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Well-known nutritional diets:

Gerson diet
The Gerson diet is a diet devised by Dr. Max Gerson (1881 - 1959).

Gerson believed that cancer and other degenerative and autoimmune diseases are caused by chronic malfunctions in cell metabolism, and that they can be effectively treated by restoring proper cell functioning through a diet which is high in potassium and low in sodium. He advised a diet of fresh vegetables and fruit, with minimum cooking and ideally without animal or dairy products, fats, or sugars.

The diet is (perhaps not remarkably) similar to the change in eating patterns recommended by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

Gluten-free, casein-free diet
Many parents of children with autism have reported that a gluten-free casein-free diet helps their children. According to the theory, some children are unable to digest the protein in many cereals (gluten) or in milk (casein) completely.

Theory
The molecular structure of the partially undigested proteins, known as peptides, resemble opiates. It is thought that such peptides have an effect much like opiates in the brain and nervous system. From this premise it follows that long term exposure to these opiate peptides can have many damaging effects on the developing brain and also affects behavior, just as any narcotic would.

The opioid peptides involved are identified as casomorphines from casein, and gluten exorphines and gliadorphin from gluten.

Reported effects
Many parents report that removing casein and gluten from their child's diet increases eye contact, attention span, and general mood while decreasing problems like tantrums, stimming and aggression. Many find that providing a diet free of casein and gluten aids children in successfully learning daily living skills like dressing, using the toilet as well as improving coordination and imaginative play activities. In a small number of cases, such dietary changes have resulted in dramatic improvements, enabling the child to attend mainstream educational programs in a matter of months.

Practical implementation
Beginning the diet can be difficult but not impossible. One of the biggest obstacles parents face is that individuals needing gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diets often crave these foods much the same as an addict. In fact, parents often report withdrawal symptoms when gluten and casein are eliminated that are similar to addicts experiencing withdrawal from narcotic drugs.

Many parents worry about removing wheat and dairy because these foods are the only ones their child will eat, and because prevailing attitudes in western culture consider them an essential staple. However, children who self-limit their foods like this often show remarkable improvement once a GFCF diet is underway. Many families have found from experience that their children's menu options actually increase after the effects of eating gluten and casein have subsided.

Some people experience immediate improvement although it may take as long as six months for gluten to clear out of the system and one month for casein to clear. Advocates of the diet recommend trying it for at least a year as it can take this long for some children to show improvement. The diet affects changes in the body at a cellular level and promotes healing of the stomach and intestinal lining, both of which can take time.

Although this diet has been questioned by the medical community, many doctors and university research centers are advocating the use of this intervention for autistic children, especially after seeing results first-hand. Doctors who work with DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) are supportive of interventions such as the GFCF diet.

Prevalence
Although food sensitivites have been known about for decades they are rarely given consideration in diagnosis, therapy and recovery efforts. The specifics of the GFCF diet were introduced to the general public through the combined publications of two women who researched interventions and crusaded for autism recovery. Information about the GFCF diet has since spread around the world and has helped thousands of families cope with this puzzling disorder.

The GFCF diet has been supplemented with a number of new innovations. These include incorporation of the Feingold diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, diets with reduced salicylates and phenols, etc.

There are as yet few studies that prove or disprove the GFCF diet or other diets, but there is growing acceptance in the medical community that restrictive diets affect pediatric and adolescent behavior.

Other indications
Those suffering from celiac disease and/or dermatitis herpetiformis are instructed to avoid all forms of gluten, though their metabolic disorders are different from those with autism. There are anecdoctal reports of this diet also being beneficial to sufferers of multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, and attention deficit disorder.

The Graham Diet
The Graham Diet was invented around 1829 by Sylvester Graham, a self proclaimed "Physiological Reformer". It was based mainly on whole wheat and high fiber, and excluded meat, butter, and spices all together. He believed that adhering to the diet would prevent people from having impure thoughts and in turn would stop masturbation (thought by Graham to be a catalyst for blindness) among other things. He was a prolific writer and speaker for his cause which was sternly opposed to "bad habits" of the body and mind. During the 1830's the diet had a moderate response from the mostly puritanical faction of the American public, so much so that at one point it was strictly implemented on students of Oberlin College by David Campbell (a disciple of Graham's). During the period in which it was enforced some rebellious students took it upon themselves to eat off of campus for nourishment, and at one point a Professor was fired for refusing to stop bringing his own spices for use with his meals. It was eventually renounced by the college in 1841 following a public outcry. However the Graham cracker invented by its namesake as a staple for the diet, is one of the only lasting reminders of this unhealthy nutriment.

 

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