Gluten and Casein

Story At A Glance:

  • Gluten and casein sensitivities are very common
  • Children are highly susceptible but many adults are affected too
  • Gluten and casein can form peptides with opioid properties
  • Opioids cause a wide range of ill effects
  • Gluten/Gliadin is common in modern grain varieties
  • Casein is common in milk and dairy products
  • Gluten/Gliadin and Casein are “hidden” in many processed foods
  • Gluten/Gliadin and casein have been implicated in a number of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and infertility as well as attention deficit disorder
  • Avoidance is best for sensitive people
  • Supplementation with digestive enzymes can help
  • Testing for gluten sensitivity and for gliadin/casein toxicity is available

The Modern Poisons In Your Diet

By Nurse Mark

Are You An Opioid Addict? Is your child?

Modern food growing, processing, and manufacturing practices, coupled with commonly impaired digestion is creating a world of opioid addicts – to the great delight of the Big Agriculture and Big Food industries.

Like any drug pusher, for them the name of the game is to make people want more – even if the thing they are pushing is toxic…

Dr. Myatt and I recently returned from a weekend medical conference. Unlike what you may envision medical conferences to be, this was not a weekend of golfing or skiing or laying about on a beach at some drug company’s expense. No, Dr. Myatt and I each paid handsomely for this 3-day educational grind which featured lectures with exciting titles like “Metabolic factors and their effect on mental health” and “The role of food, nutrition and diets in autism and mental health disorders.”

Whew – talk about stuff that could make your eyes glaze over… Except it didn’t. The further we got into all these dry-sounding lectures the more excited Dr. Myatt and I became. Not that any one of these lectures by itself presented an earth-rocking breakthrough, because while they were interesting and informative, they presented information that we are both mostly familiar with and indeed, have written about in HealthBeatNews before.

No, it was not until we were a few lectures into the weekend that some little things began to fall into place. Many of the lecturers were mentioning the same things, in slightly different ways and contexts, over and over again.

You see, the conference was mostly concerned with the treatment of kids with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, and other mental health issues in younger people – and everything we were hearing was pertinent to kids.

Until… One of the lecturers opined that these kids were “like canaries in the coal mine”, warning us of the toxicity that we have allowed to surround us in our modern world. A sudden realization hit me almost like a physical slap. I leaned over to Dr. Myatt beside me and said “My God – we have adult patients that are having the same problems as these kids – just in an adult way!” She nodded in agreement.

You see, a two year old can’t really control their behavior when they feel unwell – so they act out, or withdraw, or otherwise behave badly when they don’t feel well. Adults can control their behavior and can often just internalize and “power through” their illness – after all, there are bills to pay, jobs to do, adult responsibilities to meet…

Over and over again through the weekend we heard about bowel problems in these kids, wheat and milk allergies, and gluten, gliadin, and casein intolerance and toxicity. Leaky guts and inflammation were talked about again and again.

While the problems of gluten intolerance and milk allergies were talked about over and over, it became clear that two other more sinister substances were going to be even more important to our patients and our readers.

Two little proteins, gliadin and casein, are poised to prove themselves to be some of the nastiest substances in our modern diet.

You see, these two little proteins are not well digested by many of us. And why should they be? We did not evolve eating foods that contained very much of them – it has not been until more modern times that agriculture has allowed us to have foods containing these proteins cheaply and in much greater amounts. Modern agricultural techniques such as hybridization and animal husbandry have given us very specialized crops and animals that produce higher yields at lower costs than ever before. An unfortunate byproduct of that is an increase in the proteins gliadin and casein in our diets.

But wait a minute you are saying – you guys are all about high protein diets, aren’t you? And protein is protein, right?

Yes, but not really.

You see, gliadin and casein are a couple of proteins that are often incompletely broken down by our digestive systems. They can become partially broken down into peptides, or protein fragments. That might not be such a bad thing, except that the peptides from these particular proteins are opioids.

That’s right, opioids. Morphine-like substances with opiate effects on the brain and other body organs.

Let that sink in for a moment. Opioids. Heroin is an opioid.

Gliadorphin (also known as gluteomorphin) and casomorphin have been proven to have opiate drug like effects. And you are ingesting them when you eat grain and dairy products.

You would likely never allow yourself to be drugged with heroin, but you willingly ingest heroin-like substances every time you eat any of a stunningly huge variety of foods.

Not just the obvious foods like bread or pasta or that healthy breakfast cereal or milk or yoghurt or cheese -but foods that you might never suspect to contain wheat or dairy products.

