The history of the use of special diets (dietetics) can be traced as far back as the writings of Homer, Plato and Hippocrates in ancient Greece. For example, Hippocrates is reported to have said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
According to the British Dietetic Association website, accessed on 27 September 2016,
“The earliest dietary observations in hospitals go back to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1687. Evidence of the first therapeutic diet comes from the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, in 1837 when observers noted 'the diet which suffering and exhausted nature sometimes requires after operations (mutton chops)'. However dietetics really started from the middle of the nineteenth century when Florence Nightingale observed the importance of diet and nutrition to convalescence from the wars at that time.”
The history of particular diets varies from diet to diet. For example, the specific carbohydrate diet was originally developed in the 1950's by Dr. Haas, a New York pediatrician, as a diet for coeliac disease. It was subsequently taken up and promoted by Elaine Gottschall, a New Jersey biochemist, to treat her daughter, who suffered from ulcerative colitis. The diet has since been taken up as a treatment for other conditions, including autism.
The gluten-free, casein-free diet, on the other hand, was developed in the early 1980s. A number of researchers, including Herman and Panksepp, noted the similarities between the effects of opioids and the symptoms of autism. Panksepp suggested that people on the autism spectrum might have high levels of opioids in their central nervous systems caused by undigested peptides. Thereafter some professionals and parents began to use the gluten-free casein-free diet in order to eliminate these peptides.