Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Four letters. GFCF. They seem so deceptively simple and without a vowel they don't even make a word. Yet these 4 letters are an acronym that are pretty much defining my family's life right now. GFCF stands for Gluten-free casein-free which is a diet that prohibits all gluten and casein which is a protein found in dairy. We are starting down the overwhelming path of going GFCF because many people have seen such drastic changes in people with Autism. Many parents following the diet or lifestyle have had their non-verbal Autistic child begin to speak. They have seen less "stimming" (stimming is repetitive stereotypical behavior commonly found in autism. Hand flapping is one example of stimming), and overall better health and recovery from Autism.

According to one theory, some people with autism cannot properly digest gluten and casein, which form peptides, or substances that act like opiates in their bodies. The peptides then alter the person's behavior, perceptions, and responses to his environment. Some scientists now believe that peptides trigger an unusual immune system response in certain people. Research in the U.S. and Europe has found peptides in the urine of a significant number of children with autism. A build up in these peptides can block neuropathways and hinder the body from methylation. I know that might sound like gibberish to some, but to us it offers possibility of hope through something as simple as diet. If Becca's body is free of peptides and her gut can become healthy then perhaps her body can begin to methylate or clear itself of toxins and we will hopefully see her whole world change.

Going gluten-fee is much more complicated than simply cutting out wheat. Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains, including oats, rye, barley, bulgar, durum, kamut and spelt, and foods made from those grains. They are also found in food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, soy sauce, flavorings, artificial colors and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins. There is gluten in all kinds of personal hygiene products as well. There is even gluten in Play Doh and some types of glue.

Casein is tricky too. You can't just cut out dairy because soy often triggers very similar results in people as well. So now we have to look for soy, dairy, wheat, and those grains I mentioned above.

I attended a very helpful support group for going GFCF which is run by a Mom who has had her family on the diet for 8 years. She was so incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and made the task seem less daunting and overwhelming. She had a specific program that she recommended which was a transitional period of 7 weeks doing one thing at a time. She recommended several good cookbooks and brand names. I ordered several books from amazon yesterday that I look forward to getting. She also gave us a sample of Dairi-Free by Vance Foods that is a powdered potato milk. It wasn't disgusting like the powdered milk of my childhood and it actually had a pleasant flavor and good creaminess. We ordered a case and it arrived yesterday. Becca has been off of dairy completely (step 1) for 3 days. We started out with almond milk and now are onto the potato milk.

We are going to make our house as GFCF as much as possible. The nutritionist I met with and Phyllis (the support group founder) both suggested that the home be all on one page. The other kids can get gluten and casein when they are out of the home. I'm not sure how strict I'll be about this since Becca is only 3 and there are still ways to hide things from her and to keep her in the dark. For instance, I didn't cancel our dairy delivery of milk (but cut my order back drastically). I use the milk bottles (after they've been sterilized) to house Becca's new milk and keep it in the refrigerator door. I've still been drinking milk and will until I feel like I need to change. We have cheese in the refrigerator but I only get it out when Becca isn't around. All other foods that have gluten have been moved out of the pantry and put onto shelves in our garage. I'm slowly beginning to turn the pantry into a "safe" place stocked full of GFCF foods.

I'm lucky that my kids love fruits and vegetables so there is so much we can eat that is fresh, whole and nutritious. I intend to become a GFCF cook extraordinaire when I get my cookbooks. I'm anxious and willing to try my hand at baking and hopefully in a few years time this will all seem like second nature. Yes I said years....Phyllis says it takes about 2 years until we will really know what we are doing and can substitute ingredients in a regular "Betty Crocker" type recipe. All I can say to close is that thank goodness we don't have to cut out meat!`


Julianne said...

Katie, you are amazing.

Sarah said...

I agree with Julianne! It sounds like you have done so much research on this. About 6 years ago I decided to become vegetarian for various reasons. It was so hard at first, and I didn't know how people cooked without meat, but now I don't know how they cook WITH meat. If you gave me a pound of hamburger I honestly wouldn't know what to do with it. I know it will be the same with you....hard at first, but second nature as time goes on. How wonderful that you have a good support group!

You explained the whole peptide thing so well. It really makes sense! I hope this helps Becca! You can do it!

The Diaz Family said...

I am very excited for your family to be doing this wonderful thing for Becca. I am certain you will see positive results from it.