Three diets – Part 3: The gluten-free option

1981-82: The milk and eggs free diet
1988-91
: The milk and yeast free diet (also caffeine, chocolate and dust mites).
21st Century: The diet that cried wolf…

Amish farm.jpg

Photograph taken in Pennsylvania, June 2013

And so I entered adult life freed from allergy diets and wet beds. Eventually I started going to parties – nothing wild, just housewarmings and suchlike but at one of those I got chatting with a mate who knew his stuff about health and diets. He noted that I still had acne at the age of twenty (one workmate dubbed me Zitty McLean round that time) and asked if I was allergic to anything. I told him about my troubled past and the on and off diets and he told me that when an allergen is imbibed consistently, the body sort of pretends it’s not there for a while but it later manifests in things like zits hence why acne often breaks out in teenagers. He also told me that Dr Wong’s methodology (see previous entry) sounded rather like divination – doctors who share my Christian persuasion have said the same. My mother confirmed the former point about acne and “masking” as it’s called when the allergies go into hiding. “Dr Wong said you’d always be sensitive to these things to some degree anyway”. She rejected the divination theory as she still held Wong in high regard for seemingly curing me of enuresis, conveniently forgetting that I had another nocturnal incident or two in the weeks subsequent to this.

But subsequent years have seen more information come to light. I will begin by referring to the work of one Dr Adrian Morris, an allergist based in Surrey. The full article to which I refer can be found at http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk/introduction-to-allergy/controversial-tests but I was interested to note the following points from it:

Hair analysis: It transpires that when the lock of hair reaches the testers, it is checked for the presence of lead, mercury and suchlike as well as whether elements like zinc and magnesium are lacking. This would appear to partly explain why when I was on the “lock of hair” diet I was having to take zinc and calcium tablets and for a while dolomite as well. I seem to recall these tasted gross and I was relieved to be relieved of them when my mother discovered they contained milk. But according to Dr Morris, “Numerous studies have failed to find any accuracy in hair analysis diagnosing allergies”.

Muscle testing: The Dr Wong method of testing the shoulder strength with a vial of the suspected allergen, a technique known to the professional boffins as Applied Kinesiology, I now discover. It transpires that the method was devised in the US in 1964 and relies on “energy fields” which sound like they belong in science fiction. Again though, Dr Morris confirms that “There is no convincing evidence that this test has any useful role to play in allergy diagnosis”.

But even having heard of these, I now gather that there is an autism friendly diet. Not of the kind that blames autism on vaccines or views autistic traits as allergic reactions but rather the view being postulated here is that one physical trait of us autistic types is that when we imbibe gluten (found in wheat) or casein (found in cows milk) the body doesn’t break them down and by some process this causes bad behaviour in autistic children.

If I were to take the above to heart I would be on a “no milk no wheat” diet. So bread would be back out (unless it was gluten free) but I could still have my pint of cider without fear of yeast causing reactions.

Isn’t it weird though that of three diets, the two I was forced to try as a child and the one I’m not sure I can be bothered to as an adult, the only thing all three have in common is their exhortation to avoid dairy products.

It has to be said I do sometimes find that imbibing vast quantities of dairy produce can sometimes cause mild digestion problems (pre teens I was very sensitive to milk straight from the cow at my uncle’s farm) and overdoing it in the bread department can make me feel sleepy. I can see the need to maybe moderate or gradually steer away from these. We live in a different world now from the one I was forced to function within in the 1980s and diet-friendly produce is no longer confined to the health food shops but has dedicated shelves in the supermarkets. Soya milk, which tasted gross back then (Johnny Ball proved it on his Think Again programme, I’d already discovered it for myself) now has an element of sweetener added to it though whether sugar or an artificial product I don’t know.

But do you know what? I can’t be bothered to do the whole total abstention thing again. I cannot keep constantly switching the no-milk diet on and off like a light, alternating between cold turkey and carefree indulgence. I can see the need to be minimal and only have things like macaroni cheese as a special treat. But I still have a drop of moo-moo in my cup of PG Tips (apologies to all you vegans out there). This diet, after all, which not all autism specialists entirely recommend (see http://www.autismspeaks.org/node/112986 for the view of a Dr Kent Williams in Ohio) is not seen (I hope) as a cure for autism, merely an alleviation of some of the symptoms.

So my conclusion? Know your body. Know its reactions. Don’t go by phantom non-existent evidence that relies more on hair and muscles than outward behaviour. Know that whatever you abstain from it may be that it’s not causing quite the problem you think it is cf abstaining from bread would that be helpful to me because of the yeast factor as Dr Wong would have it or because of the gluten element as the likes of Luke Jackson maintain? Dr Williams’ article provides an excellent in depth analysis of this point for those who wish to investigate further.

In short, if I ever do try the gluten/casein free diet then the diet will be my servant. Not my master as in days of old.

 

The article “Allergy tests of no proven value” quoted above is copyright Dr Adrian Morris 2008, 2012, 2015.

 

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