Much like gluten, casein, a protein found in dairy can worsen certain symptoms of autism. Casomorphins are a byproduct of digesting casein. If you watched my video Can a Gluten-Free Diet Help Your Autistic Child? this will sound familiar. Casomorphins are to dairy as gluteomorphins are to gluten.
Casomorphins are just as bad, if not worse, than gluteomorphins. They cause a euphoric feeling which makes them very addictive and can lead to withdrawal symptoms. I speak more extensively on this in my video on gluteomorphins.
A Reaction to Casein May Not Be Obvious
Figuring out whether or not your child is reacting to casein is not always easy or obvious. People will often comment, “My child doesn’t react to dairy.” My response is always, “Have you ever tried to eliminate dairy for six weeks?” Usually the answer is no.
A food reaction can take up to 72 hours to manifest. So, if you’re only giving your child dairy every other day, you’re not necessarily going to see a reduction in symptoms such that when you give dairy again you see an increase in symptoms. It takes a few weeks to achieve a baseline to really see what your child is like without casein. This is why I recommend a six week elimination of gluten and dairy.
Eliminating Casein Can Cause Withdrawal Symptoms
Because casomorphins are binding to opioid receptors in your child’s brain and causing a euphoric sensation, you can expect withdrawal symptoms when you remove casein containing foods from their diet.
Just as you wouldn’t give a drug addict the drug they’re trying to quit, it doesn’t make sense to give your child dairy during their withdrawal. It’s ok for them to endure a bit of discomfort for the long-term good.
If your child is reacting to casomorphins, you may notice an increase in challenging behavior, or GI symptoms. Casomorphins can cause inflammation of the gut which can lead to leaky gut, malabsorption, and dysbiosis (or imbalance) of the gut’s good bacteria. A six week dairy free diet will allow you to see if your child’s symptoms improve.
It’s my hope that by understanding why you’re eliminating dairy from your child’s diet, you’ll be able to better support them during their withdrawal period. Ultimately, I hope you stay curious so you can continue to help your child.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing a great job.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as part of creating Your Autism Game Plan.
Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org