The Gluten-Free Diet for Children with Autism
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What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It has been speculated that the gluten protein, which is large, cannot easily be absorbed, and may therefore enter the body through a leaky gut. Once the gluten protein gets into the blood stream it acts like an opiate in the system, mimicking the reactions of drugs such as morphine, codeine and opium. It is also speculated that these opiate-type reactions may cause neurological disturbances as well.
Here are some tips to help you plan your child’s gluten-free food plan.
• Which foods are naturally safe? Most foods around the perimeter of the supermarket are gluten-free such as: fruits, veggies, potatoes, nuts, fish, chicken (as long as they are not self-basting) and beef. Do not use marinades or coatings unless they are labeled gluten-free. Eggs, dairy, and pure cheese are usually gluten-free. Check yogurt labels; some brands do contain gluten. Plain, unseasoned rice and beans, as well as fresh herbs and pure spices are also gluten-free.
• Which foods do I need to find substitutes for? Foods that typically include gluten include: pasta, cereal, bread, crackers, wheat flour, pancakes, and waffles. Gluten is often hidden in seasoning blends and broths. Purchase only those labeled gluten-free. Visit health food stores and check your supermarket’s specialty aisles for gluten-free alternatives.
• What is cross contamination and how do I make food safe? Accidentally using the same spoon on a gluten containing food, and then touching a gluten-free food is enough to cross-contaminate a food and make it unsafe. To ensure safety, use a separate colander for gluten-free pasta, cover baking sheets with aluminum foil, and use a separate toaster for gluten-free foods.