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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gluten and Casein Free: Does It Really Matter?

I keep receiving e-mails about diet, as well as seeing many comments online about the Gluten Free-Casein Free (GFCF) diet.  So many people want to know my opinion on it.  I avoided addressing this topic because of one reason: eating properly is not a topic in which I excel.  Don't get me wrong, I know plenty.  I just choose not to do it, unless I am caring for child on the diet.  But that is something I see often, especially in mothers.  They will do for their families what they won't do for themselves.  

Anyhow, back to the point.  I have many friends whose children are GFCF and have seen many wonderful results.  I also know people who have not been good at maintaining it and they say the benefit is not really that great or not stable.  (I usually point out to them that the benefit is in direct proportion to the adherence they give to the diet...but no one wants to hear that because it means more work.)  The main thing I want to address is the issue I have heard, read, and seen the most.  It is something to the effect that after being on the diet for 1-3 years successfully they decide to try to reintroduce gluten and/or dairy into the child's system.  A couple of weeks later the behavior shifts - anything from severe anger to going to the bathroom in his pants to uncontrolled spitting.  You name it, I've heard of a child doing it.  He is quickly put back on the diet and things don't seem to be helping.  Then there are doctor visits, an up-dose in the medication, perhaps antibiotics or a shot.  Or, the parents try to figure it out on their own and then are relieved in 2-3 weeks when life begins to get back to normal.

Well, here's my take on all of this.  A GFCF diet is for a couple of reasons.  First and most important, allergies.  Second, the medical world will say it is a necessary component, with or without allergies, for "behavior modification with your special needs child."  But really they are the same thing.  Even if he does not test positive for an allergy, chances are he has an adverse reaction to it - which constitutes an allergy.  

Casein is found in milk products that have been pasteurized.  It is a protein that coagulates during the process of pasteurization (which is often done by radiation).  It coagulates just enough to make it nearly impossible for our bodies to digest it.  So, families either add digestive enzymes, or cut out dairy.

My feeling about adding enzymes so you can keep the dairy in is not very good.  But again, I feel like such a hypocrite here that it is hard for me to say anything.  So here is my disclaimer.  I am giving you information and the understanding I have about these topics in this post.  AND I am also going to do better with my own diet after writing this.  

So.  About dairy.  The problem is that even though enzymes are natural and good for you, they don't take care of all the problems caused by having casein in your diet.  After I explain about the gluten, we'll talk about this as a whole.

Gluten in wheat is a naturally occurring substance.  Over the process of time, however, different strains of wheat were brought about through intentional hybridization or through natural selection.  It really doesn't matter how it happened.  The point is that some strains are worse than others.  Over time, however, this mix has caused a mutation of the gluten in the wheat.  The protein that was once useful and absorbed easily by our bodies has become a catalyst for all manner of diseases and body-function issues.  The biggest problem, that I see is the mutation of the gliadin found in gluten.  Gliadin, in it's original form (γ-gliadins) was completely useful and digestible by our bodies.  But the mutation has become something of a gross problem.

Today's forms of gliadin is only soluble in alcohol.  Because gliadin is indigestible the greatest problem starts when the gluten is broken down in the stomach.  Gliadin is able to pass through the immunity filters in the body.  Once through the defenses, the gliadin (there are many different strains of gliadin, but I don't know of any that don't cause this reaction) can "wake-up" immune cells that are similar and cause inflammatory issues as the cells multiply.  Gliadin, by causing the immune cells to multiply, vicariously causes other problems.  Most notable of these is the disturbance of the membrane seal that covers the gap between cells.  When the membrane seal is stressed, if there is not enough liquid in the body, those cells actually break apart. This causes any number of illnesses and aches and pains.  Because gluten is so absorbent, most people who have a high intake of gluten are usually in some level of dehydration.  

In a person with normal hydration levels, it just allows a loosening of the tight junctions which then allow larger solutes through the border membrane cells.  The gliadin absorbs the water and stomach acids and then it begins to produce gasses in the body.  So on top of the eventual cellular breakdown that gliadin can cause, we also have the release of gasses that are not dissimilar from opiates.   

There is an abundance of problems caused in the body by gliadin's many strains.  It would take much more than one post to go over the chemistry of it all and give the official names of all of the strains and the myriad of problems each strain can cause.  Let's just say that gliadin's form today is evil, and leave it at that.  :)

Back to our major problem though.  Some people take enzymes instead of going on the diet.  It seems okay, but here is what you are not told usually.  The enzymes needed to help your body deal with casein are also the enzymes that bond best with gliadin.  When this bonding takes place, it's like giving the gliadin a shot of "super-hero" juice.  The once bad guy becomes a master villain. 

