The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wheat free and dairy free for autism

berryblondeboys's picture

Wheat free and dairy free for autism

Wah! Lost my entire post by forgetting to hit save below!

Anyway, there is an article I just read that had piqued my interest:

It's one study, not replicated, but it can't 'hurt' to try to do a wheat and dairy free diet to see if we see any improvements in the austic behaviors.

My son is on the spectrum. He's an odd ball case though fo showing many of the symptoms, but not all the key ones - mainly, he's social and interacts with people, but he ilanguage skills are that of a 2-3 year old (he's 5), he doesn't play with toys in imaginary play, and he has some gross and fine motor skills issues and the biggee - food aversions. He has only tried a handful of foods ad dismisses food on visual inspection only. Most of his diet consists of dairy and Wheat.

He is, however, smart as a whip. - beginner reader, does simple addition, subtraction, and can count forever including by tens, fives, and twos.


So, how can I try this wheat and dairy free when he refuses to try most foods? Is there ANY way to get a light sandwich bread anything like a commercial potato bread? or wheat free cereals that look like cheerios?


Much thanks!


berryblondeboys's picture

Should have done more research first... I'm usually a skeptic and here is good reason to be skeptical:


henry doesn't have gatrointestinal issues, so chances are he won't see any improvements in behavior either.

verminiusrex's picture

My 5 year old has autism. Discovering his lactose intolerance and eliminating dairy from his diet did wonders for his behavior at school, because he is no longer constantly uncomfortable. I do think that if the autistic child has food allergies than treating them does wonders for their behavior, which helps them socially and academically. 

Like happens many times with a disorder that is largely a mystery, if someone discovers a treatment that helps in one case, people apply it to everyone with the disorder. Many children with autism may benefit from dietary adjustments, but too many parents try to blame things like gluen and dairy as the cause for the disorder when it is most likely genetic.

berryblondeboys's picture

I totally believe that autism is genetic and I don't believe it's prevalence has sky-rocketed, but that we just became more aware of it and knew what to call it. Before, people were just weird or eccentric (if they were borderline) and mentally disabled, needs to be institutionalized if they had more severe forms of it.

Henry is a borderline case - or, more appropriately put, he fits some categories for diagnosis, but not all. Some he has pretty severe symptoms, others minor, while others not at all. So, he's classified as PPD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified) which means what? They agree he's on the sprectrum, but don't know how to classify him - so helpful.

I struggle quite a bit with 'should he be getting therapies' to be mainstream normal or not. I think he benefits somewhat, but he'll never be NORMAL... his brain doesn't function like mine, or my husbands. Sometimes, I think it's that he's so smart in some areas, that he learns/accepts new information differently than the typical person. Other times I think he just had some neurological misprogramming so that he can't decode language properly (he not only couldn't understand a lot spoken, but didn't seem to understand what it said). It's coming, but with patience and time and maturity.

The only 'big' reason I found this study interesting was that he's ALWAYS had a dairy/wheat diet and maybe if he didn't??? He refused to try any foods until he was 11 months old - strictly breastfed. Then he would eat white bread only, then little by little a few more things, but ALWAYS picky and always clamped his mouth shut and there is no getting him to eat somthign he doesn't want to eat - no way.

Then when I read, you need to try to be gluten free for 6 months to see if there is any difference in behavior (because it takes that long!) No way. I could experiment for a couple weeks, but not that long for a big, "probably not worth trying, but let's give it a whirl."


Daisy_A's picture

Hi berryblondeboys,

I was interested in what you are saying both from the point of view of our wider family and generally.

Maybe you've found them already but there are internet sites that deal with gluten free cooking, including gluten free cooking for children and family. Here's one, for example. It's UK based but has American style recipes such as cookies and popovers

Most of these blogs proclaim that cooking gluten free can be enjoyable and not too much fuss but it does require quite an effort in some areas. For example, as you probably know, gluten free foods and the preparation of gluten free food have to be kept strictly separate from foods that contain gluten.

There are now also a wider range of companies providing gluten free foods, at a price. You ask about gluten free cereals, for example, and this US-based company stocks a wide range. 

As you say it might be good to try gluten and dairy free to see if this is helpful for your son. Hope the exploration goes well!

Kind regards, Daisy_A

Adriana's picture

Hi Daisy, thanks for your comments regarding

 I just wanted to add that eating gluten free doesn't have to be difficult and it really is a matter of getting to grips with the basics.  When my daughter was first diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, i was pretty clueless.  But once you understand the principles, really eating gluten free becomes quite easy.  At home we all have the same meals and none of us are compromising on the taste, i can guarantee you that.  As far as recipes are concerned, my objective is to make these straightforward and uncomplicated as no one wants to spend hours in the kitchen.  My understanding of autism is that it is also a requirement to cut out cassein- the protein found in milk.  Many of the recipes on my website can be adapted to be dairy cassein free- by using rice or soy milk and a vegetable based margarine instead of butter. There are also some good cheese alternatives on the market. I do sympathise with parents whose children find eating a variety of different foods difficult.  It must be incredibly frustrating.  Although I have no direct experience of autism, my neighbor works at a special school (Priors Court in Newbury in the UK) for autistic children and she tells me that the food at the school is gluten and cassein free. She also frequently describes how the teachers and carers deal with some of the issues and challenges the children face.  I shall ask her a bit more about food phobias/obsessions and how they manage this.  Kind regards, Adriana

clazar123's picture

No matter what conditions we have or don't have, good nutrition and good food  that is right for us makes us all better and stronger. I had this demonstrated with my son when he was 11 yrs old and went to summer camp for 2 weeks. He had milk allergies and environmental allergies and had some behavioural issues-not bad but noticeable.  I was anxious. I had taught him how to handle his food allergies but he was 11 .I pretty much trusted he'd use 11 yr old judgement. This camp had a special focus on providing homemade,wholesome food with a lot of fruits and vegetables and no candy/junk.Not organic but definitely good food. After 2 weeks,I thought aliens had abducted my son and left this calm,personable young man in his place. It was a great illustration as to how nutrition affects personality. And we had very little junk food in our house so I was really taken aback on the effect of removing all junk.

So work on figuring out what is good food for your son but remember to make him feel loved in the process-he is not his condition.


jlewis30's picture

Remember that going gluten FREE is pretty intense. Wheat and baked goods are the "bulk", many sauces and flavorings and other foods contain gluten as well. That said, many of those food are better (nutritionally) *reduced* for a variety of reasons so it is hard to say if improvements you see are due to gluten, or just a healthier regimen.

I have an ASD son as well. None of those studies regarding gluten (or vaccines for that matter) are substantiated. But it is never a bad idea to make improvements! Seriously though, my boy gets better every year, maturity has made a big difference. Also, we did a lot of training based on this (, great stuff for kids on the spectrum.

berryblondeboys's picture

We already eat a really, really good diet at home - no junk, but... the little guy won't eat it. My soon to be 14 year old eats perfect. Henry will not. He'll eat chicken, but only if it's breaded and fried.

My older son has realllllly strong ADHD and diet has always been important (and regular exercise). Actually, when he goes to college and has to eat dorm food or roommate food, he's going to DIE.. the kid is a health food junky.

My little guy just came wired differently. He's never even put a piece of pasta in his mouth because for some reason, to him, that's not something he should eat. He'll 'say' salad is delicious, but won't try any part of it. So, actually, we are quite happy he eats what he does as at least it's balanced unlike many on the spectrum.

Daisy_A's picture

Hi berryblondeboys,

Take your points here that you eat a good diet at home and that your youngest will only eat certain parts of it.

My neice and nephew were the same, he would eat everything but my neice who was a very low birthweight baby and had a poor appetite would hardly eat anything and refused a lot of things.  My mil, her grandmother, used to start with what she would eat and work out slowly.

Taking into account too what clazar123 says about small changes making a big difference, would it be possible to start wheat rather than gluten free and work out from what Henry will eat, like breaded chicken? Probably you've thought of this, but a recipe we like came to mind when I read your post.

We recently tried a chicken coated with crumbs made from oatcakes, which was wonderful. It also cooks in the oven so less fat. My husband preferred it to normal breaded chicken. We can get Nairn oatcakes in the UK, which do a wheat free brand, although they can't guarantee no gluten cross-contamination. I guess you can get similar brands or use rolled oats? Just an idea, over to you if it is of any use!  The recipe is here

Kind regards, Daisy_A

berryblondeboys's picture

I really wish it were that easy with Henry. He is completely visual. He has never put so many foods in his mouth. Even cookies, he won't eat if he doesn't know them or they are different or whatever. So, he won't eat 'any' battered chicken, only a restaurant style chicken strip. Not my homemade, or grocery store bought - NOPE. Same with cereals - he'll eat shredded wheat and cheerios, but refuses to even try anything else . There is no ability to slowly switch something - he notices a tiny difference and will refuse it.

Daisy_A's picture

Hi Melissa,

I can see it wouldn't be easy then. To be honest when I think of it, it wasn't easy with our neice either. I remember a time when if not eating out, she wouldn't eat much home-cooked food apart from macaroni cheese. My mil worked out from that. Took years, actually, but now she does eat a wider range. Sounds like Henry will take some good things. Hope you find some key to this, whatever it is.

Kind regards, Daisy_A

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

to advertising?  During a favorite program? or film character?  "...dismisses food on visual inspection only."   Sounds like his only clues to food associations are visual (no smell or taste) and you might be able to influence it.

What about putting a disc or tape together that shows children trying, tasting, and eating salads and other foods.  You may have to make your own because I don't ever see kids eating balanced meals on TV.  What is it about Cheerio commercials that make them appealing... the music?  color?  social interactions? an animal?  the name of the product?  Is there something in the Ad that they can relate to?  Observe and ask them.  Watch carefully and take notes.

Pay attention to the adverts for food your child eats, use some of the same ideas in your tape with food you want them to enjoy.  That way the child could play them over and over again with their control. 

Is it an idea worth pursuing?

It is interesting how these foods (that they eat) seem bland.  Is the use of spices and other flavors too stressful for the kids?  If so leave them out. Try steamed or boiled plain without added flavorings.


berryblondeboys's picture

Henry doesn't watch TV and I wish I knew how or why he chooses food to eat. It would make my life easier. He just eyes the food and decides then and there if it's food. 99% of foods - nope, no go, but once in awhile he surprises me and decides to try it.

THings he's never tried, yet it's on the table all the time... He's even helped me cook these things for the family:

Any greens, any vegetables period (though for a brief period he ate peas and carrots), any potatoes besides french fries, any pasta, most fruits, most cookies, most cereals, most dairy, any meat except this chicken strips.


Should also say he's super tall and super big and strong and uber healthy, so whatever he's getting, he's getting right, but it's a mystery. I wish I could say it was smell, or texture, but it is solely visual inspection of the food itself - not the packaging. Though, once he knows what cereal he likes, he knows the box and will not accept an alternative as it's not THE ONE.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My mother told me she would open cans of food and put them in the refrigerator.  I would come into the kitchen when I thought no-one was watching and eat what I could easily find.  She said I ate a whole can of black olives at age 5 that my dad left open in the fridge, that's what gave her the idea. 


Yerffej's picture

A thought on wheat, dairy, and various studies.  I believe that much of the dietary problems stem not from the original basic food but from the adulterated poisoned versions.  For example when dairy intolerance is discussed, the reference is to homogenized and pasteurized products often combined with a myriad of chemical additives.  These are live foods that have been converted to chemically altered dead foods.  That is no longer any dairy product that a cow would recognize. 

As for wheat it is much the same scenario.  Highly processed wheat berries made into a product using but a portion of the original wheat berry and often chemically processed.  That is not wheat.  Wheat is a seed containing germ, bran and endosperm with a host of vitamins and minerals.

Make whole wheat bread using sourdough and long cool fermentations.  If you are going to consume dairy products....find a cow and skip that stuff called dairy found in grocery store coolers.  A return to real food will solve an entire spectrum of the current health problems seen around the world.


kamp's picture

Gluten/casein free diet totally changed my life.. I was loocked inside my self before I startet the diet!

spencer jackson's picture
spencer jackson

Hi, I think a lot has to be said about food allergies and autism in children.

There are also so many artificial ingredients, sugars and colourings in foods that it

is not surprising there are lots of complications with children.

The best thing is to get down to your local independant health food store where you can get some

great advice by people with knowledge and understanding with food allergies.






cookie1946's picture

my son is 45 years old now and when he was born there was next to nothing around that doctors or anyone else could tell us except that he was allergic to just about everything from wheat to milk, eggs, citris, colorings and everything with artificial anything in it.  There were no Whole Foods and not many Health Food stores etc around.  I was a young mom on my own with a very sick baby who could vomit across a room, had almost no eye contact and was very smart. 

I took him to almost every doctor that would see him in America and got told he was everything from deaf to retarded to learning disabled to a dozen other things.  He did not speak but finally a teacher of pre school deaf children spoke to me about trying to teach him to sign.  In one day he learned 56 signs and could communicate! 

Food was a whole other problem.  A very long, long process.  It took a very long time to find things that he would and could eat ...I learned how to make things and through much trial and error (thank God the kid didn't starve to death first) we found things that he could and would eat.  But it was very difficoult.

Even today he is a very picky eater, but gluten free is a god send as well as shock of shocks, he can drink raw milk from Jersey and Guernsey cows but not from Holsteins for some weird reason.  We put him on the Goldstein diet and his behavior improved immensley as well.  He graduated from high school and from college but needed an aid to be with him to help him with getting around as well as with things that he did not understand about content of his lecture classes.  He had ans still has problems understanding abstracts (over/under visual abstracts etc) but tested in the high 180's in a non verbal IQ test when he was 12 or 13.

Food has always been the biggest issue with behavior linked to it.  I only wish that we knew then as much as we knew now about the links to allergens and diet related  links to behaviors.

I wish everyone the best of luck and tell you to not give up and watch those small things that will give you clues to your childs' insites to eating and behavior.