Replacing Calcium in the Casein-free Diet

Calcium | Casein-free Diet

Before embarking on a casein-free diet, consult your child’s doctor. Because dairy products are one of the main sources of calcium in children, you’ll need to make sure the child’s diet has other good sources of calcium, and vitamin D, in order to meet their nutritional needs.  Talk with your child’s doctor about whole foods, fortified foods (ie. calcium-enriched rice milk or coconut yogurt) and/or supplementation to avoid any nutritional deficiencies.

Calcium | Casein-free Diet

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Over 99 percent of the body’s calcium is found in bones and teeth. The skeleton serves as a reservoir of calcium for fundamental calcium-dependent functions throughout the body.

Apart from maintaining strong teeth and bones, calcium is essential for sending messages between cells and supporting tissues throughout the body. Calcium plays a major role in proper muscle function, nerve transmission and hormonal secretion. Since children with autism spectrum disorders commonly have low muscle tone, sensory integration issues and varying levels of anxiety, maintaining the proper level of circulating calcium is critical for the body to function at its best.

The body’s endocrine system—a system of glands that secrete hormones and provides a series of feedback mechanisms to the body, is charged with keeping calcium levels in check. The endocrine system includes a major role for calcitriol, the hormonal form of vitamin D, which is required for absorption of calcium in the small intestine. (Vitamin D post coming soon – learn about the importance of Vitamin D in this system and its link to Autism.)

Food Sources of Calcium

In the United States, an estimated 72 percent of calcium comes from milk, cheese and yogurt and from foods to which dairy products have been added (e.g., pizza, lasagna, dairy desserts). The remaining calcium comes from vegetables (7%); grains (5%); legumes (4 %); fruit (3%); meat, poultry, and fish (3%); eggs (2%); and miscellaneous foods (3%).

Since the casein-free diet requires removal of the foods that supply most of your child’s ingested calcium, I recommend you consult a licensed dietitian or nutritionist who can help tailor a menu to your child’s taste preferences as well as ensure that your child’s nutritional needs are being met.

Not all consumed calcium is absorbed once it enters the gut. Studies show that our intestines absorb about 30 percent of the calcium present in foods, and this varies with the type of food consumed. Therefore, to promote the best absorption, it is best to avoid processed foods and obtain vitamins and minerals from natural, whole foods.

The recommended daily allowance for children ages 1-3 is 700mg of calcium per day. Children 4-8 years old should take in 1000mg per day and children ages 9-18 should consume at least 1300mg per day. Based on those numbers, try to tailor your menu to include calcium-rich foods. Below are some examples foods high in calcium.

Vegetables
Kale (1 cup contains 180 mg)
Collard Greens (1 cup contains over 350 mg)
Turnip Greens (1 cup contains 250 mg)
Broccoli (1 cup contains 95 mg)
Raw fennel (1 medium bulb contains 115 mg)
Artichoke (1 medium artichoke contains 55 mg)

Fruits
Blackberries (1 cup contains 40 mg)
Black Currants (1 cup contains 62 mg)
Oranges (1 orange contains between 50 and 60 mg)
Dried apricots (1/2 cup contains 35 mg)
Figs (1/2 cup contains 120 mg)
Dates (1/2 cup contains 35 mg)

Grains
Tempeh (1 cup contains 215 mg)
Amaranth (1 cup contains 275 mg)

Legumes
Great northern beans (1 cup contains 120 mg)
Soybeans (1 cup contains 175 mg)
Adzuki beans (1 cup contains 65 mg)
Navy beans (1 cup contains 125 mg)

Other
Blackstrap Molasses (2 tablespoons contains 400 mg)
Fortified non-dairy milk (ie. Almond, Soy, or Rice) (1 cup contains 200-300 mg)
Hemp milk (1 cup contains 460 mg)
Fortified orange juice (1 cup contains 300 mg)
Tahini (2 tablespoons contains 130 mg)
Almond butter (2 tablespoons contains 85 mg)
Roasted sesame seeds (1 oz. contains 35 mg)

Calcium Supplements
If you don’t think your child is getting enough calcium from food sources, consider adding a calcium supplement. While excess intake of calcium is almost never due to calcium intake from foods, the use of calcium supplements could lead to excessive calcium intake as a result of improper dosing.

Because calcium plays a major role in virtually every cell in the body and interacts with a large number of other nutrients, too much calcium may give rise to a variety of adverse effects. That is why it is recommended that you consult your physician before implementing any supplementation for your child.

The most common forms of supplemental calcium are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Generally fewer tablets of calcium carbonate are required to achieve the desired dose, thus, costs tend to be lower with calcium carbonate than with calcium citrate.  However, calcium carbonate is more often associated with side effects including constipation, flatulence, and bloating . If you choose calcium carbonate (which is also available as a chewable) monitor your child for those side effects.

