About the GFCF diet

I had written this as a reply to Katy’s post a couple of days ago but just now had a chance to post it. I couldn’t post it on her blog because it was too long, so I figured I’d post it here. Katy is thinking about starting a special diet for her son Charlie and wanted to get some feedback from different people, so this was my reply:

This is a very extensive topic and requires a lot of education so I thought maybe I’d share a little bit about how we came to understand the relationship between health, development, and diet.

About a year ago I picked up Jenny McCartney’s book about her autistic son. She talks about curing autism with diet and she made clear correlations between the gut and the brain. I’ll try to simplify, but in a nutshell, the proteins in milk and wheat are quite large. When the milk/wheat is digested, it breaks down into smaller components, and the peptides that you get for them are very large. These large peptides have a tendency to perforate tiny holes in the intestines, causing something called “leaky gut”. Through these tiny holes, toxins, peptides, and other elements escape into the bloodstream. The immune system sees them as “offenders” as they are ‘out of context’ – they’re supposed to be in the digestive tract, not floating around in the blood stream. So the immunoglobulins (IgG) attack those substances, causing an allergic reaction. This allergic reaction releases histamine, which is a neurotransmitter that prevents the creation of other neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin, which are essential for proper brain development.

Another thing that happens is some of those peptides travel to the brain and in the brain they function like an opiate (like the drug opium) causing a hazy, foggy feeling that prevents proper brain processing and interaction (like being drugged).

Also, if there is constant inflammation, the immune system is always in overdrive, which in and of itself has serious consequences. Eventually they become immuno-suppresed, which leads to other problems.

Also, substances like milk and wheat feed fungus like candida, which releases a nasty toxin into the bloodstream.

I am trying to keep it simple so in a nutshell, wheat and milk are very difficult to process, even for healthy people, and can wreak havoc on children that already have compromised central nervous systems.

There are many books / studies talking about the connection between the gut and the brain. Without a heatlhy gut the brain is functioning at a much lower rate. That was my next step. Even though Nathan has CP, not autism, I made the connection between “compromised nervous system” and gut and a light went off in my head.

In the autism world they recommend the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet (free of milk and wheat). That seemed like my next logical step as they see miraculous recoveries in children with autism using this diet. Even though the symptoms in autism and CP are quite different, they are both CNS disorders so I figured that it was a good connection.

We went cold turkey. One day Nathan was eating cheese, chocolate, milk, and whatever we wanted. The next day he couldn’t have any of it. He had a rough couple of days but we stuck to it and on his 4th day he was okay with the new diet.

We cook everything from scratch. We don’t use anything with preservatives, or anything that may contain hidden traces of milk or wheat. Breakfast tends to be GFCF cereal (with rice milk) or GFCF pancakes (these are sold pre-mixed at health food stores). Lunch is usually vegetables, a grain like brown rice, quinoa, or millet, and a protein (fish, chicken or beef). We buy everything organic for him. Dinner is usually something similar to lunch. He gets 2 snacks which are usually fruit, or carrots, or millet with avocado, or rice cakes, or oatmeal. Nathan can’t chew well so everything is pureed.

The first 3 months were tough because he was detoxing. He was sick a lot. But then we added some of the same supplements used in the autism world (B vitamins, multi-vitamins, etc) and his immune system recovered. Starting Feb 09, Nathan has only been sick twice for a couple of days, he has much more energy, he is more connected, he understands more, he is trying to do new things, he looks rosy and radiates health, he is stronger. Just a couple of weeks ago I was able to see the true power of the diet. We had to break the diet because we are in a foreign country and it took us a little while to figure things out. So for 2 days he was allowed milk and wheat. On the 3rd day Nathan was pale, spacey, very low energy, and irritable. I could see instantly the poor effect these foods had in him. We want back to the diet and after 4 days of detoxing he was back to being connected, healthy, and happy again.

I cannot recommend cutting out milk and wheat enough, our kids have enough going on and don’t need more obstacles to their development.

Here are a few old posts I’ve written on the subject:





  1. You are missing one thing: mixing proteins with carbs. Remind me to talk about this next time we meet 🙂

    The rest is perfect, great ‘resumen’. We also went cold turkey and for about 6 months Rocio went into heavy detoxing. Her neck was full with red points wich we treated succesfully with traumeel.

  2. http://Cybell says

    ¡¡oh!!,Marcela grán post encuentro muy interesante el tema,creo que integraré esta dieta con Catalina,un abrazo.

  3. Sonia, it’d be great if you shared a little bit about your experiences with mixing proteins and carbs and also why you cut out meat with Rocio!

    Cybell, that’s wonderful!!! I think it’ll be really good for princess Catita!!!

