Purina neuro diet
I wrote this on June 9, 2005 at the request of a doctor who was interested in this elimination diet for his epileptic patients. Again, this site was originally intended to be used by my clients- lay people searching for answers to medical issues that they did not understand. But I do realize that the length of these papers drives medically-inclined crazy. To be honest, it would me if I was looking for immediate answers for a problem case. BUT, I still contend that the fast-food approach to our problems is totally inadequate, and at some point, we MUST see the big picture again. So, I walk a fine line in my attempt to educate my clients while enlightening my colleagues, often resulting in overly lengthy papers. I guess I’d rather over-explain than under-explain. I hope this summary-style paper helps.
The G.A.R.D. originally stood for the “glutamate-aspartate restricted diet” after its limitation of these two non-essential, neurostimulating amino acids that are also the parent compounds of MSG and aspartame (NutraSweet) respectively. They are now termed “excitotoxins” and known triggers of seizures and inciters of some neurodegenerative diseases. However, the G.A.R.D. also stands for the “gut absorption recovery diet” due to its removal of the “big 4” foods (gluten, dairy, soy and corn), which are all capable of inducing the damage to the intestinal villi that characterizes celiac disease and the related food intolerances.
So in the case epilepsy and other conditions for which the G.A.R.D. should be applied (chronic gastrointestinal disorders, pain syndromes, ADHD, insomnia, and neurodegenerative disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and others), the diet is not only a quick Band Aid for the symptoms but also a major part of the long-term solution for these conditions, as this paper will explain.
The Epilepsy Diet (GARD) Made Simple
Many of you have expressed the need to have this work simplified, especially health professionals trying to make sense of my recommendations. I do understand and will vary from my stated philosophy, that being that I do not believe in fast-food medicine and that the more you understand, the better you will be able to apply these principles. We do live in a world with the fast-food mentality and this has reduced our time, patience, and the mental energy needed to really deal with the vital issues that face us. Sad but true.
So, here are the nuts and bolts of “the G.A.R.D“- the glutamate/aspartate restricted diet or the gut absorption recovery diet- that has helped so many pets and people with epilepsy, ADHD, insomnia, fibromyalgia (pain syndromes), chronic fatigue/depression, IBS/heartburn, and much more. It should make perfectly good sense. If not, once again, I have not done my job….yet.
1) There are 4 known “foods” that can induce villous atrophy of the small intestine*: gluten, casein, soy, and corn. The gluten comes from the gluten grains- wheat, barley, and rye. Casein comes from cow’s milk products and is mostly absent in goat’s milk, which contains a different form of casein. The relative absence of casein in goat’s milk is what makes it the “universal foster milk”.
(*particularly the duodenum and jejunum– the first segments of small intestine after the stomach. The villi are the tiny, finger-like projections that absorb nutrients. Atrophy is the wasting away/destruction of these villi.)
2) Adhesives are made from these four foods. Powerful, industrial-strength glues are made from soy, casein, and gluten. Corn is also used to make adhesives but those made from this food are considerably weaker, being used for paper/cardboard products. On the other hand, the other three can be used to make glues capable of holding metal together. The glycoproteins from these foods are clearly very sticky by nature and it should be easily understood why they adhere to tissues.
3) Simple-stomached animals (non-ruminants) are incapable of completely breaking down these “glues”. Celiacs are the proof. These troublesome glycoproteins do adhere to the intestinal villi after passing from the stomach, surviving the action of the acids designed to break down most foods. This is the known pathophysiology of celiac disease as this adherence of gluten to the intestinal lining and the ensuing immune responses cause serious damage to the duodenal and jejunal villi.
4) The duodenum and jejunum, where most of the damage is done by the “big 4”, are responsible for the absorption of calcium, iron, iodine, B complex, vitamin C, and most trace elements (zinc, boron, manganese, lithium, magnesium, and more). In fact, 95% of the intestine’s vitamin D activity (involved in calcium absorption) takes place in the proximal (first) one third of the duodenum. Similarly, the majority of iron is absorbed in the duodenum. (Here’s the rub: I have yet to meet a doctor-veterinary or human- that knows or remembers being taught this simple truth concerning the absorption of nutrients, such as calcium and iron, taking place in the duodenum. In fact, I have had a number of doctors look me in the eye and tell me that the duodenum absorbs “nothing”. This is unfathomable to me, although I did not know this either, until I began my research. Therefore, I am not throwing stones here. But I am very disappointed in the educational process that we as health care providers go through if basic truths like these are lost.)
