Addiction to Gluten and Dairy, is there a good side?
Could addiction have a good side?
There is a morphine-like, addictive substance found in both gluten and dairy when they are partially digested. For many years I’ve discussed it in blogs and lectures, often commenting on the interesting association between “comfort foods”, and gluten/dairy ingredients. Literally all classic “comfort foods” contain gluten, dairy, or both.
Mom’s apple pie, macaroni, and cheese, pancakes, brownies, better yet, a brownie sundae, on and on it go; foods that “comfort” us seem to typically contain gluten and/or dairy.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Why do certain foods comfort us? It’s because we are subtly or demonstrably addicted to them. They make us “feel good” because they stimulate the addiction centers in our brains.
Is there a food you don’t think you can live without?
Think of some food you’d prefer not to live without. Does it include dairy, gluten, both?
I frequently observe the evil side of this addiction when I review a patient’s lab test result that indicates the need to eliminate one or both foods.
No one “loves” dietary change, but I can always tell the patients who have a strong morphine response to these foods. They’re not just unhappy about the change, they’re a bit terrified. They actually look afraid, and can be angry and in denial about their test results.
Of course, nobody looks forward to altering their eating habits, but remember, patients have sought out help from me because they feel ill. Most are expecting changes that will have to occur. But those affected by the morphine-like substances found in gluten or dairy are beyond upset and often in disbelief that they would ever be able to “live” without gluten and/or dairy.
Is the morphine response purely evil?
For this reason, I had always correlated the morphine-like substances found in gluten and dairy as purely negative. After all, they create addiction in individuals whose health is seriously compromised as a result.
It wasn’t until recently I learned of a positive side to morphine-like substances found in mother’s milk. Not just cow’s milk, but human milk as well.
Do the addictive substance in cow and human milk have a purpose?
According to some researchers, it is perhaps normal for mother’s milk to be “addictive”.
Cow’s milk is addictive to the calf, and a human mother’s milk is addictive to the human infant.
When you think of it, mother’s milk is all a baby mammal has to survive. Let’s forget about formulas for a moment; nature created mother’s milk as the sole source of nutrition for the infant mammal. A baby who doesn’t like its mother’s milk wouldn’t survive, so naturally, put addictive morphine in the milk so babies would actually love it and desire it.
This “addiction” is designed for physical survival and, at least in the case of humans, emotional survival. Mom is our everything until we can be weaned. We are truly addicted to her – and it’s a good thing.
Clearly Mother Nature knew what she was doing
The morphine-like substance is called casomorphin. It is a breakdown product of the milk protein casein. A baby calf would stay close to its mother and truly loved and craved her milk. It is the harmony of the mother-child relationship working exactly as it should.
Many believe that a mother’s milk was solely designed for her offspring and no one else’s. Certainly, the differences between cow’s milk and human milk are profound. They are truly nothing alike, and it begs the question: Why we would think it made sense to substitute one for another?
American Academy of Pediatrics says “No” to cow’s milk
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no cow milk for infants under the age of 1 year.
Human babies can’t digest cow’s milk well. Its high concentration of protein and certain minerals can tax the baby’s kidneys. Further, cow’s milk is deficient in iron, vitamin C and other nutrients such as essential fatty acids that are necessary for human brain development and overall health.
Let’s face it; there’s no comparison between a cow and human brain acumen. No wonder cow’s milk provides no “brain food”.
Human milk adapts to a growing child’s needs
Mother Nature is so smart she actually changes the nutritional make-up of breast milk as the baby gets older. Mother’s milk literally adapts to a growing child’s nutritional needs.
Breast milk produced in the baby’s second year of life appears to provide about 38% of the protein needs. Seventeen ounces of milk per day readily provides in excess of 1/3 of protein needs and also contains immune factors designed to protect the toddler from illness. These immune factors are believed to increase in concentration as a toddler gets older and is able to remove more breast milk in a sitting.
