>The Milky Way….


When we first started on the GFCF diet 2.5 years ago, the choice for rice milk in Kuala Lumpur was extremely limited. We could only find Pacific Rice Milk, and only in certain expatriate supermarkets. The price at RM10.90 per 1 litre box was very high, at that time Maya drank more than 1 litre of milk a day. So we calculated that we spent at least RM327 per month on just milk alone. However, some children have medical conditions that require them to be on specialised infant formulas, the price of their formulas are pretty costly too. Yes, milk is a big topic for us. Some parents are fortunate enough that their Autistic child is old enough to no longer drink milk, however many of us have young children who still demand milk from a bottle. 
Eliminating casein is extremely beneficial to a child with Autism, ADHD, even Asthma and Allergies. There are many research and reports supporting the GFCF diet, please see here http://gfcf-diet.talkaboutcuringautism.org/dietary-research-in-asd.htm Also, check out http://www.talkaboutcuringautism.org, there is a huge repository of information on the GFCF diet.  There are many studies and report repudiating the efficacy of the GFCF diet in Autism, but there are equally just as many studies proving the effectiveness. It is child specific, some kids show improvement on the diet, some don’t. However, it is worth your while to try the diet for a few months 100% at least once. 
Many parents when first hearing about the gluten and casein intolerance, they mentioned that their child tested negative for milk allergies. This usually refers to the standard IgE mediated allergy to milk, usually lactose in milk. Yes, most of ASD kids test negative, so did my daughters. However, in Autism, we are referring to IgG mediated intolerance to casein ie. the proteins in milk. Many many children tested very high intolerance to casein in their IgG intolerance test. Before you rush off and demand the IgG test for your child, take note that most mainstream doctors are not aware of this test as it is not available in local labs. I suggest you consult with a biomedical doctor. Be prepared to do the diet, otherwise it is a waste of time and money to do the IgG test and when the report comes back positive, you still don’t want to do the diet. Don’t do the test if you are not prepared to do the work! Some kids test no or very low intolerance to casein and gluten, however they are still recommended to do the diet and observe for any clinical improvements. There are many other immunological implications to consider when an ASD child tests low intolerance.
Better yet, start the diet and observe for any improvements within the next 1 month. Casein takes 3 weeks to leave the body, however many biomed doctors say that you will not notice any improvements until at least 3-6 months. But, each child is unique. Maya showed improvement within 1 week, a few children finally slept through the night within the first 1 week of the GFCF diet. Some children show improved eye contact, less tantrums and mood swings, improved bowel function, even reduction in eczema and rashes within a few days. Some children don’t seem to show any improvements even months later. But some report that when they reintroduced casein, they notice some regression. Please see here for some success stories on the diet  http://www.gfcfdiet.com/successstories.htm  However, Autism is a complex disorder. Not every child will show the same amount of progress just by eliminating reactive foods. For some kids, eliminating casein and gluten is nothing short of miraculous, for other kids diet is not their main issue.
When we’re talking about Autism, you have to take into account the staggering cost of behavioral therapy, special diet, supplements, consultations and many more. The added cost of expensive milk is another burden we face. Yes, Autism is insanely costly, most families cannot afford to treat their special-needs child. Many of our kids mine included, were addicted to cow’s milk or traditional milk formulas. The purpose of introducing rice milk is purely as a substitute to wean them off dairy and casein. Rice milk in itself or rice in general doesn’t give us the same amount of nutrients that normal milk provides, it’s basically empty calories. But many children can tolerate and digest rice well, though some kids who require the Specific Carbohydrate Diet would need to drink Almond or Hazelnut Milk. One parent I know had to source for Quinoa milk as their child was intolerant to rice, almonds and hazelnut. However, hopefully as our child’s addiction to casein tapers off and when they are old enough to no longer need milk from a bottle, we can look forward to a day without buying rice milk. 
One of the main concerns for parents when first eliminating milk, cheese and butter from their child’s diet is the lack of calcium. But, it’s really not a big deal because firstly, dairy milk is not the only source of calcium in a healthy balanced diet. Many Asian cultures do not have dairy cows or rear goats for milk, so where do their calcium intake comes from? In biomedical intervention, it is a standard practice to give Calcium supplementation anyway. Even for adults and children who eat and drink dairy milk products regularly, some like our ASD children experience malabsorption. Meaning, they are not absorbing the nutrients into their body. One of the main reasons for teeth grinding at night is calcium deficiency. So parents, take note. Even though we give our girls Rice Milk Enriched with Calcium, they still receive 1000mg of Calcium Powder by Kirkman’s Labs daily.
Back in the days when first starting the GFCF diet, we were limited to only 1 choice. Stock was extremely limited as well. My husband and I would scour the city looking for Rice Milk, we would also print out photos and info of certain brands of milk we wanted our favourite supermarket to bring in. We wanted to try other brands that tasted better, were creamier, had added calcium and organic. We also wanted to try Almond and Hazelnut milk. 
