To Your Health
June, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 06)
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Be Wary of Dairy

Making a Case Against Casein

By Dr. Claudia Anrig

If you kept a nutritional journal for even a few days, you would probably discover that dairy is among the top five products consumed daily in your household. This is troubling because more and more people are finding that dairy (and more specifically a substance in dairy and other products called casein) may be a contributing factor to allergy reactions and behavioral problems in those sensitive to it. Let's take a closer look at casein and why limiting your consumption of foods containing casein (or avoiding them altogether) may be your best option.

What Is Casein?

Casein is a protein primarily found in milk and other dairy products, but it is also used as a binding agent in numerous other foods. Technically, it is a phosphoprotein that accounts for nearly 80 percent of the proteins in cow's milk and cheese.

Why Eat Casein Free?

girl drinking milk - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Eating casein free, when combined with a gluten-free diet, reportedly has very positive results for people suffering from autistic spectrum disorders, such as autism, Asperger's syndrome, atypical autism and pervasive developmental disorder. Additionally, many people who assume they are allergic to milk may actually be suffering from a casein allergy. The complicating factor causing a lack of awareness as to the true allergy is that casein is found in more than just dairy products. As a binding agent, it has technical uses as well as edible; it can be found in paints (including fingernail polish), other cosmetics and even glue (or industrial adhesives).

Problems With Casein

Whether or not you or someone in your household battles with allergies, a digestive disorder, or is allergic to milk or dairy products, everyone in your home can benefit from eating casein free, or at least reducing daily intake of dairy products. In 2000, a clinical study by FitzGerald and Bundesanstalt determined that there is a "natural opiate" embedded in casein protein, which may lead to the "comfort feeling" after digestion. This may be a contributing factor to cravings for chocolate and cheese unrelated to hunger.

Studies including those by Dr. Karl Reichel, of The National Hospital in Norway, and Dr. Robert Cade, of the University of Florida, have found high amounts of the casomorphin peptide in urine samples taken from people with conditions ranging from autism to post-partum depression (PPD) to celiac disease to schizophrenia. It has been suggested that this peptide may also be elevated in other similar disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression, based on the reported benefits of a gluten-free and casein-free diet.