My family have direct experience of the symptoms and disability a dairy allergy can produce. My wife is lactose intolerant. Even though she knew drinking milk and eating certain cheeses caused her to become bloated, she would often sneak a bit in here and there. It was not until both of us agreed to abstain from dairy that my wife gave it up completely (cow’s milk and cow’s dairy as we both tolerate goat milk, yoghurt and cheese). A reduction occurred in many symptoms; she never linked to eating dairy. My wife thought she was heading for early dementia as her short term memory was very poor and getting worse (dairy products contain arachidonic acid, which stimulate specific neuron receptors, constant over stimulation can result in cell death, possibly affecting memory retention). She had a constant running nose and would often have devastating brain fog stopping her from concentrating.
Within days of giving up dairy my wife’s’ nose stopped streaming, the bloating reaction stopped. Over a short space of time her memory and episodes of brain fog improved immensely and her overall energy levels rose.
A negative reaction to gluten can influence the development of a Leaky Gut or intestinal permeability. During the digestion process cells lining the intestines, act as gate keepers for the transference of broken down food particles (amino acids, sugars and fats) into the blood stream. This is a very important process as these broken down foods are used by the body for building, repair and energy. A leaky gut is when this transference process has become damaged and undigested food particles are entering the blood stream.
Gluten has a substrate called Gliadin which can act to force apart the tight cell junctions of the gut. Many undigested food particles and toxins within the gut can now enter the blood. This obviously causes additional problems for the body. The immune system has an adaptive response to the partially digested molecules. The immune system sees these molecules as invaders and creates antibodies to attack the perceived threat.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a classic example of what can go wrong when the immune system develops a maladaptive response to undigested protein. This disease is classed as an auto immune disease as the immune system attacks joints and connective tissues causing systemic inflammation. One cause is linked to onset of RA is the gluten molecule. This protein is very similar to a protein found in joint fluid (synovial fluid). It is thought that when the immune system creates an antibody to attack the perceived threat of the gluten protein these antibodies also attack the similar looking protein found within the joints.
Believe it or not gluten intolerance is now being linked to liver disease. Research suggests that gluten induced leaky gut causes an auto immune reaction upon liver tissue. Furthermore toxins entering the blood from a leaky gut, exert additional demand on the liver to filter the unwelcome toxins.
To know something fully is to have direct experience. This has been the case for me and my family concerning the positive effects of eliminating gluten and lactose from my diet.
The reduction in several ME/CFS symptoms has been a real positive for me. I no longer have a bloated stomach, brain fog has disappeared. I attribute brain fog to a leaking gut causing toxins to enter the brain via the blood brain barrier. The glands on my neck were swollen and painful to touch. Within six weeks of giving up gluten the glands in my neck were completely normal and remain that way to this day.
This is a significant sign as it means I am no longer leaking undigested food and toxins into my blood causing an immune response. I am reducing the chances of many auto-immune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and liver disease. I am also giving my body a good environment to heal itself by not further stressing the digestive system, the liver and immune system.
It is difficult to describe how you feel when a friend or relative asks you how ME/CFS affects you physically and mentally I hope the above dialogue helps to go, in some ways, towards this goal. I would recommend you pass this article on to your relatives and friends. I would like you the ME/CFS affected individual to consider an elimination of gluten and lactose from your diet. You may see a reduction in symptoms after only a few weeks. However, it takes time to heal the gut wall, so stick with it. Unfortunately this is not a complete answer to the multiple and complex set of symptoms, which make up the condition ME/CFS.
A change in diet takes time and you should consider careful planning. What will you replace bread and milk with? This is daunting to begin but gets easier and becomes second nature with time.
This episode concludes the series All arrows point Inwards!!!
Please comment with your own stories regarding diet and ME/CFS. An addition to future versions of the ME Diary smart phone app may include a monitoring tool to help identify and address food sensitivity attributed to some ME/CFS symptoms.
All comments welcome. Thanks