Update 4/09– The third segment of small intestine- the ileum– is capable of compensating for much of the damage done in the preceding segments (duodenum and jejunum) but damage to the ileo-colic area (e.g. Crohn’s Disease) is now reaching epidemic proportions. This is related to food intolerance, as written about in the popular book by Jordan Rubin , The Maker’s Diet, which chronicles his remarkable recovery from Crohn’s Disease through dietary changes.
5) The official number now being published by the medical profession (Johns Hopkins University and Mayo Clinic) is 1:120 Americans have celiac disease (gluten intolerance). This is a staggering number and a vast increase from the “rare disorder affecting less than 1:5,000 people” that was being purported at the time of my diagnosis in the year 2000. But remember: Wheat is just one of the four gut-damaging foods and is only the number two human, dog and cat allergen. Cow milk is the number one food allergen in people. I have little doubt that researchers will find casein intolerance to be much more of a problem than once thought.
Update 4/09: Celiac researchers now believe the true incidence of celiac disease to be 1:30 people. The new “official” number in Italy is 1:55. However, these same researchers believe that as many as 1:3 individuals may be “gluten sensitive”. In other words, today’s powerful gluten is doing something harmful (e.g. stimulating inflammation and immune-mediated disease) in a full third of people who consume it.
6) The allergies to these four foods (gluten grains, cow’s milk, soy, and corn) are formed at the time the damage to the intestinal lining is taking place. These four foods are the top human, dog, and cat allergens for very good reason. They are the primary food allergens- those that do harm to the intestinal villi and elicit an immune response in the process. All other foods allergens are secondary to this damage, drawing an immune response as they pass through the damaged gut. This is part of the “leaky gut syndrome” created by the release of zonulin, a hormone that is produced by the intestine once the villous atrophy has become severe and prolonged (the intestinal tract’s “plan B”). This is the accepted pathophysiology of adulthood food allergens in celiac disease, not a theory. Secondary food allergies to eggs, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, tropical fruits, etc. result from damage done to the natural barriers of the intestine caused by the primary food allergens (the “big 4”).
7) There are antibody-sized glycoproteins that we derive from foods that are now termed “ lectins “. It is crucial that we understand these dietary proteins and the potential harm they can do as they attach to internal tissues once they have entered the bloodstream. There are good and bad lectins in our food components, with the most damaging being from the same four foods listed above. (For a great paper on this subject and a good discussion of their involvement in immune-mediated diseases, click on this link- http://www.krispin.com/lectin.html ). We now know that these lectins are vitally involved in what we call “autoimmune disease” (thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 diabetes, lupus, and more.)
8) Glutamic acid (glutamate) and aspartic acid (aspartate) are two non-essential amino acids- our bodies manufacture all of the required amounts of these two amino acids from other proteins. Glutamate is one of the principle neurotransmitters in our brain. The amount of glutamate at the synapse is regulated by the adjacent glial cell (astrocyte), which removes excess glutamate from the synapse to prevent over-excitation of the impulse-receiving neuron. Glutamate is not only neurostimulating, it is potentially neuro-lethal. For example, excessive glutamate at the synapse is the described pathomechanism in Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), with that excess leading to the death of that neuron. Similarly, the “glutamate cascade” is the known cause of brain death regardless of the cause of our bodily death. Therefore, it is clearly very important for the synapse to have the proper level of glutamic acid present at any given moment. Excessive glutamate can lead to over-stimulation of neurons (e.g. seizures, reduced pain threshold, sleep disorders, and emotional disturbances) or neuronal death (e.g. ALS).
9) Glutamic acid is the parent protein in MSG (mono sodium glutamate). MSG is used as a neurostimulator, acting to sensitize the open-ended nerves in our taste buds so that food will taste better. MSG is a known trigger of seizures, as is its sister amino acid, aspartic acid, the parent protein in the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet). Both amino acids are neurostimulators and “excitotoxins” (as Dr. Russell Blaylock terms them) and the very proof lies in the purpose for their use in the food industry.
10) It has been commonly held that blood sources of these two neurostimulating amino acids do not cross the “normal” blood brain barrier, that layer of cells that protect the brain by limiting the passage of certain blood components into the brain. This contention is only partly true, as there are areas of the brain that are not protected by the normal blood brain barrier. Also, the key word in the above contention is “normal”. The question is whether we have normal barriers any longer. Air pollution, hydrogenated oils, and normal immune/allergic responses are known to alter the permeability of the blood brain barrier. Therefore, with 90% of prepared foods containing trans fats, with most of us living in highly polluted environments, and with huge populations of us experiencing significant allergies, it is reasonable to question the integrity of our “normal” blood brain barrier.