Gradually, more choices were available. Some we liked such as Aussie Dreams Pure Harvest Organic Rice Milk Calcium Enriched. This was slightly creamier compared to Pacific and we liked that it had added calcium, though for some kids it may not be suitable as the calcium was derived from seaweed sources.  
Some amazing parents take the effort to make home-made rice milk themselves. You can
even make home-made almond milk if you prefer. But when I looked at the cost of buying raw almonds, it would end up being more expensive and much more time consuming to make my own almond milk. However, the cost for rice milk may be more economical. You can find many recipe variations easily on the Net, however I personally do not have the time or patience to perfect the formulation to the right consistency that my girls would like. Also, you would need to make it daily, and I do prefer the convenience of having prepackaged rice milk. 
At the moment, I have 4 types of milk at home. Having used Aussie Dreams Pure Harvest Organic Rice Milk Enriched with Calcium, we are now trying to rotate to Australia’s Own Organic. Personally, I try to use Organic whenever possible. I also bought some Hazelnut Milk primarily for cooking and baking, I love the slight nutty taste. I also stocked up on small packs of Rice Dream Vanilla Rice Milk whenever I’m at Brown Rice Paradise in Singapore. These little 8oz packs come in handy when going out, I don’t have to worry about keeping it chilled and I can just pour it into the bottle whenever needed.
Yes, they are still within the RM10-RM13 per litre range, however many resourceful parents buy in bulk directly from the distributor and get additional discounts. Some like me, I still prefer to buy from my local retailer, I have a standard order and they are happy to give us a small discount. This worked out better for us as the shop is conveniently close to our home. If we buy direct from the distributor even at wholesale prices, their warehouses are usually so far away from where I live. We would have to drive at least 45 minutes one-way just to get there. When you add up the 1.5 hour drive, the petrol, the tolls and traffic, the discount was just not attractive for us. Though I understand some distributors offer free delivery if you order RM300 and above. I also prefer not to buy in bulk, whenever I buy in too large an amount, that’s when my girls decide that they no longer like that particular brand of milk. Go figure.
Now, there are many choices available in Kuala Lumpur alone. All of the milks shown here are available in either Village Grocer in Bangsar Village 1, Cold Storage Solaris or Cold Storage Bangsar Shopping Centre. Body Basics in BSC and some Vitacare pharmacies carries rice milk too.  Since I don’t buy in bulk from the distributors, I don’t have their contact details. But, be proactive and get the best prices you can. 
I came across Harvey Fresh Lactose Free Milk. Please take note that this is cow milk where the lactose has been extracted. Lactose is the sugars in milk, lactose-free milk doesn’t equate to casein-free. Casein is the protein in milk, in ASD kids, we need to eliminate casein rather than lactose. Casein is present in all products derived from cows or goat’s milk. So in this instance, Lactose Free Milk is not suitable for a child on the GFCF diet. Take note that many ASD children cannot tolerate soy milk, soya bean milk or anything soy-derived. Also, Oat Milk is not suitable. Though it is casein-free, oats are not recommended for the gluten-free diet. Goats milk is slightly lower in casein proteins compared to cows milk, however it is not suitable for the GFCF diet. 
In Hong Kong, I love to shop at Little Giant, the choices there are amazing. I love the GFCF canned whipped cream and especially MimicCream, a GFCF cream substitute made of almonds and cashewnuts. I use them for creamy soups, desserts and other recipes that requires cream. In a pinch, I have used coconut cream at times. Little Giant also carries EcoMilk Powdered Rice Milk. They can deliver overseas, please contact them directly for details  http://www.littlegiant.com.hk/en_index.php
In Singapore, you can find GFCF ice cream at Market Place Supermarket in Tanglin Mall. Rice Dreams brand has chocolate and vanilla ice creams, it is not as creamy  as typical ice cream. The Tofutti Vanilla ice cream is the best GFCF ice cream I’ve tasted so far. Please take note that many packaged and frozen foods do contain soy proteins, additives and preservatives. Depending on your child’s dietary requirements, packaged and frozen foods should be consumed in moderation. 
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please take note that most children will refuse to drink rice milk when given whole for the first time. The taste and lack of creaminess is obvious. So, the key here is gradual transition- mix 1/4 rice milk  + 3/4 regular milk/formula. Once he is used to the taste, gradually adjust the mix eg. 1/2 rice milk + 1/2 regular milk. Over 2 weeks, most parents can successfully wean their child fully off dairy milk. Some kids with very sensitive taste buds needs to go even slower. A parent said that she had to mix 1/8 rice milk + 7/8 regular milk and change the ratio every 4 days. But with patience and perseverance, she managed to fully convert to rice milk within 3-4 weeks. Yes, during the transition period, they will reject the bottle at times. Yes, you will end up like me crying over spilt expensive milk. And some kids will experience withdrawal symptoms. But, please try, consistency and patience is the key.
Now in KL, you can find Pacific Rice Milk (Original & Vanilla), Pacific Almond Milk, Pacific Hazelnut Milk, Aussie Dreams Pure Harvest Rice Milk (Original & Calcium Enriched), Rice Dreams (Vanilla & Chocolate, Australia’s Own Organic Rice Milk and Freedom Foods So Natural Rice Milk. We are so spoilt for choice now, what a big difference to 2 years ago. Doing the GFCF diet is no longer as difficult as it used to be

