Autism and Diet

Autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Most autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling and disturbing behaviours which are markedly different from those of typical children.

According to leading experts and parents, autism recovery begins with diet. Success in applying nutritional intervention is crucial to the overall healing of children. There are a number of effective “autism diet” options to choose from but the most popular is the GFCF(Gluten free Casein free diet).

A GFCF diet is an eating plan in which gluten and milk protein (casein) is eliminated from the diet. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and commercial oats. Gluten can be found in bread, crackers, pasta, cereal, packaged foods, baked goods, and many other foods. Casein is the principal protein found in fresh cow’s milk and is often used in many processed foods, including cheese products, infant formula, and coffee creamer.

Gluten free foods include millet, rice soy, sorghum potato, beans, peas, pulses, maize, Cabbage, Onions, Carrot, lettuce, sweet corn, cauliflower, grapes, melon, meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, game, cheese. Naturally casein-free foods are of vegetable origin. Fruits and vegetables are casein-free foods, and nuts can also be considered in the diet if there are no restrictions. However, some processed foods containing fruits, vegetables, or nuts may not be casein-free foods.

Calcium is necessary in children’s development, especially for building strong bones. Calcium is the most abundant nutrient found in animals (especially milk) and plants. The most healthful calcium sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes like broccoli and sweet potatoes are another source of calcium that many people overlook. Rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk and coconut milk can be substituted for cow milk.

Many gluten-containing breads, cereals, and pasta are for­tified with B-vitamins and iron while many gluten-free foods are not and this can also contribute to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It is important to select vitamin/mineral supplement that is gluten-free and meets 100% of the recom­mended daily allowances.

Sorghum is the GFCF flour that is very good and high in protein. Tapioca flour is great for holding things together and gives a nice crisp crust. Almond flour is mild tasting and adds protein. You can make big batches of these flour mixes and keep them in the fridge for substituting. Any baked product can be produced from these flour mixes and it may be necessary to adjust ingredients to obtain the maximum nutrients from the mixes.

As the GFCF Diet is implemented, improvements in autism symptoms are often noted as the diet evolves and progresses. Some children experiences improve in behaviour, concentration, cognitive ability, eye contact, gastrointestinal issues, speech and more.

As the GFCF diet is been implemented two diets must not be withdrawn or introduced at the same time to detect food reactions and sensitivity. Withdrawal of food may work well as the frequency of food is gradually reduced until it is finally eliminated.


Days Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Sunday Boiled yam and vegetable Jollof rice,  meat and fruit Boiled plantain and vegetables
Monday Sweet potatoes and fried egg +fruit Tapioca (in any form) Amala and okro soup and meat
Tuesday Boiled beans + Pepper +fish sauce Eba, okro soup and fish stew any fruit/chicken +fruit Boiled yam and vegetable stew/egg in any form
Wednesday Yam pottage and vegetable stew Boiled rice and beans and meat stew any fruit Tapioca (in any form)
Thursday Pap and moinmoin Amala  Ogbono soup and fish +fruit Boiled plantain and vegetable stew and fish/chicken
Friday Boiled beans + Pepper +fish sauce   Boiled/Mashed/fried Potatoes and vegetables +  fruit Boiled rice and beans and meat stew
Saturday Tapioca (in any form) Amala, ewedu and meat stew Yam pottage and vegetable stew +fruit


Julie Matthews Autism Diet and Nutrition Specialist

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