French fries or potato chips should be OK for someone with a gluten / gliadin sensitivity, right? Wrong – they may be dusted with wheat flour during manufacture – to prevent them from sticking together. And casein is such a common food additive that is often found in imitation sausages, infant formula, processed meats, soups, energy bars, drinks, and many other packaged foods – even toothpaste!

So what – how bad can this be, you ask.

Here is an excerpt from one research paper:

  • About 65 seconds after treatment with different doses of b-CM7, rats became restless and ran violently, with teeth chattering and with rapid respiration.
  • Seven minutes later, the rats became inactive with less walking, distancing themselves from the other rat in the same cage, and sitting in, or putting their head against, the corner of the cage. The sound response was reduced and social interaction was absent.
  • One hour later, the rats showed hyperdefensiveness.
  • The above behavioral effects of b-CM7 did not occur when rats were pretreated with naloxone (2 mg/kg, IP).
  • The rats receiving saline did not show any behavioral changes throughout the 2 hour period of observation.
  • b-CM7 also demonstrated analgesic effects, which could be blocked by naloxone.

b-CM7 is an abbreviation for the protein fragment or peptide called beta-casomorphin-7. It comes from casein – from milk.
– The rats in the study were injected with either b-CM7 or saline water (a form of placebo – as a control).
– The injections were made intra-peritoneally. That is, into the space in the abdomen surrounding the gut.
Naloxone is a drug that blocks the effect of opiates like heroin and morphine. It is used in the treatment of drug overdose.
Analgesic is the medical term for “pain reliever” – morphine is an example of an analgesic.

So, the rats that got the b-CM7 became first hyperactive, then withdrawn and sluggish, then behaved very defensively. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the way a heroin user behaves after “shooting up” with a “hit” of that drug?

The peptide that results from gliadin is called gliadorphin-7 (GD-7) and has been shown to have similar, though less dramatic, effects on test animals.

Both these peptides affect areas of the brain that are relevant to schizophrenia and autism. Both have been found to also affect other organs and b-CM7 has been shown to decrease bowel motility – that is, to be constipating – just like morphine or codeine is constipating.

If that’s not enough to worry about…

Casomorphin, and to a lesser extent gliadorphin have further been implicated in a number of illnesses including Type 1 Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in addition to autism and schizophrenia.

This may be because gluten / gliadin and casein have both been shown to cause inflammatory and immune reactions as well.

While much of the recent research has been done with autism in mind, it is directly applicable to anyone who is concerned about immunity, inflammation, increased TNF-a, and inflammatory cytokines.

In examining this research there can be no question that dietary exposure to gluten and casein results in increased inflammation which can be measured as increased inflammatory cytokynes and elevated TNF-a and disruptions to normal immune response.

The reactions to gluten in sensitive individuals such as those with Celiac disease has been described by gastroenterologists as “tearing holes in the gut.”

Celiac disease, and sub-clinical Celiac disease can have wide-ranging health consequences, including infertility in women. According to one research paper:

“Patients having fertility problems may have subclinical coeliac disease, which can be detected by serological screening tests. Silent coeliac disease should be considered in the case of women with unexplained infertility.”

How did this come to happen?

With casomorphin, a genetic change that occurred in European dairy cattle around a thousand years ago resulted in breeds of cattle that began to produce a form of casein – a protein normally found in all milk – called A1 beta-casein instead of the more benign A2 beta-casein that was previously present in cows milk and is also present in the milk of other species, including humans.

Like all proteins, casein is made up of amino acids, arranged in very specific ways for each protein. Casein is a strand of 209 amino acids and A1 beta-casein protein differs from A2 by just one single amino acid in that strand. Where A2 beta-casein has a proline amino acid in it’s chain, A1 beta-casein has instead the amino acid histidine in that spot.

Most milk today contains a mixture of A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein. A1 beta-casein protein is found in the milk of Holstein cows which are by far the most popular breed in North America. A2 beta-casein protein is found in older breeds of cows such as the Guernsey, Asian and African breeds, as well as goats, sheep, camels, horses, and humans.

With gliadorphin, modern agricultural practices have developed strains of wheat that our ancestors would likely not recognize. Amazingly uniform in height and other physical attributes to make for easier mechanized harvesting, and with far higher protein contents than any ancient wheat, our modern wheat strains seem to be an ideal expression of the art of farming. Unfortunately, with that increase in protein came an increase in gliadin content as well.

