Nourishing your Body Series: Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Living

rk_april2013_smallThis week we have another installment of the Nourishing your Body series.  Our last post, by Norah, focused on gluten-free living.  This post continues to expand on gluten-free living, but also adds in a new component – casein-free living.  The Gluten-free, Casein-free (GFCF) diet has many wonderful benefits, especially for those with autism.  Before we go any further let me introduce Rachel, our guest blogger this week.  Rachel is married and has one son. After having success with the GFCF Diet, she started, a website dedicated to making it easier to start and succeed with the GFCF Diet. She is also the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Recipe Expert In addition to these endeavors, Rachel recently became certified as a L.E.A.N. Health Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute and offers a 6-week, online nutrition course that is tailored to the GFCF Diet. Finally, as a mom concerned about her family’s nutrition she is a distributor for Juice Plus (, a whole food supplement that bridges the gap between our actual daily intake of fruits and vegetables and the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

I hope you will read below for more information on eating a gluten-free, casein-free diet, the benefits and challenges Rachel and her family have experienced, and check out the recipe that has become one of her favorites.

Can you describe what it means to be gluten-free, casein-free for those readers unfamiliar with it?

Glutens are plant proteins in the subclass monocotyledonae, found in wheat, semolina, bulgur, couscous, wheat berries, graham flour, whole meal flour, groats, malt, oats, barley, rye, triticale, and possibly spelt and kamut. Gluten is elastic and provides the stretchiness necessary in making yeast and non-yeast breads.

Gluten-containing grains are the most common ingredients in breads, pastas, crackers, cookies, cakes, pretzels, matzah, Passover flour, farfel, cream sauces, thickening agents, and breading. Gluten derivatives are also found in malt, modified food starches, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), textured vegetable proteins (TVPs), and dextrin, and they are used in the following, unless labeled ‘gluten-free’: soy sauce, flavorings, instant coffee, some ketchups, mustards, commercial mixes, caked decorations, marshmallow creme, canned soups, deli meats, sausage, and hot dogs. Products labeled as corn bread or rice pasta may contain glutens unless otherwise labeled. Gluten is also found in some of the binders and fillers found in vitamins and medications, and even pastes and glues on envelope flaps.

A wheat-free food is not gluten-free unless all of the gluten sources are avoided. If the label does not state “gluten-free”, then it is likely not gluten-free.

What made you choose the gluten-free, casein-free “diet” in particular? 

In November 2011, I had been researching the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet because I have a son with Autism. My husband and I decided to try the diet very seriously for 6 months to see if we saw any changes in our son. We did find it to be helpful, so we continue to be on it today.

What surprised you most about being gluten-free and casein-free?

The thing that surprised me the most was that although I had gone on the diet to support my son, I found it really helped me a lot! In fact, I later determined that I had both gluten and casein allergies myself. I was able to get off my daily high-powered migraine medicine and have not had a single migraine since going gluten-free!

What are your favorite resources/sources of information on gluten-free, casein-free (how did you learn about it)? 

When people ask me for resources, I usually send them to, (they have research information about the GFCF Diet).

Will you encourage your family to try a gluten-free, casein-free diet? Why or why not?

Yes, I’m raising my 9-year-old son gluten-free, casein-free. It is a struggle at times because he gets frustrated when he can’t have the foods that his friends eat and he feels left out sometimes. However, I do my best to make him special treats he can have and since I eat the same way, it lessens the stress for him I think.

Personally, I think the majority of people would benefit from a gluten-free diet, but they don’t realize it because it is so much a part of our food supply. Until you cut it out completely for a good 6 months, you have no idea how much better you can feel! I also look at parents who fill their children with junk food or chemicals and I am sad for their children. I know my son is getting organic, healthy food and I consider that “spoiling” him sometimes.

What steps do you take to make sure you are getting all of the proper nutrients and vitamins when eating a gluten-free, casein-free diet? 

Since gluten is not an essential vitamin or mineral, we aren’t missing anything by not eating it. However, many people get stressed out about where they would get their calcium from if they did not eat dairy. The interesting thing is that milk and cheese actually provide only small amounts of calcium. You can actually get much more calcium from almonds, avocados, and spinach. We drink Almond Milk and it is much higher in calcium than regular milk.

What would you most like people to know about using a gluten-free, casein-free diet to nourish your body and mind through food?

Not to think of giving up gluten (and/or casein) as depriving yourself of anything. In fact, you are giving your body the benefits of high-quality whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and (gluten-free) whole grains. Eating junk food or fast food is depriving your body of real, healthy food!

What are the biggest challenges in following the gluten-free, casein-free“rules”?

  1. Being an expert label reader. You can never assume any product does not have gluten or casein in it. You always have to check and you need to know all the different ingredient names that gluten uses.
  2. Eating Out – this is especially tough if you are out with people who don’t eat GFCF. However, I usually keep a Larabar in my purse for such emergencies. You can usually always get a salad and baked chicken in a pinch. Thankfully, many more restaurants are getting educated on how to help people avoid food allergens at their establishments.
  3. Social Events – you have to just accept that when you go to family gatherings or holiday meals that you will need to pack in your own food. You can certainly offer to host the event yourself too, and serve more neutral fare (salads, baked chicken, tacos can be made pretty easily).

What are the biggest rewards to using gluten-free, casein-free diet to nourish your body and mind through food?

  1. Not to be gross, but regular bowel movements and a healthy digestive system! No one likes to feel constipated or suffer from diarrhea. It’s nice to have your digestive tract work like it is supposed to work.
  2. Knowing that I’m feeding myself and my family a very healthy diet. When you avoid the chemicals and prepared foods, your thoughts are clearer, your complexion looks great, and you have more energy.
  3. Feeling more in control of what I choose to eat. Yes, this can be stressful sometimes when I can’t find the foods I need (like when we travel). However, having the ability to choose high-quality foods that nourish me and make me feel good is pretty empowering!

Do you have a favorite healthy gluten-free recipe that you would like to share with everyone? 

Yes, I have many! My website has a lot of great recipes on it ( One of my favorites lately is Tuna & Pepper Salad. Just be sure to use wild-caught tuna if you can, because tuna is known to have high levels of mercury.


  • 2 cans light tuna in water
  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • 2 Tbsp gluten-free, dairy-free mayonnaise (adjust to your taste)
  • 2 Tbsp gluten-free dijon mustard
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • romaine lettuce, torn into salad-size pieces


  1. Drain water from tuna. Put tuna into large mixing bowl.
  2. Slice the bell peppers in half and remove seeds and membranes.
  3. Mix mayonnaise, mustard, and celery into the tuna until fully combined.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly.
  5. Create layer of romaine lettuce on each plate.
  6. Set 2 bell pepper halves on top of each bed of lettuce (mix and match colors if you like).
  7. Scoop tuna into bell pepper halves and serve immediately.

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her expertise and experiences with the GFCF Diet.  Just like Norah, Rachel has seen an improvement in her quality of life after making the switch to a GFCF way of nourishing her body.  Living gluten-free isn’t for everyone, but if you think it might help you or a family member take some time to learn more about it and talk with your healthcare provider. Enjoy the recipe and be sure to check out Rachel’s website: