Q&A: The Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) Diet

An Interview With Cecillia Sun, Registered Dietitian

Interview by Tao Wang, FCSN Voices Reporter

Graphics by Megan Kellogg, FCSN Voices Graphic Artist

FCSN Voices has recently initiated a series of interviews with Cecillia Sun, Registered Dietitian (RD), on the important topics related to nutrition for children with special needs. In this interview, Cecilia discusses the concerns of the GFCF Diet. A gluten-free, casein-free diet is often called a GFCF diet. Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley, and casein is contained in dairy products. A GFCF diet eating plan avoids foods that contain gluten and casein. Some professionals and parents believe that eliminating gluten and/or casein may help to change symptoms and behaviors of autism.

Gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet is an elimination diet that involves the removal of certain proteins from the normal diet, such as gluten and casein. What do you think about the GFCF diet?

Unfortunately, there is no strong medical evidence that shows the beneficial effect of GFCF diet to children with special needs. If the child has a lactose intolerance, a casein-free diet is needed to manage gastrointestinal distress. If a child has Celiac disease, then the child needs a gluten-free diet. The GFCF diet, as you mentioned, is an elimination diet and removes certain proteins from food. The downside of the GFCF diet is increased risk for nutrient deficiency, especially for those picky eaters. The GFCF diet can also increase risk of social isolation. For example, a child is on a special GFCF diet, and could not eat many food items. When having a party with other kids, it is more difficult to manage food, possibly leading to the fact that the child does not want to be socialized. The GFCF diet is also costly. The main concern is lack of strong medical evidence to support the beneficial effects of the GFCF diet.

Any advice for parents who are interested in exploring diet management as part of autism treatment?

If parents want to try the GFCF diet for their kids, I highly recommend parents to consult with medical doctors and dietitians who specialize in GFCF diets and make a sound plan. Please do not just rely on internet information.

Are there any other suggestions that you would like to share with FCSN parents?

Do not put our children at higher risk for trying out the GFCF diet without consulting with medical and dietetic professionals. 


Cecillia has been a RD for over 30 years, working in various medical fields and institutions. She has been a clinical dietitian in the Cardiac Rehab, ICU/ CCU, Obstetric/Pediatric, and surgical/oncology departments of various hospitals. She has assisted bariatric physicians, doctors who specialize in helping patients lose weight with surgical intervention. She was a dietitian consultant for Regional Center of East Bay (RCEB). Currently Cecillia is a level 3 renal dietitian at Davita Dialysis Center. Cecillia received her B.S. degree from University of Georgia and her M.S. degree in Nutrition Science from the University of New Haven. 

 

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