  4. Well… Let’s see if I can explain it in english.
    Proteins and carbs needs different stomach pH, one is acid and the other needs ‘basic’ (high and low). So… If you mix both, the body start digesting first the carbs, lows the pH and perform digestion for 1 or 2 hours. Meanwhile, the proteins are waiting… Once it’s done with the carbs, it has to rise the ph (working EXTRA) and then start digesting them.

    One meal may last as long as 10 hours to diggest. If you add desert and yet another meal 4 hours later… You are just not able to absorbe the nutrients of the aliments.

    Plus, you are making your body work extra hard and probably suffering from reflux.

  5. does the word ‘aliments’ even exist? 😀

  6. http://Kenia says

    De lo que dice Sonia: Siempre escuché que no era bueno (incluso para personas que quieren adelgazar simplemente) el mezclar el carbohidrato con la proteína,de hecho inteto hace mucho no hacerlo (sin ser muy cuadriculada, pero esto es cierto). luego, lo de la carne casi mas me pega a una filosofía de vida que a que sea toda dañina (por favor Sonia rectifícame) , sobre todo si es pescado azul, lo veo muy important en la dieta en general y en los niños en particular. Y por último la carne (sabiendo su origen) que se coma al menos una vez o dos en toda la semana. y hay algo que necesitaría me acalrases Marcela. Estoy hace mucho tiempo queriendo excluir la leche de la dieta mia y de mi hija, pero confiezo me da mucho miedo. tenemos metido el que es importante desde que nacimos, entonces como le damos todo el aporte de calcio???. Se elimina TODOS sus derivados (queso, mantequilla, yogures????) o es solo la leche???. Por favor me puedes aclarar esto?

  7. Sonia – thanks for the explanation! I had no idea and we’ve been mixing carbs and proteins for a long time! Today was our first day without mixing. Question – does protein include eggs, or just beef, chicken, and fish? I know Rocio is vegan – how do you get enough protein in her? I am wanting to get Nathan fully vegan but have to figure out the protein part. At home I give him a protein powder when I have him on G-therapy as he can’t eat meat, but I am wondering if there is a better way. Muchas Gracias!!!!

  8. Kenia – Como me dijo Sonia hace un par de dias cuando conversabamos sobre el tema – la leche de vaca es la PEOR fuente de calcio que existe! El calcio existe en muchas verduras y alimentos saludables. Igual si te da nervio no darle leche, le puedes dar un suplemento. Lo ideal es un suplemento liquido de calcio con magnesio (necesitas magnesio para digerir calcio). Yo a Nathan le doy tambien leche de arroz que le adicionan calcio. Yo creo que la campana por la leche es uno de esos errores garrafales que a veces cometemos como sociedad – como usar asbestos, como la pollucion del aire y de las aguas, etc. No nos damos cuenta hasta que es muy tarde. Pero ya hay mas y mas pruebas que la leche de vaca es un desastre. Y eso que ni siquiera hable sobre el hecho que la mayoria de la leche de vaca esta repleta de hormonas y antibioticos que le dan a las vacas para que produzcan mas y mas leche. En fin – un desastre absoluto. Si, tienes que eliminar TODOS los derivados – queso, mantequilla, yogures. Nosotros busacmos alternativas – margarina en vez de mantequilla, queso de chivo o de soya (no es ideal, pero si te mueres de gana por queso, estas dos son menos peor que productos con leche de vaca), etc. Suerte, ojala les vaya bien si deciden dejar la leche!! Un abrazo!

  9. Kenia: pero no se puede actuar por medio!! Busca informacion, la leche de vaca es MUY MUY mala y NO es la mejor fuente de calcio. Cuando la fuente de calcio es natural, los requerimientos son mucho menores porque tienen mejor absorcion.

    Marcela: si, that includes ALL proteins 🙂 Las proteinas de Rocio son de fuente vegetal: legumbres 3 días de la semana, quínoa (la MEJOR proteína que existe) 2 veces a la semana. Luego come 1 día arroz integral y 2 días algas marinas, que son EXCELENTES para el organismo. En EEUU creo que no venden, podrías aprovechar en Chile! Luche y Cochayuyo, venden en la tostaduria de la que te hable ayer o en el mercado chino de al lado.

    DATO: Bruno, quien también sigue esta dieta, recientemente se hizo exámenes y tenia EXCESO de proteínas. Para que vean que esta dieta pobre no es 😉

  10. Sonia, do you think you can write a post about the diet that you give Rocio? Then maybe I can translate it and we can post it in your English blog, and then we can link to it from here? I have been trying to follow your guidelines and I can already see a difference!

  11. Really?? That is GREAT!

    This week I have a post comming upon diet and epilepsy, so it would be good to follow with a post specific about the diet.

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