The Autism File

Will He or Won't He Eat It?
Kathy Gold

Kathy GoldThis is the question whizzing through my mind every time I put a new gluten free/ casein free offering in front of Daniel. I’m very lucky Daniel is a very amenable four year old and will give most things a try as long as it doesn’t resemble a vegetable or is green (he doesn’t even like the green jelly babies). I know a lot of you have more problems introducing new foods.

But why are my children on this very strict gluten and casein (milk protein) free diet? If you’ve had your diagnosis for a while you'll probably have come across Paul Shattock’s work up at the Autism Research Unit in Sunderland. If you’re new to all this it’s a good place to start. They produce little booklets explaining their work and keep a very informative website ( aru.htm).

The basis is that autistic children have a damaged gut which allows some food proteins through in a partially digested form called a peptide (this may also be due to an enzyme deficiency). These peptides have an opiate-like effect on the brain (think morphine or heroin). Until the gut problems can be sorted out by the medical profession, parents have put their children on gluten and casein free diets and many have reported improvements in their children.

The best way to find out if your child is suffering from this problem is to contact the Autism Research Unit and ask for a urine test. They are a small unit and very busy so you may have to wait a while for the results. I did the test, started the diet and would have put foods back if the results had come back negative. Once you know this may be a problem it is very difficult to keep feeding your child toast. It’s not a good idea to start both diets at once overnight as you could end up with a severe reaction similar to going cold turkey. It’s better to do one for a week or so and then the other and keep a diary of the reactions.

So what do you actually feed them? To start with you need to read labels, lots of them. Get hold of Lisa Lewis’s book Special Diets for Special Kids from Jessica Kingsley Publishers (tel. 0171 833 2307) for a list of ingredients to avoid and look at the website (www. In the UK, Safeways supermarket mark all their own brands suitable for gluten free and cows milk free diets. Casein is present in all milk, goats etc and it should all be avoided. Other supermarkets will send you a gluten free booklet and one for dairy free and you have to cross reference. If you can get a referral to a dietician to help balance the diet it would be great. Some doctors have been convinced of the value of the diet and will give you some foods on prescription.

Theory out of the way you’ve still got to produce three meals a day and it isn’t easy. I’ve spent years teaching cookery so I should be better at it than I am. Basically my two eat chips, chips more chips and for a change alphabites! McCains Microwave chips are OK and team up with organic ham, omelettes, tuna fish, and Heinz baked beans for lunch. Beans are a real treat, as I have to keep the tomatoes in Daniel’s diet to a minimum. They will eat: fried fish with a gluten free batter on them or home-made fish fingers using Clara’s kitchen breadcrumbs. Stir frys and rice - Daniel picks the meat out. Risotto, Meatballs, and having now discovered Allergy Cares gravy powder we are back on the roast dinners and casseroles. I’ve even produced Yorkshire puddings with the Tru Free flour No. 7 although I would hardly call them light and fluffy. Beware that some stock cubes are not gluten free. I use Kallo yeast free stock cubes. They also like spaghetti bolognaise with rice spaghetti and my local organic butcher makes me 100% meat sausages.

I haven’t cracked the bread yet and we've tried most of them. Daniel likes the Barkaret Rice bread toasted but its so dry I put the Pure margarine on both sides. Lifestyles PKU bread is OK but the children weren’t impressed however it made good breadcrumbs. They do like Lifestyles PKU pizza bases and their muffins. The latter come individually sealed for lunch boxes and were brilliant on holiday for those teashop stops that never have anything gluten free.

I’m on a gluten free diet as well so I tend to keep a gluten free house and I cook for the whole family so my husband has to try all these foods. He’s still coming home for tea although he has been indulging in soda bread at work and my friends now invite him round for toast rather than a drink. If you’re starting out good luck and if you’ve been juggling these strange foods for a while let us know your secrets.


In issue 1
Autumn 1999 …

Jonathan Tommey reports
Secretin: towards
a clearer picture
Harvey's AIT
Homeopathic secretin: A mother's report
Shunned, brickwalled, tired but hopeful
The homepathic treatment of autism
Protocol for the treatment of autism
Will he or won't he eat it
Life with an Asperger child
Our search for intervention and support
Autism and MMR / Testing for Parasites