This is no joking matter.  Let's use an analogy.  There is a war going on in our bodies.  The border membrane cells are our first line of defense.  They trigger T-cell production and govern the receptors which attract the T-cells among other things.  T-cells can be our bomb squad.  For the sake of our analogy, although it goes against every grain of my body, we are going to make Iron Man our master villain.
So, the enemy (hybrid foods) comes into our body.  It bumps up against the border of our territory (border membrane cells).  The message sent is that the enemy is present, and we send in our infantry (immune defense sensors as well as digestive fluids).  But, this particular enemy (gluten) has a Trojan Horse.  Each molecule of gluten contains an Iron Man inside of it.  The membrane border has no defense against Iron Man.  So it immediately begins to proliferate, in hopes that numbers will overcome the strength.  This doesn't work.  Iron Man blasts right through, no matter the number of cells.  Then the immune system goes into overload.  The enemy has penetrated our territory and is headed for the capital city (central nervous system).  We need our bombers in here quick!

Problem.  Iron Man knows where the navigation systems for our bombers (T-cells) are housed, and has already taken it out.  Iron Man deploys a troop whose specific mission is to take out the communications tower (receptors [I-TAC] needed to attract the T-cells), making it impossible for the bombers to find the target.  Our defenses panic and begin to send in more and more communications (which are CXCR3 receptors on our side of the lines).  This stimulates a "code red" and we begin to suspect our own men as the traitors (overproduction of MyD88 and Zonulin - which are suspected to be involved in causing Type-I diabetes and many other childhood diseases). 

So, now that total panic and chaos has ensued on our front lines, our internal defenses are blind, and our own men are fighting, Iron man really goes to work.  The "code red" has caused distrust among the men and they begin to keep a safe distance from each other, for fear of being stabbed in the back (loosens the tight junction between cells).  This is the victory for Iron Man.  He sends word back, and suddenly all of the little guys are getting through the front lines.  With the bombers already out flying around and no guidance system online, they aren't sure what to do.  Sometimes they just start dropping bombs on masses that seem to be fighting, hoping to get at least as many of the enemy as they do of their own guys.  Sometimes they just circle and circle, doing nothing in a panic, allowing the enemy to continue the slaughter. 

Okay.  Enough with the analogy, I'm sure you get the picture.  Bottom line?  Gluten in it's orginal form = good.  Gluten with Iron Man inside = mass destruction.  Casein is an unnatural reaction due to processing, therefore our bodies are not born with the enzymes to digest it.  Enzymes to digest the casein = good.  Enzymes to digest casein with the presence of gluten = Iron Man's suit. 

Now, all of this being understood, I hope the mother's who have asked about this diet understand why the chemistry lesson is here.  Many mother's have written and asked about their children who have been on the diet for a year or so and take them off.  Once off, things seem to be fine for a couple of weeks or even a month.  But eventually her child becomes aggressive, angry, begins hitting a lot or biting or throwing things.  He starts being very obstinate where he was sweet tempered before.

The reason for the aggression is he feels so horrible.  He has no way to express that his body just doesn't feel right.  It's like a woman on her cycle with severe just don't feel good and so you are more irritable and quick to lose your temper, etc.  As with a cycle, his body has a constant feeling of being in slight pain, feeling sluggish because he's trying to release the toxins in his body but may be a bit constipated, etc.  

I would first get him back onto that diet immediately.  This is a life-long thing, not something that can be back and forth every couple of years.  During the next couple of weeks make sure he gets more water than normal.  If he is taking any sort of nutritional supplement (I hope he is), I would make certain it is taken as far from food as possible for a more potent effect.  Then just have patience with him and remember how you feel when you're having cramps and add to that having too much energy to sit still and let your body do it's thing.  His body is trying to clean up a war zone, and it won't happen overnight.  There's a big mess that has to be cleared before he can function on normal levels again.

He will become the sweet-tempered, loving child you know once again.  But, as his protector, it is your job to be sure that the enemy is not allowed in until he is old enough physically and/or neurologically to make the decision for himself.  Then he may be wise and listen to the warnings you give, or he may be foolish as I have been and decide the ice cream was just too much fun to give up.  But either way, until he is able to make a decision for himself, as the guardian of his body it is your job to protect him.  It's work, it's annoying, it's a hassle, and it's time consuming...but he's worth it.  Right?

*This is a blog about my own life and my own experience.  If you choose to follow anything written here, you do so without any claim on me for problems or complications that may arise.  I am not a doctor.  I have no degree.  I am not a professional.  This is my perspective and experience, that's all.  If you don't think you should do something on here, then don't.*

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