Agricultural giants like BASF and Monsanto are not likely to ever allow modern farmers to return to ancient seed-stocks, and farmers would not willingly do so either – farming is a tough business and most could not afford to lose the efficiencies that these new strains of grain allow.

Casein production is a multi-billion dollar a year industry as well. The Kerry Group, originally of Ireland, has been buying up food companies all around the world and is one of the world’s larges suppliers of casein. They unlikely to allow anything so mundane as public health to affect their profit picture.

Further complicating this picture is the fact that these additives make modern foods cheaper to produce, and tastier – even addictive. Many people can neither afford to nor would they want to give up their tasty, addictive, and convenient comfort foods.

What can we do?

Unfortunately, there is little that we can do at this time except to advise people to abstain from foods containing these substances – especially those who have shown any symptoms of sensitivity to them. For someone who has experienced any of the ill effects described in this article we would suggest avoiding these foods for a while, and see if those symptoms improve or resolve. Foods can be added back into the diet then and if symptoms return the answer is clear – those foods must be avoided.

There is a milk company on New Zealand that sells A2 milk in New Zealand and in Australia, but there is no source that we are aware of for A2 only cows milk in North America.

For some people, a diet free of these nasty little protein fragments could even be life-saving!

For many people though, a diet completely free of these two problem proteins, gluten and casein, is almost impossible. Even people who are conscious of the problem and work hard to avoid these substances can still fall prey to hidden sources in foods.

Gluten can be present in foods, but not shown on the label except as “natural flavoring” or “stabilizing agents” or “thickeners.” It can also be found in medicines and even in such things as lip balms – as a “binding agent.”

Casein is just as ubiquitous; it is used in so many processed foods that it is almost impossible to avoid. It can be found hiding in foods such as vegetarian cheese substitute and whipped cream toppings and it is even used in toothpaste!

So, what can be done about these dietary land-mines, waiting to explode and destroy the best efforts of the prudent GFCF (Gluten-Free, Casein-Free) dieter?

Digestive enzymes can help.

Digestive enzymes play a critical role in our digestive process – unfortunately, they decline with age and with some medical conditions and some populations may be subject to hereditary deficiencies in some dietary enzymes. These enzymes are required to break foods down into smaller, more useable components – which is the definition of digestion.The enzyme responsible for the breakdown of gluten and casein is a protease called DiPeptidyl Peptidase IV – usually abbreviated as DPP-IV.

Because of the importance of digestive enzymes to good health Dr. Myatt has been recommending them to her patients for many years.

Now more recently as the problems associated with gluten and casein are becoming better known the importance of DPP-IV in digesting these proteins has prompted her to begin recommending the digestive enzyme product Similase GFCF.

Similase GFCF contains a wide range of digestive enzymes to promote the healthy digestion and assimilation of a mixed diet of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and it also has increased DPP-IV enzyme activity to support the digestion of hidden sources of gluten and casein in the diet.

While using a digestive enzyme like Similase GFCF will not allow someone to “eat anything” it can certainly make mealtimes less of a “walk through a minefield” and regular use can actually help to heal damage that has been done by these proteins to the lining of the gut.

Testing is also available.

A Celiac Antibody Panel can be useful to demonstrate (or rule out) gluten allergy or sensitivity.

Celiac disease (CD), also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy or idiopathic sprue, is an hereditary response to gliadin, a protein fraction in wheat. Gluten sensitivity is a non-hereditary response to gluten and shares some similarity of symptoms with celiac disease. Anyone with IBS, chronic diarrhea, gas or other digestive abnormalities of unknown cause should be evaluated for gluten allergy/sensitivity since the condition is far more common than previously thought.

The Celiac Antibody Panel uses drops of blood obtained from finger-stick and the specimen is collected at home and mailed directly to the lab. The test evaluates anti-tissue transglutaminase IgA and immunoglobulins IgG and IgA specific for gliadin. It is considered highly accurate for diagnosing celiac disease and shows gluten sensitivity approximately 50% of the time.

The Gluten/Casein Peptides Test can demonstrate an inability to completely digest gluten (found in wheat, rye barley and oats) and / or casein found in milk can result in the production of neuropeptides called gliadorphin and casomorphin, which can have opiod effects in the body and brain.

This test requires a small amount of first morning urine to evaluate for both gluten and casein peptides.


References and resources for additional information and study:

B.Windham (Ed), Autism and Schizophrenia subgroup related to blockage by toxic exposures of enzymes processing gluten and casein. 2008.

