Archive for June 4th, 2011

We’ve been gluten free for almost 2 1/2 years, and for about a year my daughter was off of cows milk because it seemed to help her stop wetting the bed at night.  (I didn’t do any research on dairy being linked to bed-wetting, but had noticed that she stayed dry on nights when she hadn’t had milk.  After a few weeks of being completely off of dairy, the night wetting stopped.  She’s now drinking milk again and seems to be fine.)  I never thought of taking my son off of dairy until I read a couple articles in the June issue of Living Without, a magazine for people with food sensitivities.

In the article, “The Gut-Brain Connection,” Dr. Kenneth Bock says, “With insufficient digestion, gluten and casein (the protein in milk) produce endogenous opioids, brain-active compounds similar to morphine.  In this way, diet can have a very, very profound effect on the brain.  In essence, it’s like these kids are stoned.”  The article was specifically addressing the success of the gluten free, casein free diet in kids with autism and ADHD, but I began to wonder if other children with neurological side effects caused by gluten (like my son) could also be affected by casein.

Our Dairy Free Experiment
We’d had a particularly rough few weeks in school, and I had noticed there seemed to be something blocking his ability to write down the things he could tell me he knew.  He also seemed to be having more difficulty concentrating on challenging sections of his piano music.  The opioid/casein connection made sense as a possible cause, because I remember how the “gluten fog” used to get in the way of his ability to pay attention.  So I took a deep breath and came up with a dairy free menu for the following week.

Within three days of being off of dairy we saw a marked improvement.  It’s now been almost two weeks, and I’ve been amazed at the changes in his ability to do written assignments and tackle difficult sections of piano music without getting frustrated.  Instead of staring at a page and declaring that it’s too much/hard/boring, he just jumps right in and completes whatever I give him.  So it looks like the dairy free diet is here to stay!

Transition to Multiple Diet Restrictions Slowly
If you’re just starting out, I’d suggest eliminating one food group at a time.  Before going off of gluten, we’d already started cutting out artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup.  Next came gluten, then MSG.  Last year we started cutting back on sugar while just my daughter went off of dairy.  When you tackle one food challenge at a time, it keeps you from feeling totally overwhelmed.  For instance, a kid who’s having to give up favorite foods containing wheat needs to feel like there are still favorite foods he can have.  So when my son received a free pizza coupon as a reading reward for school, I took him out to ice cream instead.  If you’re new to the gluten free diet, don’t try to cut out sugar or dairy while you’re getting used to the new flours.  Once you’ve adjusted to gluten free food, then you can try focusing on other food sensitivities.

Choose Naturally Diary Free Foods
If you’re ready to tackle dairy, don’t start by trying to replace the dairy in all your favorite foods.  Initially, focus on foods that are naturally dairy free.  (This is my same advice for going off of gluten, by the way, which I outline in detail in my Gluten Free Survival Guide.)  Find recipes that use oil instead of butter, and that don’t require cheese.  There are many foods that are naturally diary free and similar enough to those dairy favorites that they keep you from feeling deprived.  You’re not trying to replace a favorite food, but rather substitute a close cousin so that it’s not missed quite so much.  Here are some of our favorite non-dairy cousins:

  • Instead of enchiladas, try chicken or beef fajitas made with onions, peppers, and corn tortillas (just sprinkle meat with a little Lowry’s Seasoned Salt, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, and garlic powder or minced garlic).
  • Instead of lasagna or mac n’ cheese, try spaghetti (made with rice or corn/quinoa pasta).
  • Instead of grilled cheese, try grilled tuna.  (I like to add a dash of garlic salt and onion powder to my tuna and mayonnaise, and Ener-G Light Tapioca bread is our favorite for grilled sandwiches.)  If you like tomato soup with your grilled sandwich, just thin some leftover spaghetti sauce with a little rice milk.
  • Instead of a cheeseburger (my son refuses to eat a hamburger without cheese), try a Trident Salmon Burger on a Kinnickinnick GF/DF bun (for the best texture and flavor, thaw, slice, then brush buns with oil or dairy free margarine and toast on a griddle or in a pan until browned).
  • Instead of an omelet, stir some rice milk and real bacon crumbles into scrambled eggs before they set.  Serve with toast, hash browns, or Nature’s Path Buckwheat Wildberry frozen waffles (they’re GF/DF), topped with jam, peanut butter, or dairy free margarine like Earth Balance soy-free spread.

Better-Than-Betty-Crocker Blueberry Muffins

I have a lot more gluten free, dairy free recipes on the way over at my food blog, More Joyful Choices.  This week, I’ve posted two delicious, GF/DF muffin recipes: Applesauce Oat Muffins and Better-Than-Betty-Crocker Blueberry Muffins.  Giving up gluten and dairy is not the end of the world, but the beginning of a whole new world of flavors.  Our son’s favorite dairy free discovery?  Vanilla Sweetened Almond Milk!

If you have any questions about the GF/DF diet, feel free to leave a comment below.  You can subscribe to either of my blogs and have new GF/DF recipes automatically sent to you through email.  I’d love to encourage you on your journey to better health!

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