Top Ten Tips for Beginning the GFCFSF Diet
By Holly Bortfeld
- Have reasonable expectations.
A real trial of the diet is 4 months. Not 1-2 weeks, but 4 months. And that clock starts AFTER you have removed ALL of the gluten, casein and soy.
Know that it’s typical for children to have days or weeks of tantrums and diarrhea as they are going through withdrawals when beginning the diet. While you may not want to go cold turkey, know that the longer you stretch out the weaning-off process, the longer the withdrawal symptoms can last.
To help with the withdrawal symptoms, some of the most effective treatments are activated charcoal, digestive enzymes, Epsom salts baths and colostrum.
- Be committed.
If you aren't mentally ready to resist your child's tantrumming and screaming for his old foods, or if you aren’t ready to force other caregivers to comply, then you need to get ready before you begin. Beginning the diet can be a test of the wills - you against them. You need to be ready to win.
Preparation BEFORE starting is key.
Learn what is, and what is not, OK to give. Learn how to read labels. TACA has all the right tools – food lists, menu plans, recipes and much more on our site at www.gfcf-diet.tacanow.org.
Make it easier on yourself and your child.
Get all the non-diet foods out of the house, or put a child-proof lock on the pantry and the refrigerator. Remove all his old favorites from the house so he can’t see them. If he can see them, he won’t understand why he can’t have the usual and the tantrums will be worse and last longer. Don’t eat his old favorites (like pizza) in front of him for a few months.
Don’t create a carb junkie.
When most people begin the GFCFSF diet, they merely substitute GFCFSF versions of the things their child was addicted to – fries, chips, bread, yogurt, milk etc. The problem then becomes that there are no nutrients in those foods and they are all carbohydrates. That won’t make him healthy in the long run. Carbs also feed yeast, a recurrent problem in ASD children. The goal is to make your child healthy so while those foods are ok during the transition period, you should focus on reducing those foods as much as possible and introducing foods like meat and vegetables – things with nutrients.
Don’t supplant calories.
Giving large quantities of juice or milk substitutes, or other empty calories can cause feeding problems. The body will pull the easiest calories it finds first and then tell the brain that it doesn’t need the rest. What that means is that a child who is drinking a lot of juice or milk substitutes (which are VERY high in sugar,) or candy, the body will take the calories from those first and then tell the brain that it’s not hungry anymore. What happens then is that a child just drinks the juice and will eat very little to no food and starts losing weight. This can create a viscous cycle and cause an eating disorder. A child should not have more than six ounces of juice, soda or milk substitute per day, total. Then the body will pull the calories out of the more complex foods, along with their nutrients, which is your goal!
Run allergy tests.
When you start the diet and substitute new foods, you might start giving him foods he’s allergic to. Get an IgG and an IgE food panel (blood test) done to find out what foods he’s allergic to and remove those from his diet as well.
Get everyone ready.Inform the school and get the diet into the IEP.
Prep the relatives, sitter, daycare, etc. You and your spouse need to be on the same page too. If your spouse is giving your child non-diet foods, the diet won’t work. Don’t worry about the school, doctor, or relatives. It’s not their child, it’s not their choice. You don’t need their approval. The school, by federal law, must follow the diet.
Healthy teeth and bones need calcium.
A growing body does not need milk, it needs calcium. Since this diet removes dairy, you must get a calcium supplement into your child daily. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for children is 600-1000 mg per day. Fortunately, calcium supplements are cheap and available in pills, liquid, chewable and powder forms.
Why we do the diet.
Health. No matter if your child is two or forty-two, your child deserves to be healthy and the diet is the first step.Safety. The diet is safe. It’s merely a change of food. It’s not like stimulant drugs that can carry black box warnings for heart and neurological problems.Efficacy. The diet works. Parents report more success with dietary interventions than with any other treatment, ever!