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Normally when I write I mention using milk and butter and the recipe being vegan, I know this makes no sense but I suppose I mislabel these ingredients for normality's sake. I do use all gluten and casein free ingredients when I cook as a necessity of my severe Celiac's. Any ingestion of either of these and I have a headache, upset stomach lasting for up to two weeks, fatigue/brain fog and the oh so glorious hives and blisters. Many people are affected by the same issues and many have it much worse by being reactive to soy or nuts as well.
Let me begin with some scientific mumbo-jumbo that will thrill us all:
Casein, from Latin caseus, meaning cheese, is remarkably similar to gluten in cellular structure. Why is this significant? Some people are sensitive enough to gluten that even something that looks like gluten in their body will be attacked and treated the same way. Most hear about a gluten and casein free diet being used to treat or prevent further development of Autism, but how can you treat or prevent this 'mystery' ailment? Much of this is based on lab results and a little on theories and nearly all of it is denied by modern medicine. Even Celiac patients can have a hard time getting their doctor to believe that in addition to their normal reactions to gluten, they have the same reaction to a pint of seemingly harmless vanilla ice cream. My allergist refused to do an allergy test on me but was willing to send me to a dermatologist to find out the reason I was breaking out in hives over ice cream.
Even though the gluten and casein free diet, when followed properly, helps to improve the quality of life in 75% or more of the Autistic patients, medical research has concluded that the results were inconclusive to draw any real results.
Double speak, no?
This is not the first time that modern medicine has shunned proven methods due to the 'lack of evidence'. Take a look at Sister Elizabeth Kenny from Australia. She was never formally trained as a nurse (one reason the American Medical Association might have stated she was, “an ignorant quack seeking money for her own gain”) but served local patients in Australia after opening her own hospital with savings. It was here that she treated her first polio patient. Her methods were suited to the ailments of the patients and did not generally follow the prescribed methods of treatment. Stiff joints were wrapped with warm compresses and loosened with massage because that is what she would do if she was just treating a normal stiff joint and not a polio patient with a stiff joint. This was at times a painful process for the child, but the results were astounding. This work continued for several years, she volunteered for World War I efforts on ships between England and Australia treating the injured and eventually came to America to promote her treatment methods. Here she faced criticism beyond belief. Most accounts of her life do not speak of this more than just in a passing statement or two, but her methods were seen as witchery in some parts. Sister Kenny treated Alan Alda, Hawkeye Pierce on MASH, Franklin Roosevelt, president, and Robert Anton Wilson, a notable writer and advocate of the methods used.
The most intriguing part of this whole ordeal with Sister Kenny is that the common methods of treating polio were not working as well as her methods were. Even later in life after the patient has recovered from the majority of the ailments associated with polio, they still are never fully recovered – there is no cure for polio. The patients treated with the Sister Kenny method as a child often lived longer, were more able to contribute to society on a normal level and generally did not require leg braces, wheel chairs or the like to get around as often as those treated with AMA standards for polio.
Back to casein and Autism for the time being. I can almost guarantee the reason the tests were inconclusive is due to human error in following the diets. It can be challenging to find foods that are both gluten and casein free – even cheese and milk replacements can be filled with casein from whey or other milk proteins. Many people do not know the finer points of reading a label (or how to read one at all for that matter), and they just read the packaging assuming it is safe for their tot. If a doctor follows these type of patients and monitors their progress they would see scattered results with no doubt.
Doing basic web research shows that one main reason people speak out against the gluten and casein free diet in the treatment of Autism, even with proven results, is the inconvenience with cost being a close second. This bothers me on so many levels. Why would not try something that could work and give someone you love the chance to live a normal life? Pure laziness is the only answer. The cost still an issue? Write it off on your taxes (yes, you can do that), apply for government aide, visit a food bank or take advantage of one of the other million things available to you and stop making excuses.
Being on a gluten and casein free diet myself, I have tried several products that have become staples around my kitchen. Milk and butter are obviously what people think about first when they find they are casein intolerant. I use regular soy milk (check for added milk proteins of ANY kind), usually the grocery store brand, and it tastes and cooks fine. There was a time when soy milk was gross and gritty and tasted like liquid chalk, but I promise that has changed. For butter I use a vegan spread called Smart Balance. That company has several different lines of margarine, but the organic blend in the green container is gluten and casein free. It says gluten-free on the front label which is what attracted me to it in the first place. I have dabbled in casein free cheese a bit (read about that here), but have yet to find something that really sticks out in my mind as wonderful.
For the most part being gluten and casein free presents the same issues as a solely gluten free diet does. There is maybe a bit more adapting involved like making lasagna without cheese, making sure the vegetables at a restaurant are not cooked in anything resembling margarine or butter and similar situations, but the lifestyle can be so rewarding in the end.
Bread, cheese and ice cream are not worth ruining your health.