slices - thick cut turkey or rolled up salami with some chips and fruit
Veggies in dip - russian dressing, honey mustard or any dressing that is wheat and dairy free
Chicken and rice
Pork chops and applesauce
Tacos - be sure your hard shells have no wheat in them and skip the cheese and sour cream
Meatloaf made with GF bread crumbs (or no bread crumbs)
Mashed potatoes (if you make the mashed potatoes with broth instead of dairy)
Steamed veggies with lemon and salt instead of butter
Spaghetti (rice pasta) and meat sauce
Hot dogs (with no bun) and fruit slices
The Next Level
Once you have seen some success with this diet, you may want to take it to the next level. Many people feel that eliminating just Wheat and Dairy does not address all the issues for many autistic kids. Some folks advocate removing artificial sugars, yeast, soy, corn and nuts from an autistic child's diet as well. I mention this here, because we don't want to start off switching to stuff that we will eventually want to phase out - for example, I started giving my child spearmint leaves candies - they say no wheat right on the package, so I figured "Great!" Then I realized that it is mostly corn syrup (I already look for artificial sugars and they had none) which I am not feeling good about. So much of the corn in this country is genetically modified - and I have been told that corn syrup and corn starch are made from corn that was originally intended for fuel and is inedible any other way. So it is helpful to know ahead of time about these other things BEFORE we get our kids hooked on new stuff.
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