Human milk is very low in protein
Humans have very low protein content in their milk as compared to other mammals, while cows have high protein. When you think of the several hundred pounds a calf will pack on in the early months of life, it makes sense that cow’s milk would be more robust than human milk. We tend to focus on protein when 97% of Americans get enough if not excess. Our protein requirements are not as high as that of other mammals, in the main.
Casomorphins – the addictive face of milk
Casomorphins are a breakdown product of the protein casein. Casein is present in human milk at less than 1/10th of that found in cow’s milk, and cow casein is more complex, breaking down into different protein fragments.
Similarly, the morphine substance present in human milk is not as potent as that in cow’s milk.
When you think of it, baby calves are born ambulatory. They move around with their mom and the herd, perhaps a stronger morphine product in momma cow’s milk is needed to keep junior close. Human babies don’t go anywhere on their own for quite a while, so perhaps not so great a need for very strong morphine addiction. [This paragraph is completely personal speculation.]
Casomorphin and Autism
Some parents note their autistic child’s behavior worsens when they consume dairy products or gluten. Researchers back in the ’80s looked at the urine of children with autism and compared it to the urine of normal children.
Normal children had almost no casein or gliadin peptides (protein fragments) in their urine, but the children with autism had a great deal; it was a dramatic difference. Normally we shouldn’t have protein in our urine, so it was easy to see the departure.
The researchers began to put two and two together and discovered that gluten and dairy are broken down into morphine-like products in the presence of partial digestion.
These substances are called exorphins because they have a morphine-like effect but come from outside the body, rather than produced naturally inside which are called endorphins.
Morphine creates autism symptoms
Cow’s milk morphine is more potent than the morphine in human milk or the morphine found in gluten. In fact, cow morphine is the most similar to actual morphine in how it interacts with the nervous system.
Researchers who exposed human nerves to cow casomorphin discovered it acted more like actual morphine which opened the door to understanding how it could cause autism symptoms. Further, it clarified why eliminating dairy from the diet could improve an autistic child’s symptoms.
Research team Panksepp et al. cited that casomorphin induced social isolation and apathy in animals and from there deduced that the excess morphine-like proteins derived from incomplete digestion of both casein and gluten could be causing some of the typical behaviors so commonly found in autistic children.
Opiates such as morphine cause not only addiction but increased sensitivity to pain, irritability, brain fog, lack of focus, and attention.
Digestive complaints and autism
Additionally, autistic children are quite often seen to suffer from digestive complaints such as constipation, bloating, and disturbed sleep, supporting the notion that they are having difficulty adequately digesting their food.
They frequently crave gluten and dairy containing foods such as cheese, milk, crackers, bread, and sugary desserts.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The connection between the gut and brain is inarguable at this point. The organisms that makeup one’s microbiome, the 100 trillion microbes that populate your gut, can cause one to move towards health or disease, depending on the balance of good and bad organisms.
As an example, the production of certain acids (butyric acid is one) supplies energy to the intestinal lining and strengthens your immune system. The bacteria producing these “good” acids are Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium.
These “good guys” in turn produce anti-inflammatory substances, which protect our health.
On the other hand, the bacterium Clostridium and related bacteria, Clostridium difficile and Clostridium perfringens stimulate pro-inflammatory substances and are producers of toxins.
The gut of autistic children is unhealthy and pro-inflammatory
Interestingly the gut bacteria, microbiome, of children with autism have low Bifidobacteria (good guy) and abnormally high growth of Clostridium (a dangerous bad guy).
We know that gluten causes a leaky gut and there is an established correlation of inflammatory, infectious, and toxic substances that escape in the presence of a leaky environment, according to Dr. Fasano.
In fact, the connection between gluten reactions and neurological problems is thought to originate from a leaky gut, which permits substances to escape, get into circulation, breach the blood-brain barrier, and potentially cause neurological and brain inflammation. This would include symptoms associated with autism.