8 thoughts on “>The Milky Way….

  1. Pingback: GFCF in Malaysia 2011 | Spectrum Mum in Malaysia

  2. Hi Marissa,
    many thanks for this excellently written article.
    my 21mth old daughter is a probable ASD,we are bringing her to see a dev Peds in the nxt few wks. hope u don’t mind attending to my queries:
    1) i have read claims that Pediasure (which my daughter is on) is mainly whey protein and almost zero(?) in casein.don’t think this is printed on its tin though. if its true, can this be considered a GFCF (it is gluten free btw).
    2) since we are from Trg,do you know if its easy to get this milk or other GFCF diets product here in this part of the country?

    many2 thanks again. i will be another of your avid followers.


  3. Thank you so much for the info, so the pacific almond milk is also available at bv village grocer and the rest of the supermarkets you mentioned above?

  4. Hi Marissa, I have a 2-year-old son who was recently diagnosed with Moderate Autism and ADHD. I just started his diet on GFCF and he seems to like it. I asked my sister-in-law to buy list of rice milk brands that you suggested and she said that some of them are not suitable for kids under the age of 5. If it’s true, which brands are safe for my little boy?

    • Hi Farah, rice milk does not offer any nutritional benefits. At this age, kids are supposed to get the bulk of their nutritional needs from food. The rice milk is just as a replacement for children who still demand a bottle. You can substitute with Camel milk instead which has wonderful healing properties and is nutritious. You can find it at Bangsar Village Grocer. Otherwise, do contact Gr8terGud if you are outside of KL. https://www.facebook.com/Gr8tergud

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