My sister and I hit up Mount Washington Whole Foods and the Health Concern in Towson for gluten-free stuff. Cathy wanted me along since I had done some research on this very topic (NB: I'm still playing with the idea of some allergen-free crumb cake again). The reason? My neice has autism, and much research suggests that a person with autism can benefit from a gluten-free diet. AutismWeb.com summarizes the lowdown for parents interested in fighting autism with allergen-free food:
According to one theory, some people with autism spectrum disorders cannot properly digest gluten and casein, which form peptides, or substances that act like opiates in their bodies. The peptides then alter the person's behavior, perceptions, and responses to his environment. Some scientists now believe that peptides trigger an unusual immune system response in certain people. Research in the U.S. and Europe has found peptides in the urine of a significant number of children with autism. A doctor can order a urinary peptide test to see if proteins are being digested properly.Changing the diet of children with autism is particularly difficult due to their often perseverative nature. This will often result in a very limited diet - for example, there are only a few key foods that my niece will eat, such as pizza, chicken nuggets and pancakes. She refuses to eat much else, no matter what my sister offers her. It's easier said than done to say "Well just make her eat it!" This sort of thing is often said by people who don't have autistic children.
Studies are underway to examine the effectiveness of the GFCF diet, which has not gained widespread acceptance in the medical community. One recent study found behavioral improvements in children on a GFCF diet, while another study found no significant effects from the diet.
So Cathy's line of attack is to make gluten-free versions of those foods that her daughter doesn't reject.
She bought all kinds of flours, including cake mixes and brownie mixes, pancake mixes and pizza crust mixes, tapioca and brown rice flours and xanthan gum. Again remember, as the helpful customer at WF reminded us, that the best brown rice flour comes from Authentic Foods, because it's ground really fine. Arrowhead Mills' on the other hand regularly makes for a gritty baked good.
Cathy left a phone message for me today: she made gluten-free pancakes for my niece. At first it looked like she wouldn't eat them, so Cathy sadly put them in the fridge. Her daughter said, "No, please," and wanted to finish them. Hopefully this trend continues, and hopefully the gluten-free diet will actually help!