Address the gut – help the nervous system
Due to the role of organisms in the gut impacting the ability to modulate neurological symptoms, it is felt that addressing the dysbiosis (improper balance of good and bad organisms in the gut) found in autistic children is of great value.
Subsequent research has both validated and negated the theory that gluten and dairy can be an underlying cause of autistic behaviors. Here at Root Cause, we certainly see a positive change in our pediatric patients on the spectrum when they eliminate both gluten and dairy from their diets.
We also have the ability to perform lab tests to validate immune system reactions to both foods, making it easier for parents to see the necessity for dietary change.
The cycle of addiction
The existence of casomorphins and gluteomorphins is not in question. These are morphine-like byproducts produced as a result of breaking down the proteins casein and gluten.
Morphine is addictive.
Ask any addict of any substance and they’re always trying to get back to their initial “high”; their initial feel-good moment. They keep trying but they don’t succeed, in fact, the more they try the less “high” they get. But now they’re addicted, so try they must.
Why can’t they get the initial “high” back? The more you stimulate a receptor site, in this case, the morphine receptor in the brain, the more the body down-regulates it, makes it work less well. It takes more and more of the substance to get less and less of a response.
When it comes to hard drugs; that’s why people switch from one drug to a “harder” one, they just can’t get the same “high” they used to so they switch to a more intense, dangerous drug. That one “works” for a little while and then they’re in the same mess all over again. It’s a miserable existence.
There’s a reason autistic children eat so few foods
When it comes to casomorphins and gluteomorphins, you find children on the spectrum crave and demand these foods. It’s all they want to eat, in the main. But they are at the adverse effect of them.
Casomorphins and gluteomorphins don’t just affect children; we see the same issue in adults. Personally I had this problem. I was completely addicted to both foods, but I felt terrible.
It’s interesting that the “food”, you think is your best friend, is actually your worst enemy.
Is gluten lowering your IQ?
Gluten has been seen clinically to affect the nervous system in a variety of ways, not the least of which involve symptoms seen in autism, depression, anxiety and a lowering of IQ.
A study in Finland followed close to 2500 children for several decades only to discover that those who reacted to gluten (celiac disease) had an issue with underachievement as compared to their “normal” counterparts. It was considered to be a dumbing-down effect.
There are so many patients we have seen over the past two and a half decades who have experienced exactly this. Removing gluten from their diet has reduced or eliminated the following symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Poor concentration,
- And more.
I well remember a high school student, a good student, who was discovered to react to gluten. Once he removed it from his diet he told his mother it was as if his brain had been on a dimmer switch and now it was fully turned on.
He had been doing fine in school, he was “smart”, but apparently not nearly as smart as he truly was. Once gluten was removed from his diet and no longer suppressing his brain function, he truly became more intelligent.
Do we need gluten or dairy in our diet?
There is plenty of nutritious, whole food plant-based options available without including either one of these foods. Neither provides nutrients that can’t be gotten elsewhere, without the liabilities of morphine-like byproducts.
Being “addicted” to your mom’s milk is a positive, being addicted to gluten or cow’s milk is typically a harbinger of something evil that is causing inflammation and compromising your health.
Do you need help with your health?
We have the diagnostic and testing tools, the clinical experience, and a different medical approach to discovering the root cause of why you have the symptoms that are bothering you. As long as you are ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes, we can help you. We will "hold your hand" through the changes, step by step, to make each step an easy one. We are located in Clearwater, FL, at 1000 S Ft Harrison, at the corner of Ft. Harrison Ave. and Magnolia St. There is plenty of parking space directly accessible from Ft Harrison. If it is not convenient for you to come to Root Cause Medical Clinic, we offer telehealth/telemedicine consultations to residents of certain states. Call us for details.
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC. CCN
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr Vikki Petersen is a public speaker, author of two books, several eBooks and creates cutting edge content for her YouTube community. Dr Vikki is committed to bringing Root Cause Medicine and its unique approach to restoring health naturally to the world.
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