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Could a change in diet help your child's autism?

Marijke Vroomen Durning is a Montreal-based health writer who began her professional career as a registered nurse and has also worked as a first aid instructor. She enjoys the challenge of providing important health information in a way ...

Chef Braux shares his diet ideas

From SheKnows Canada
Chef, nutri-therapist and author Alain Braux specializes in gluten-free and dairy-free cuisine. Here he shares with us the diet he recommends for autistic children.
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Chef Braux shares his diet ideas

Chef, nutri-therapist and author Alain Braux specializes in gluten-free and dairy-free cuisine. Here he shares with us the diet he recommends for autistic children.

Following his belief in nutrition therapy and his experience in helping families with autistic children, Braux believes that providing a gluten- and dairy-free diet to autistic children can help reduce autistic behaviours, allowing children to develop and learn as they should.

Leaky gut

Although it has not yet been proven, some people believe that many children with autism have "leaky gut syndrome." The syndrome is thought to allow proteins (gliadin and casein) from wheat and dairy products to pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream rather than being digested properly in the intestines. The theory is that the proteins then turn into opioid peptides, which attach to opiate receptors. In turn, this can cause behaviours (extreme sensory reactions, for example) similar to someone who's taken an opioid drug.

Braux believes that by eliminating gluten and dairy from a child's diet, parents eliminate the proteins, which removes the problem of a leaky gut. However, Braux also believes that soy should not be part of the diet. "More recently, it has been found that early introduction of soy in the child's diet through formula can have similar effects [as gluten and protein]," he told SheKnows. "Diet research on GFCF [gluten-free and casein-free] alone showed 65 per cent of ASD children improved, but research on GFCFSF [including soy] showed 91 per cent improved."

Learn more about gluten-free cooking >>

Eliminating foods

Food allergies should always be ruled out if there are suspected autistic behaviours, says Braux. If any allergies show up, those foods should be eliminated from the child's diet as soon as possible.

Following Braux's diet involves more than eliminating gluten and dairy. He says the first step is to avoid all industrial, packaged and processed foods. "They typically contain all sorts of chemicals, additives, preservatives and artificial colourings that will affect your child's brain in a bad way [excitotoxins]. The only exception to that rule would be certified-organic, flash-frozen food and vegetables."

Other foods to avoid include the following:

  • Soft drinks or sodas
  • Highly sweetened drinks, like sweet tea and lemonade
  • Energy drinks
  • Genetically engineered (GE) food or genetically modified organisms (GEOs)

Foods that are best

With so many foods in the "don't eat" category, it might seem as if there aren't many foods left to choose from, but this isn't true. "It's quite simple, really," says Braux. "Stay with grass-fed beef, bison and pigs [not feedlot-raised animals loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics]; pasture-raised chicken and eggs [not cage-bound poultry]; line-caught, [not farm-raised] fresh fish; organic fruits and vegetables. It's not the cheapest way to eat, but I believe strongly that it is better to spend a little more money right now to grow healthy children than buy cheap industrial food that will make them sick for the rest of their life."

want more?

Braux has written a cookbook for people who want to live gluten- and dairy-free: Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food. He is also the author of Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day and How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food. A practical guide.


More healthy eating tips

Tips for a healthier holiday from chef Alain Braux
The health benefits of going vegan
Homemade baby foods

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