Update 4/09– It has now been shown that the origin of seizures in idiopathic epilepsy is the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is located on the underside of the brain. Recent studies have shown that the blood brain barrier in this area is more subject to injury, allowing certain damaging substances to enter the brain. The evidence of this damage lies in the commonly reported disruption of the other major function of the hippocampus- memory.
11) Wheat gluten is 25% glutamic acid by weight. Casein from cow’s milk is 20% glutamic acid by composition. Soy protein has much more glutamate than either of these two. Corn contains the least amount of these two non-essential amino acids but it can do harm to the intestinal villi in susceptible individuals, leading to malaborption of essential nutrients and worsening food allergies. This has become even more of a problem as we have genetically modified corn, the evidence of which came in the recent news concerning Starlink corn (CRY9C), the culprit in the “Taco Bell shell” fiasco a few years back. The reader should really search out the complete story. The neurotoxic effect of corn is now a hot topic in the autism community. This should not be too much of a surprise as all of the lectins of the “big 4” are potentially damaging to neurons just as they are to any tissue to which they attach.
12) 70% plus of the calories of the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) come from dairy and wheat alone, the number one and number two food allergens in humans, dogs, and cats. Remember: The damage they do to the intestinal villi is the root cause of these allergies. Plus, these foods are loaded with glutamate. Allergic reactions also alter the permeability of the blood brain barrier. Plus, the products made from these foods are often very high in refined sugar and hydrogenated oils. All of these factors contribute to the neurological effects of the “big 4” and the products manufactured from them.
13) Cow milk products, wheat, and soy are also the leading sources of dietary estrogens. Dairy products have been related to breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometriosis, and polycystic ovaries. Dairy and soy have been both incriminated in altering the onset of first menses in our children, with dairy products bringing that age down from 15 to 12.5 years and soy bringing it further down to 8 years of age in a reported 16.7% of our little girls. Estrogens are both inflammatory and immune suppressive. Their role in breast cancer is well documented, setting the stage for the viruses that cause breast cancer. (Put “virus, breast cancer in your search engine.) Estrogens also play a role in catamenial seizures, PMS, and in the immune suppression that helps unleash the opportunistic viruses that we have acquired over our lifetime, including Epstein Barr and others that occupy our brain. Put “virus, seizure” or “virus, epilepsy” in your search engine and read about the viral agents known to be involved in seizures. There are over 25 viruses known to cause seizures in man.
14) The damage done to the intestinal villi by the “big 4” results in a chronic, progressive malabsorption of the nutrients it normally absorbs. Again, those nutrients include calcium, iron, iodine, B complex, and vitamin C along with numerous trace minerals (zinc, boron, magnesium, lithium, and more). Evidence of this malabsorption is everywhere you look in this country- osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, thyroid diseases, folate deficiencies, skeletal abnormalities, and immune incompetence. Celiacs represent the worst of the worst, acting as a “who’s who” of what goes wrong with humans, dogs, and cats. Growth abnormalities, juvenile bone diseases, dental issues (cavities) , and iron deficiencies are obvious evidence of the malfunction taking place in the duodenum and jejunum. In veterinary medicine, the most food allergic breeds have the worst juvenile bone disorders and suffer the worst cartilage failure as adults (intervertebral discs, heart valves, and supportive ligaments such as anterior cruciate ligaments). The evidence of the chronic malabsorption of calcium and vitamin C…the building blocks for our skeletal system (collagen) is everywhere once we see that this very common and well-described process is taking place.
15) What we haven’t readily seen is how the normal enzyme systems (e.g. those in the liver, kidney and brain), which control blood and neuronal glutamate levels, suffer from the deficiency in those vitamins critical to the function of that enzyme. What we do see is the overt consequences- the effects of the excess glutamate in the brain in the form of seizures, pain syndromes, insomnia, and neurodegenerative diseases. These are often quickly reversed by the removal of the foods containing the “excitotoxins”- glutamic and aspartic acid. Others require replacement vitamins and minerals in order to “reboot” the normal enzyme systems.
16) Another element that is difficult to accurately measure is the competence of the immune system. But you do not have to be a doctor to know that an individual who is not getting adequate levels of vitamins and minerals would have a less than perfect immune system. Celiacs stand out here once again like a sore thumb, leading the pack in immune incompetence (e.g. fighting mononucleosis, shingles, and herpes), immune-mediated diseases (lupus, rheumatoid disease, etc), and cancer (e.g. a 50 fold increase in colon cancer). Put “cancer, virus” in your search engine.