ZHONGJIE SUN, J . ROBERT CADE; University of Florida, USA: A Peptide Found in Schizophrenia and Autism Causes Behavioral Changes in Rats. Autism March 1999 3: 85-95
“The influence of opioids on human brain function has been described (27). Gliadomorphins and casomorphins are not hydrolyzed by proteolytic enzymes, hence, are very stable families of compounds that can produce long-lasting effects on the CNS (89). Casomorphins are detectable in human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) (90). One member of this family, -casomorphin-7, caused behavioral changes when injected into rats (91).”

Christine Zioudrou, Richard A. Streaty, and Werner A. Klee. Opioid Peptides Derived from Food Proteins THE EXORPHINS. From the Laboratory of General and Comparative Biochemistry, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Received for publication, October 20, 1978

Review of the potential health impact of β-casomorphins and related peptides. Report of the DATEX Working Group on β-casomorphins. Issued on 29 January 2009
[Nurse Mark Comment: This European government paper is working very, very hard to find that these casomorphins are not worth following up on – “don’t worry, be happy…” But there is a huge amount of information within the paperwhich contradicts that position – and all well referenced.]

Brocke: Is Casein Fattening America? Published online 2008
“After all food reconstruction is big business, not necessarily about making food healthier but certainly making it more flavored more appealing and more likely to be highly addictive. It also serves to make food cheaper to produce but at what cost to our health? The current annual sales of Kerry Group is 3.8 billion with operations in over 15 countries. Obviously there is big money in selling casein and food additives to the unsuspecting public.”

Sun Z, Cade R.: Departments of Medicine and Physiology, University of Florida, Peptides. 2003 Feb;24(2):321-3. Findings in normal rats following administration of gliadorphin-7 (GD-7).

Zhongjie Sun, J. Robert Cade, Melvin J. Fregly, R. Malcolm Privette, University of Florida, USA, Autism March 1999 vol. 3 no. 1 67-83. β-Casomorphin Induces Fos-Like Immunoreactivity in Discrete Brain Regions Relevant to Schizophrenia and Autism

Defilippi C, Gomez E, Charlin V, Silva C.: Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago. Nutrition. 1995 Nov-Dec;11(6):751-4. Inhibition of small intestinal motility by casein: a role of beta casomorphins?

S Friis, E Dabelsteen, H Sjostrom, 0 Noren, S Jarnum: Gut 1992; 33:1487-1492, Gliadin uptake in human enterocytes. Differences between coeliac patients in remission and control individuals.

Author/Activist Dan Mahoney website “Fighting Big Food”:

Bachem Holding AG Online Catalog of chemicals available for sale: “Gliadorphin-7 is an opioid peptide which is formed during digestion of the gliadin component of the gluten protein. Elevated concentrations of gliadorphin-7 due to insufficient proteolysis has been associated with autism, schizophrenia, and celiac disease.” Gliadorphin-7

Beta-Casein website: “This website has been created by A2 Dairy Products Australia Pty Limited as a general information resource on the A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins.”

Meloni GF, Dessole S, Vargiu N, Tomasi PA, Musumeci S. Source: Clinica Pediatrica ‘A. Filia’, Università di Sassari, 07100 Sassari, Clinica Ostetrica e Ginecologica, Università di Sassari, Sassari, and Ospedale ‘S. Giovanni di Dio’, 07026 Olbia, Italy. Hum Reprod. 1999 Nov;14(11):2759-61. The prevalence of coeliac disease in infertility.

P Collin, S Vilska, P K Heinonen, 0 Hallstrom, P Pikkarainen Gut 1996; 39: 382-384: Infertility and coeliac disease “Conclusion-Patients having fertility problems may have subclinical coeliacdisease, which can be detected by serological screening tests. Silent coeliac disease should be considered in the case of women with unexplained infertility.

Unlocking Autism Organization, Journal articles regarding autism and gastrointestinal abnormalities: An interesting paper generally concerned with Attention Deficit Disorders btu that provides references to a number of studies demonstrating the inflammatory and immune-disrupting properties of gluten/gliadin and casein.

E Triboi, A Abad, A Michelena, J Lloveras, J.L Ollier, C Daniel, Station d’Agronomie INRA, 12 Avenue du Brézet, 63039 Clermont-Ferrand, France; Universitat de Lleida-IRTA, Alcalde Rovira Roure 177, 25198 Lleida, Spain, European Journal of Agronomy DOI:10.1016/S1161-0301(00)00059-9 Environmental effects on the quality of two wheat genotypes: 1. quantitative and qualitative variation of storage proteins Environmental effects on the quality of two wheat genotypes: