Many kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) function in their daily environments on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) diet…but they’re not the only ones. More and more adults and children without ASD are finding that they, too, feel better and function better with no gluten and no casein in their diets. As one of those adults, I am here to tell you that foods can greatly impact not only our stomachs, but so much more!
While I’ve been on a 100% GF diet for about 12 years, anytime I inadvertently get cross-contaminated foods (from restaurants or items sold at the store) I get Grumpy with a capital “G”! I notice that it really affects my state of mind; I am much less patient, feel significantly more negative about life in general and find that I’m more likely to lose my cool with both Ethan and my husband. I am opposed to yelling as a parent (or spouse), but sometimes when I’ve had gluten, I am so much easier to anger and yes...sometimes I yell. I literally feel less in-control of my actions – such a miserable feeling! When this happens (just like right now as I'm writing this), I remind myself that “The Gluten Grump” (sort of like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde) will pass, and if I can just take lots of deep breaths, drink extra water and bite my tongue (or walk into another room to “cool off”) when I’m frustrated or angry, hopefully I’ll be able to get through the phase with grace. Sometimes, this change in disposition (and a slight headache) may be my only indication that I was slightly gluten-poisoned…other times I am affected with severe migraines, terrible muscle pain in my legs, fatigue/grogginess and a variety of digestive issues. Any way you slice it, I have several reasons to avoid gluten completely.
I felt compelled to share this today because many adults may not realize that when a child (your child or your student/client) seems moody or easy to melt-down, it could be due to a food infraction. Or, if he/she isn’t on a special diet at all, maybe a special diet is something to consider? This is especially true for pre-verbal children with ASD; they may not be able to verbalize that they’re feeling “different” - or for that matter - that they’re in pain due to an offensive food. But, this can be true for any child, whether they live with ASD or not. I’ve met plenty of neurotypical kids who have similar issues with gluten, dairy, artificial colors, MSG, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners/flavors, soy, corn, eggs, etc. It seems to me, though, that kids with ASD or even ADHD and allergies are more sensitive to foods and food additives.
Anytime Ethan has a change in his typical disposition, I start to question his recent food intake and consider any newly added/changed foods or supplements. Just last year, both at home and at school, Ethan became significantly more impulsive, hyperactive and even somewhat aggressive after I added a new supplement for immune support (during flu season)…needless to say, that supplement was taken out immediately and we added in other supports gradually (to watch for their affects) before keeping them long-term.
No one wants to feel grumpy, angry and out-of-control – even children…so as caregivers, it is our job to make sure that we’re not exacerbating issues that our kiddos face on a daily basis by feeding them offensive foods.
The Gluten Grump (aka - Leigh)
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is a writer and editor for the projectLD family of companies. Leigh is Assistant Editor of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007. Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.