Best Dietary Change for Your Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Photo of Two Children Representing Genetics, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet

People worldwide are searching for expert advice regarding natural treatments and holistic and functional medicine therapies for autism. But first of all, what is autism? Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a range of developmental disorders that affect the way children communicate and socialize. One of the main characteristics seen in children with autism is a lack of joint attention. For example, when the parent looks in a specific direction, the child’s gaze normally follows. This is because the child is interested in seeing what has caught his or her parent’s attention. This is called joint or shared attention. Children with ASD are much less likely to exhibit joint attention than their non-autistic peers.

A Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

In most cases, ASD is diagnosed in children older than 3 years of age. ASD can sometimes be diagnosed earlier than 3 years of age, but diagnostic accuracy increases at around 3 years old. Statistics show that ASD diagnoses that are made at or around 14 months of age are about 50% accurate. If your child is between 16 and 30 months old and you suspect he or she may have autism, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) would be a great place to start. You may take the M-CHAT questionnaire here:

A Dietary Change that Has Been Helpful

If your child has already been diagnosed with ASD, the following may be helpful to you. In my experience treating children using natural treatments for autism, adopting a gluten-free (a protein in some grains), casein-free (a protein in milk) diet has been helpful in reducing gastrointestinal and behavioral problems in many children. Adopting a GFCF diet can be difficult because many children with autism tend to be picky eaters and parents find it difficult to further restrict their diets. For many patients, however, I have found that when parents succeed at effectively implementing a GFCF diet, they have been privileged to see great improvements in their children.

A GFCF diet has been helpful in reducing GI and behavioral problems in many cases of #autism. Click To Tweet

Because every child is different and the diet may not help reduce every symptom and every behavior in every child, I recommend that parents construct a list of all symptoms and behaviors that they view as problematic and a description of how often and/or for how long these symptoms persist before starting the diet. After 4-8 weeks of strictly adhering to a GFCF diet (depending on the nature and the severity of the symptoms), I recommend that parents again take an inventory of the symptoms and behaviors as well as how frequently and/or for how long they occur. By comparing both inventories, parents can more accurately evaluate how helpful the GFCF diet has been in their child’s case.

It is extremely important that you strictly avoid all foods that contain gluten and casein during your GFCF trial as this allows time for your child’s intestinal lining to heal if gluten and casein are in fact problematic for him or her. If you do not strictly avoid these foods, you may experience no improvement after your trial leading you to believe that the diet is not helpful in your child’s case when it may in fact be when fully adhered to.

An Individualized Approach

There are many natural therapeutics that have been scientifically and clinically demonstrated to be effective in cases of ASD. If you would like to take a holistic and individualized approach to improving your child’s health, call my office at (404) 532-9548 to inquire about becoming a patient.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Janelle Louis, ND, the author of this blog post.

Author: Dr. Janelle Louis ND
Dr. Louis is a licensed naturopathic doctor and functional medicine practitioner in the Atlanta, Georgia area who helps people struggling with mental health concerns, hormonal dysregulation, autoimmune conditions, and other chronic illnesses to feel more energetic, more vibrant, healthier, and happier.


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If you’re interested in trying a gluten-free, casein-free diet, but need some ideas, check out this free resource Dr. Louis has put together. It contains 5 delicious recipes that your child is likely to enjoy. Each recipe is made with natural ingredients that contain nutrients that have been shown to be specifically helpful in cases of ASD!

gluten free casein free recipes

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