When choosing supplements, make sure it is a casein-free formula. It should say so on the label. Select a form suited to your child’s age and abilities. Is it better to find a liquid, chewable tablet, capsule or powder?

Check the label to find out what kind of calcium the supplement contains. If the supplement contains calcium citrate, you can take it with or without food. If the supplement contains calcium carbonate, take it with food. Stomach acid produced while eating helps the absorption of calcium carbonate. It is also better to take calcium not at the same time as a multi-vitamin since some other minerals can interfere with calcium absorption.

Whatever supplement you choose, incorporate it into a schedule. For example, in our house, we take calcium in the evening after dinner. The routine helps us to remember to take it. Also, since calcium has been shown to help the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin, taking it in the evening hours helps prepare the body for a restful sleep.

 

This post is an excerpt from the ebook: E.A.T. An Italian Mother’s Guide to Going Casein-free in Autism Spectrum Disorders now available on Amazon.  

Sources:

National Research Council. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13050&page=R1

Vegan Sources of Calcium
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/25-vegan-sources-for-calcium.html?page=2

Insomnia: Studies Confirm Calcium And Magnesium Effective http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/163169.php

 

ADD / ADHD Parent Resources and Support

ADHD Resource

Today’s guest post was written by Leah Chamberlin, an ADD/ADHD advocate who offers a valuable resource for parents of children with ADD or ADHD.

 

As a parent you have the entitled right to feel extremely connected to your children and to always hope you know them better than anyone else does or possibly could. With that being said, parents usually tend to have gut instincts regarding their children’s health, life and personality and should remember to take notice to them for the success of your children and their future.

If you find yourself going to a teacher conference meeting for your 12 year old son and you are being told that his teachers are concerned he may have ADD or ADHD, you might have a couple recollections of his younger days when you just knew something was different, not bad, just different about your son. You may have made a comment to his pre-school teacher regarding his behavior and you recall her answer to be somewhere on the lines of “boys will be boys” or “he’s just playing like a boy.” Although you may have liked to extra quality attention focused on your son and his development, there isn’t too much to fret over; most important thing is that your child is healthy and happy. There is still plenty of time to work with your son to ensure his future success in school and in life.

There can be many missed opportunities to address concerns regarding your children, which is why it is imperative to pay attention, note your observations and take the appropriate actions. Observe your child in their younger years when they are playing with other children, find out where they have difficulty and where they strive, talk with teachers and caregivers frequently and ask about all behavior and playing skills. It is better to know all that you can before jumping to any form of conclusions. If you child plays great one on one with other children but doesn’t do as well in a group setting, focus on setting up one on one play dates at your home for him or her.

There is a lot of information out there including forums for parents who think or have a child with ADD or ADHD. Find what works for your child and you and stick to it, it will take time and dedication but it will always be worth it.

 

Leah is an avid support of the cause. She works with an ADD and ADHD treatment guide to help match parents and children with help in their local vicinity.

 

 

 

 

How to go Casein-free

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If you are considering implementing a casein-free diet for your child, be prepared. Some parents are made to feel that removing cow milk from a child’s food choices is a form of child abuse. Naysayers are unaware that a large percentage of the world’s population does not consume animal milk once childhood has passed. In fact, humans are the only species that drink milk as adults, and the only “animal” to drink the milk of another animal. Cow milk may be the perfect food for baby cows, but it was not meant to sustain humans.

If you are wondering whether a casein-free diet will benefit your child, consider this: children who crave dairy, and who eat a lot of it, are most likely to benefit from going casein-free.

Casein is the most abundant protein in milk. It is also found in dairy products and other foods containing dairy or lactose (including milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream). Because this milk protein is commonly used in processed foods, even foods proclaiming to be “dairy-free” or “lactose-free” will contain casein.

So why is casein a problem? The most studied theory proposes that children with autism, or other neurobehavioral disorders, process certain proteins (in this case the milk protein casein) differently than typical people do. Incomplete digestion and this difference in processing leads to high levels of protein by-products, called casomorphines, which exacerbate undesirable symptoms commonly associated with these disorders.

Similar to how the brain reacts to gluten in these individuals, it is believed that the brain reads these proteins as if they were opioid-like chemicals, like heroin or morphine. These by-products may then affect behavior like a drug would. They can affect speech, reduce the desire for social interaction, increase confusion, delay cognitive and auditory processing, and decrease the ability to feel pain.

This opioid reaction can also become addictive.  For some, the craving for dairy foods can be so intense that eating a yogurt or ice cream produces a feeling analogous to “getting high”. Removing casein usually produces benefits within a month, and sometimes within a week. In some children there is a worsening of symptoms for a few days (similar to a drug withdrawal) followed by improvement. In fact, one mom said that her child adapted to going gluten-free without skipping a beat but upon removing dairy, he started “raiding the fridge for yogurt and cheese” and became aggressive during his withdrawal period. This subsided as the days passed so don’t be surprised if you have a similar experience.

