Foods to Avoid for Autism

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One in 1,000 children are affected by autism, according to the National Institutes of Health, though exact numbers and classification of autism are still murky. One of possible therapies advocated to help autism include the gluten-free, casein-free diet, called GFCF. Although there are no definitive studies on the GFCF diet effects, many parents of autistic children claim it successfully helps reduce symptoms of autism.

Foods Containing Gluten

no bread
Avoid glutens including wheat, rye and barley. (Image: Eskemar/iStock/Getty Images)

Contrary to popular belief, wheat is not the only food that contains gluten. Gluten is a protein present in rye, barley and wheat. The autism advocacy group TACA recommends reading food labels very carefully to avoid gluten intake. They also recommend avoiding the ingredients millet and oats because they are manufactured in close proximity to gluten and can become contaminated. Because gluten contains valuable vitamins and fiber, a gluten free diet may require close monitoring by a nutritionist and doctor to ensure adequate nutrition.

Foods Containing Casein

Dairy products on wooden table
Avoid dairy foods that contain casein. (Image: Oksana Shufrich/iStock/Getty Images)

Like gluten, casein is a protein found in many food products. All dairy products contain casein including cheese, yogurt, cow, goat and lamb's milk, as well as human breast milk. Casein, like gluten, is thought to be metabolized differently in autistic individuals, causing symptoms such as communication and social deficits classic in autism, according to Autism Speaks. Removing casein from a diet should be implemented with care as it can cause a deficit in valuable nutrients, such as calcium and Vitamin C.

Soy Products

Soy products
Soy products like tofu and soy sauce should be removed. (Image: Igor Dutina/iStock/Getty Images)

Soy sauce, edamame, frozen veggie burgers and soy oil are just some items that contain soy. Additionally, many foods list guar gum or bulking agent as ingredients, and items like this are hidden sources of soy, according to TACA. TACA recommends strictly removing soy from diets for autistic individuals because soy manufactured in America is often genetically modified and may be an food allergen. The careful and vigilant reading of food labels is highly recommended to restrict soy from your diet. Although no definitive studies show soy restriction helps autism symptoms, TACA states that parents who have implemented this and the GFCF diet have seen improvements in their autistic children.

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