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Food Intolerance, Symptoms and the Casein and Gluten Free Diet.
Food sensitivities and intolerances result from poor digestion or absorption of specific foods. These immunoglobulin G (IgG) reactions can be to a wider of foods such as milk, wheat, gluten, soy and salicylates. Intolerances can also be caused ny by-products of abnormal digestion including opiate peptides from milk and gluten. Food intolerance reactions are delayed and often it is not obvious what is causing the problem making it hard to stop. The immune cells responsible for allergic responses are called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Unlike intolerance reactions allergies trigger the realise of histamine and reactions are obvious and happen quickly after the food is consumed. Severe food allergies can be life threatening but the reactions themselves do not have a directly negative effect on the brain.
Keeping a food diary can help to figure out what is causing food intolerance symptoms. Symptoms can vary and include pretty much every aspect of the body. People often crave the foods they are in fact intolerant too. Other symptoms may include:
Behavioural/psychological - decreased attention span, hyperactivity, impulsivity, mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, withdrawal and obsessive behaviours
Neurological – headaches, ringing ears and dizziness
Skin – eczema, rashes, hives and dark circles around the eyes
Digestion – stomach aches, loose stools/diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. Some people alternate between constipation and diarrhoea.
Respiratory – excessive mucus, wheezing, worsening of existing asthma
Cardiovascular – changes in pulse rate and heart beat
In normal digestion, the small intestine breaks down food into it's smallest components. Proteins are broken down into amino acids, fats into fatty acids and carbohydrates into simple sugars. These then pass through the intestine walls and into the bloodstream and travel around the body. For this system to function correctly it is vital that the intestines and particularly the intestinal walls are healthy. If the intestinal walls become damaged they can allow food to pass through before it has been properly digested. This is often referred to as 'leaky gut'. Proteins such as those found in milk, wheat and soy are often found to be a problem. If the body does not break down the proteins fully into amino acids it may struggle to use them for other functions and can result in the production of peptides. Peptides are formed when two or more amino acids are joined or in the case of abnormal digestion, when proteins are not broken down fully and so molecules of amino acids remain joined together. If the lining of the intestines is damaged these peptides can travel through and into the bloodstream. Depending on how the amino acids are arranged in the peptides the body may or may not recognise them. If they are unrecognised the body considers them to be a foreign body and sends special cells to destroy them. If the body recognises a peptide it allows it to remain in the blood where it can travel around the body. If a receptor for that peptide is present in the brain then it can cause a signal to be created. If the particular peptide should not be in the brain then a malfunction may occur causing a multitude of symptoms to be displayed.
For some people and particularly those with conditions such as adhd or on the autism spectrum these peptides can have an opiate like effect within the brain. Opiates are drugs derived from the opium poppy such as morphine and codeine. Some research has shown that people with these type of conditions also are more likely to have problems concerning their intestinal lining or digestive system. These can include leaky gut and also having enough digestive enzymes to correctly digest foods. There may also be issues with the body not realising these enzymes at the correct times. These opiate like substances can be present within the chains of proteins in some foods. Generally these are broken down in single molecules of amino acids and cause no problems to the person eating them. In someone with poor or abnormal digestion these chains may remain intact and cause a variety of problems as they mimic the effects of morphine and similar drugs. These can including withdrawing and appearing as if in their own world and a high pain tolerance as opiates act as excellent painkillers. Like morphine and other drugs people can become addicted to the opiate like effect produced by these foods and crave them. It is not unknown for people to limit their diet to these foods or those containing them due to the good feelings they cause when eaten. When stopped from eating the foods a person may experience withdrawal type symptoms including irritability, rage and regressing in behaviour. Two foods that commonly cause these type of problems are casein and gluten, the proteins found in milk and various grains including wheat, barley and rye.
The only way to treat these problems is to remove the offending food from the persons diet. Any withdrawal symptoms tend to be short lived though the full scale of improvement caused by removing the foods may not be seen straight away. It can take some time for the body to completely remove all traces of the food but by not continuing to consume the problem food you have stopped the constant topping up. Some problem foods such as casein and soy leave the body quite quickly and so results maybe seen very quickly. Grains take longer, often several months or more. Results maybe sudden and clear or more gradual and less noticeable. Many parents of children who have been diagnosed with adhd, autism or related conditions have found that removing casein and gluten from their children's diets improved their conditions greatly. Some even report that their child improved so much that they appeared cured. There are many books available with details of the diet and of suitable recipes. The internet is also a good source of information, help and support. While it may seem very hard to remove these food there are still many others to eat and often something else can be substituted with great results. Specific casein and gluten free foods can be much more expensive than their counterparts and It may also seem overwhelming or hard work to bake your own cakes and biscuits or make things such as burgers or chicken nuggets but with planning it can be made just as easy as normal cooking. For example make a batch of many burgers at one time and freeze to use throughout the month. The same can be done with cakes, biscuits and breads. You do not have to spend hours each day preparing special meals. You could also chose to exclude these food entirely and serve only fresh meat cuts. Many everyday family meals can be adapted by excluding or switching ingredients for gluten and casein free alternatives, for example using a non dairy milk such as rice, almond or soya to make mashed potatoes or milkshakes. You may already be using foods that are ok on the GF/CF diet without realising such as margarines.
© 2012 Claire