The idea behind removing casein from the diet is to heal inflammation in the gut caused by casein, reduce the level of casomorphines in the system and remove the opioid messaging to the brain which will lead to a reduction in symptoms and improve social and cognitive behaviors and speech.

Before embarking on a casein-free diet, consult your child’s doctor. Because dairy products are one of the main sources of calcium in children, you’ll need to make sure the child’s diet has other good sources of calcium and vitamin D.  Talk with your child’s doctor about fortified foods (ie. calcium-enriched rice milk or coconut yogurt) and/or supplementation to avoid any nutritional deficiencies. Because it is best to get vitamins and nutrients from natural whole foods, I recommend you consult a licensed dietitian or nutritionist who can educate you about the casein-free diet and help tailor a menu to your child’s health needs and taste preferences.

If you choose a casein-free diet you must become aware of the ingredients of everything in your grocery cart. Read labels carefully, because milk or milk products can be present in surprising places, like non-dairy creamers, soy cheeses and soy yogurt and even sausages. Caseinates, such as calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate and sodium caseinate are derived from casein. If you really want to see if a casein-free diet is going to help your child, avoid purchasing any food whose label lists either casein or caseinates, even if it is not a “dairy” food.

In to avoid casein in your cooking, use olive or grapeseed oils instead of butter, or simply omit the cheese in certain dishes (ie. garnish tacos with avocado instead of cheese).

Source of Casein include (but are not limited to):

Animal Milk (all forms: cow, sheep, goat, etc)

Butter

Butter flavor

Casein

Caseinate

Cheese

Cheese powder

Non-dairy cheese (check the label for caseinate)

Cream

Custard

Flavorings

Half & Half

Ice Creams

Milk fat

Milk hydrolysate

Sour cream

Whey

Whipped cream

Yogurt

 

How I Jump Started the Casein-free Process:

When we removed animal milk from our diet, I bought 1 carton each of Rice milk (Costco has the best one, it tastes very much like skim milk and not very much like rice), Almond milk (get the Original, Unsweetened version) and Coconut milk (Unsweetened, Unflavored). I made a taste testing game of it. I blind folded my boys and had them taste each kind and tell me which one they liked the best. Then I used that one for cereal and for drinking. Not one to waste, I used the milks they didn’t like in protein shakes or to make hot cereal (cream of buckwheat or oatmeal). Please remember to purchase unsweetened and unflavored products. There is no point in loading your child up with sugar and artificial flavors as those are implicated in behavioral disorders as well.

 

When it’s time to transition out of dairy yogurt, I would recommend doing the same thing. Keep in mind that if you choose a soy product, make sure it is made with NON-GMO soy beans. It will say on the label. A lot of children are sensitive to soy, so we try to avoid it in our house.

For ice cream – there are non-dairy ice creams available in pints. You could taste test those as well and use the ones you don’t like in smoothies, etc. However, the non-dairy ice creams are pricey. I make my own popsicles (see Popeye Pushups) or I buy sorbet which is usually non-dairy. We live near a Trader Joes and their sorbets are delicious!

 

It’s important to note that while I stick with their preferences for drinking and for use with cereal, I do purchase a variety of different milks and keep them on hand for different culinary purposes. This gives their bodies the best of all worlds in that we aren’t too heavy on one kind of product over another (almond milk vs. rice milk, etc).

 

If you have gone casein-free, please share any tips or ideas on how you implemented the dietary changes in your home. We have many parents who could use your input and support as they attempt to remove casein from their children’s diet. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section in order to benefit our readers.

 

Thanks!

 

This post is an excerpt from the ebook: E.A.T. An Italian Mother’s Guide to Going Casein-free in Autism Spectrum Disorders now available on Amazon.  

Sources:

http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/03/03/gluten-free-casein-free-diet-shows-promise-for-autism-symptoms/35555.html

 

β-Casomorphin Induces Fos-Like Immunoreactivity in Discrete Brain Regions Relevant to Schizophrenia and Autism http://aut.sagepub.com/content/3/1/67.short

 

Stanislaw Kaminski, Anna Cielinska, Elzbieta Kostyra (2007). “Polymorphism of bovine beta-casein and its potential effect on health”. Journal of Applied Genetics 48 (3): 189–198. doi:10.1007/BF03195213. PMID 17666771.

 

Kurek M, Przybilla B, Hermann K, Ring J (1992). “A naturally occurring opioid peptide from cow’s milk, beta-casomorphine-7, is a direct histamine releaser in man”. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 97 (2): 115–120. doi:10.1159/000063326 . PMID 1374738.

 

Review of the potential health impact of β-casomorphins and related peptides  European Food Safety Agency , Scientific Report (2009) 231, 1-107

 

beta-Casomorphin-immunoreactivity in the brain stem of the human infant. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8351411

 

Effect of casein and beta-casomorphins on gastrointestinal motility in rats. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2319342

 

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cows-milk-casomorphin-and-autism/