When a child is diagnosed with special needs, it’s natural for parents to start looking for ways to improve their child’s quality of life.
Diet is one area that can be modified relatively easily. Sometimes dietary changes are necessary due to allergies or celiac disease, and sometimes families choose a new diet for overall improvements in health.
Here’s four from a list of the top ten special diets in the world of special needs.
1. Gluten-Free Diet
The gluten-free diet is a treatment for celiac disease, a digestive disorder caused by an immune reaction to gluten. Some people also avoid gluten to improve other health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale; it is also found in oatmeal that is processed with wheat.
2. Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet
The GFCF diet, also known as the Autism Diet, requires the elimination of 2 proteins from a person’s diet: gluten, which is present in wheat, rye, barley and triticale, and casein, which is present is milk and dairy products. The hypothesis behind this practice is that some autistic behaviors are caused by digestive problems, and these proteins are the two most difficult to digest with harmful byproducts in the digestive tract.
It must be noted that this diet is still controversial – the results of randomized, placebo-controlled studies have been mixed. Although there were no harmful effects of the diet, one study found the GFCF diet to be as effective as a placebo in the treatment of autism – in other words, it was ineffective.
3. Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)
The SCD was originally developed as another treatment for celiac disease. Now it is also used as a treatment for Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and IBS. These are all digestive problems that frequently occur with autism and other developmental disabilities. It is far more restrictive than the gluten-free and the Gluten Free Casein Free diet. The SCD eliminate all grains, all lactose (the sugar that occurs naturally in milk and dairy products) and all sucrose (the sugar in most other foods). What is allowed? Eggs, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.
4. GAPS Diet
Named for the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, this diet is even more restrictive than the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Many legumes are banned from this diet, in addition to potatoes and yams. Dr. Campbell-McBride also advocates the use of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that colonize the human intestines. In her private practice, Dr. Campbell-McBride has noted a clear connection between digestive problems and neurological or psychological problems, so this diet is a treatment for those interconnected health issues.
5. Body Ecology Diet
Continuing with the idea of re-colonizing beneficial bacteria in the intestines, the Body Ecology Diet aims to treat many types of health problems and behavior problems by including more probiotic foods and reducing the amount of sugars consumed. Coconut kefir is one example of a food with live bacterial cultures that is recommended for this diet.
6. Feingold Diet
This diet is named for a physician who studied the connection between diet and behavior starting in the 1960s. He found that behavior and attention improved when artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives were removed completely from a person’s diet. He also found that behavior improved when aspirin and foods containing salicylates were removed.