Why Eat Gluten and Dairy Free? by Kathy Pearson

When I took my child to see a medical doctor specializing in pediatric holistic medicine, he suggested I take my child off of gluten and dairy to address some of the allergy, behavioral and bacterial infection issues. I had heard this diet mentioned before but I didn’t really understand what the medical reason was for doing this and what would be the benefits? During my research and practical experience, this is what I found. 

It all starts with what is known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome” or intestinal hyper permeability. Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when the walls of the intestines become far too permeable and allow the absorption of tiny particles of food molecules that have not been fully digested to enter the bloodstream, thus triggering allergic reactions or an inflammatory response. It also allows harmful microbes and toxic substances into the bloodstream such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Many diverse allergic and auto-immune reactions may follow. 

Common contributors to leaky gut syndrome are intestinal candidiasis or yeast overgrowth. Yeast can loosen the adhesion between cells in the gut and allow partially digested food molecules through and enter the bloodstream. Yeast overgrowth is common after taking antibiotics without also supplementing with probiotics. Probiotics are vital for complete digestion. Leaky gut can also be from eating foods high in chemical additives among other reasons. 

Leaky Gut causes the small intestine to not only absorb what it should not, but also prohibits it from absorbing what it should such as nutrients. Those with this condition are usually deficient in essential fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-12 and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. All of these nutrients are essential for proper brain function. 

Gluten sensitivity is a major cause of leaky gut. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Grains today are much different than the past because of chemical processing, hybridization and genetic modification which could count for the ever increasing amount of people having reactions to gluten. Gluten is also found in many baking products as well. 

According to Sheryl Shenefelt, author of The Guide to the Gluten Free Diet, Gluten reactions may not be readily apparent. Some may get headaches, muscle aches and joint pain, fatigue, inability to concentrate, brain fog or depression while other may get gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, bloating, gas or constipation. And yet others may show signs of gluten sensitivity by having symptoms of a behavioral disorder such as ADD or hyperactivity. Gluten sensitivity has been associated with a wide range of disorders including brain disorders such as autism, autoimmune disorders such as Celiac Disease, colitis, irritable 

bowel syndrome, a variety of neurological disorders associated with celiac disease including epilepsy, ataxia, neuropathy, and GERD, among other conditions. 

Gluten also effects mental and emotional wellness. Children are being affected in alarming numbers. According to experts, many children on the autistic spectrum likely have leaky gut and would greatly benefit from eliminating these foods from their diet. 

According to many authors I have read on the subject, there is also a close connection between the gut and the brain. Opiate or drug-like peptides from food proteins such as glutens, and caseins in milk protein, enter the bloodstream and have opioid-like effects on the brain. 

Casein, the protein found in milk, and is therefore in all dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream, is potentially the most difficult food in the human diet to digest. The effects of a child sensitive to casein will be a morphine-like dazed stare and other reactions such as slurred speech and dizziness, mood swings, similar to a person who has had too much alcohol to drink. 

Although we didn’t see this before we took our child off of gluten and dairy, we did see this reaction with our child shortly after consuming gluten and dairy (cake and ice cream) at a birthday party, just after the six week elimination diet. It happened again after consuming a cookie while on vacation. The effects were immediate and obvious. We have been gluten and dairy free ever since and have seen no reoccurrence of the symptoms. 

To check for a gluten or dairy sensitivity you must eliminate the foods, one at a time, for at least six weeks, and then reintroduce them into your system to see if you have any adverse reactions. Of course I was reluctant at first. It would be so difficult. My child ate only foods with either gluten or dairy in them. (See article entitled “Eat Clean” to learn how we as a family made the transition.) After seeing the immediate benefits in just three weeks of being dairy-free, we were encouraged to try going gluten free. As discussed in a previous article, the transition works best gradually, one step at a time. 

After six weeks of being gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar free (the topic of my next article) the evidence was abundantly clear that what we ate was definitely having negative effects on our family in both our physical and emotional well being. One of the side effects for me was losing more than 30 pounds which was 20 percent of my body weight. That alone was enough to encourage me to continue to work on changing our family’s lifestyle.