By enfilade in enfilade's Diary
Thu Oct 30, 2003 at 12:40:52 PM EST
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If you've been following my diary at Hulver's site, you will know that I have recently discovered that I'm sensitive to gluten and casein, proteins found in wheat and milk, respectively. To say that the discovery of my glutein/casein sensitivity was an important revelation is a vast understatement. It has affected my life in every way. Although a glutein/casein free (GFCF) diet is difficult and austere, it's been more than worth it due to the enormous improvement the diet has made to my quality of life.
The mechanism of glutein and casein sensitivity is complex. The protein-digesting enzymes (peptidases) in my body are unable to fully break down gluten and casein into amino acids. Instead, they create short-chain protiens called "peptides" as byproducts. Some of these peptides are opioid exorphins, drug-like substances that have a psychoactive, narcotic effect (in particular, gluteomorphins and casomorphins). For various reasons my gut is damaged - it "leaks" more than normal - allowing the exorphins to enter the bloodstream, reach the CNS and bind to the opioid receptors. This, of course, creates opiate-like symptoms which include analgesia, "brain fog", lethargy, social isolation and sleep disturbance. This syndrome is theorised to be partly responsible for autism.
* Sleep deprivation and exorphins
* Last days of my "natural" high
Sleep deprivation and exorphins
My sleep patterns had always been a problem for me. I found it very hard to go to sleep at night, and since my childhood have spent hours tossing and turning awake in bed every night. (Thankfully my parents were understanding and gave me a light to read books by). When I woke up in the morning, I felt bone-tired even after more than 8 hours sleep.
At the time I was on a partially GFCF diet, but that was entirely by luck. I had scant knowledge of gluten/casein sensitivity or it's link to autism. What little I had heard I had dismissed as new-age quackery. Over the years I had simply noticed that foods such as bread and milk made me feel tired and addictive or contributed to my psoriasis. It was hardly a consistent diet. I had little concept of "gluten" or "casein" then, just "bread" and "dairy", so I unwittingly ate foods like soy milk which contained barley or soy cheese that contained casein.
After 2 weeks the gluten/casein sensitivity symptoms, such as vagueness and tiredness, returned due to my poor adherence to the GFCF diet. You see, I didn't even realize that my diet was responsible for my massive improvement. Add to that the addictiveness of gluten and casein products. But once I had a taste of normality, I desperately wanted to return. I finally put two and two together and I began to research the GCFC diet. To my amazement, I discovered that my diet could be actually be responsible for my mental state.
So I began the full GFCF diet. But, disappointingly, I did not get immediate results. My research (and fellow sufferers) told me that this was to be expected - it took up to 3 (and possibly 6) months for the exorphins to be flushed out of the system. This confused me, as I didn't know how the body would store exorphins for months. (I later learned that they can persist in the CNS for months as the brain can only metabolize native neurotransmitters. But I am still confused about this point.)