NOTE: In April of 2006, I came to understand something very important about viruses- their role in nature and their place in what we call “diseases”. I encourage the reader to examine my newest section, Viruses-Friend or Foe . I am now thoroughly convinced that much of what we call “disease” is simply the reaction of viruses that are in situ (some of which are known to be embedded in our very DNA) to noxious stimuli, some of which we term “carcinogens” when they are powerful enough to cause these viruses to form tumors. I now view cancer as the viruses’ ultimate adaptation, with tumors being viral cocoons created to protect themselves and the cells they were charged to protect. As in cancer, I believe the viruses involved in epilepsy cause seizures because it is the right thing for them to do in order to protect the neuron. Once again, excessive glutamate is not only neurotoxic but potentially neuro-lethal, as illustrated by Lou Gehrig’s Disease and by the glutamate cascade that causes the death of our brain regardless of the cause of our bodily death. I believe that seizures help prevent neuronal death in the epileptic by disposing of excessive glutamate. I also believe that the viruses that take up residence in the glial cells “know” exactly what they are doing: By inducing seizures, they are exhibiting a form of adaptation to the conditions (malnutrition) and insults (lectins, excitotoxins, chemicals) with which they are faced, in the same way that other viruses form tumors to protect themselves and the cells they were designed to protect from the carcinogens we keep throwing at them. Adaptation: It is what viruses were designed and created to do.
Update 4/09– The role of intracellular bacteria ( L-form bacteria and mollicutes ) in immune-mediated diseases has been established and this study opens many new and exciting doors. As my newest section suggests, these bacteria behave very much like viruses and I believe they play a similar and vital role in our ability to adapt to the immunological challenges we face every day. But there are some individuals, including those with advanced neurological and “autoimmune” diseases, who need very specific antibiotic therapy to help them deal with these agents due to their long-term immune suppression.
17) The G.A.R.D. is primarily an elimination diet. It is “simple” but not necessarily easy. It is certainly much more easily accomplished in our pets than in our own lives. In the dog and cat, it can be as simple as changing from pet food “A” to pet food “B” after checking the ingredients. However, eliminating snacks and treats seems to be just as hard for some pet owners to do as it is for them to do in their own lives. What to eliminate becomes quite obvious, dictated by the condition being treated and degree of affliction. The “worst of the worst” require the strictest elimination, often showing marginal recovery without doing so but demonstrating significant improvements when enough is done right. Once the molecular nature of the immune system is understood, the reason for the variation is response is very clear. I tell people to think “peanut allergy” in order to grasp the degree of food sensitivity experienced by some individuals.
18) The first foods to eliminate are the “big 4” (or the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as I like to refer to them)- gluten (wheat, barley, rye), casein, soy, and corn. This shuts off the damage being done to the intestinal villi, a step of paramount importance in the full recovery from every single condition imaginable. Logic should dictate this to be true- and it is. This also eliminates the top four primary food allergens and main sources of glutamate, estrogens, and lectins. Could this step be any more important.
19) The next step is to eliminate the “crack cocaine” versions of these non-essential amino acids- MSG and aspartame. This can be difficult in the human diet and often requires intense research into the hidden sources of MSG. There are now MSG and migraine support Websites that deal specifically with this issue. Diet drinks must be eliminated immediately. Put “aspartame syndrome” in your search engine and believe the testimonials that you read.
20) Eliminate the other sources (listed in the following article) of glutamate. Peanuts, for example, are very rich in this non-essential amino acid as they are soy’s closest cousin. All legumes are rich in glutamate as are the bean family (excluding green beans), which include garbanzo, lima, black, kidney, and navy. Lentils are also rich in glutamate. Certainly, these foods are nutritious in other regards, but for those battling excitotoxin-related disorders, they should be limited until full recovery is attained. Then, perhaps as the body functions (enzyme systems, blood brain barrier, neuronal sensitivity, and tissue health) return to normal, these can be eaten again. This is true in most but not in others, especially those living in highly polluted environments.
21) RUN from hydrogenated oils. For an incredible read, click here for David Dewey’s Hydrogenated oils- The Silent Killers ( http://www.dldewey.com/hydroil.htm ). You will see how these trans fats- one of man’s worst creations- play a vital role in atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and in neurodegenerative and immune-mediated conditions. Learn how they contribute to the death of an American every 3.5 seconds. In the context of our discussion, they damage the blood brain barrier, disrupting enzyme systems, and allowing excess glutamate levels to build in the brain by preventing their exclusion. Thankfully, pet foods do not contain appreciable amounts of these deadly fats. But after reading David’s article, you may have a clue why pets do not suffer from clinical atherosclerosis…yet.
Update 4/09- The paradigm shift continues as the food industry strives to eliminate trans-fats from prepared foods. New York City and the state of California are working to outlaw these damaging oils- the worst of man’s dietary creations. However, keep in mind that there is no acceptable level of these fats in our diet and that food labels (e.g. on snacks that used to be loaded with trans-fats) that state “0 trans fats” may not be completely free of these damaging oils, as the FDA has set a limit below which the manufacturer can state that the product is trans-fat free.
In summary: The G.A.R.D. allows the intestinal villi to heal, thereby reversing the malabsorption of nutrients that are vital to the health of all tissues and enzyme systems, including those of the brain and immune system. It is also naturally hypoallergenic, which relieves symptoms and improves the function of the blood brain barrier. It is low in dietary estrogens, which in turn reduces inflammation and improves immune function. And mainly, the G.A.R.D. is low in the non-essential amino acids glutamate and aspartate, which clearly ARE crossing into the brain in the same fashion as their concentrated forms (MSG and aspartame), causing over-excitation of neurons.
The elimination of the offending foods has resulted in phenomenal improvements in seizures, pain syndromes, insomnia, ADHD, autism, bipolar disease, and even MS and ALS. Because these foods are the primary food allergens, their restriction also relieves numerous symptoms such as nasal congestion, asthma, heartburn, IBS, skin allergies, ear problems, and more. And when the immune system recovers from the malnutrition and over-stimulation from which it has been suffering (“being over-worked and under-paid”, as I stated in The Answer), it can better handle the viruses, bacteria, intracellular bacteria (L-forms and mollicutes), and air pollution it faces every single day.
As we learn more and more about the role of viruses and bacteria in cancer, immune-mediated diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases, we will easily see how our food choices have contributed so greatly to our downfall. Imagine an immune system capable of not only fighting off these opportunistic organisms but also even being capable of eliminating many of the ones that we have harbored for years.
Sound too good to be true? The bottom line is that this elimination diet works! And, it should make sense- perfectly good, common, everyday horse sense. If it doesn’t, then I simply haven’t done my job…yet.
Here is a great site for looking up the nutritional profiles of food, including their glutamate and aspartate content.
Simply click on the food you are inquiring about, then scroll down toward the bottom of the page until you see the chart in the Nutritional Profile section. There is a click-on link after that chart (just above the References section) that reads “In Depth Nutritional Profile for (chosen food)” . Click on that link and then just scroll done to the aspartate and glutamate listings. Make note of the serving size at the top of the chart so that you’ll be making an accurate comparison. You will quickly see the huge difference between the glutamate/aspartate content of healthy fruits/vegetables versus items such soy, wheat, barley, and the bean family (with the exception of green beans).
Now, for the GOOD news:
On these dietary restrictions, I just want to make one thing very clear. We are restricting the level of glutamate and aspartate in the diet because the neurons of the brain (and their associated supportive cells called glial cells, or astrocytes) are diseased and cannot handle the high levels of this non-essential, neurostimulating amino acid in our typical diet. By eating what has become the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), we are absolutely bombarding our brain with these “excitotoxins” in the form of grains, dairy, soy, and the rest.
But, it is the fact that the brain is unhealthy that explains why we are seeing the syndromes such as epilepsy, ADHD, insomnia, fibromyalgia, and various neurodegenerative diseases. I need to reemphasize this point for a number of reasons but mainly to establish why a person would develop one of these conditions and another not while eating the same foods. There must be something that distinguishes that person from the other…and there is…there always is. These things are covered elsewhere on the Website, but this might be a good time to check out my newest section, Viruses-Friend or Foe?
Here’s the point: When we are in the throws of one of the excitotoxin-related disorders, we need to reduce our consumption of the foods rich in these amino acids as much as possible. Doing so places a big Band-Aid on the situation and yields notable and often remarkable results in a short period of time. Dogs have stopped seizing in 24 hours. I felt noticeably better in four days. My fibromyalgia was improved in less than a week and gone in a month.
The phenomenal thing is that the long-term recovery also comes from the same diet. The principle reason this disease-producing cycle was set into motion to begin with was the damage effects of the “big 4” (gluten, casein, soy, and corn) on the intestinal villi and their ability to absorb vital nutrients. This combined with the showering of the body with exctotoxins, allergens, lectins, estrogens, and other substances from these same foods sets us up for the disease states that follow. Once the immune system starts to suffer from the same process, we are pretty much done.
The good news (yes, there is some good news) is that once we are off the “big 4” long enough, the process does reverse. Imagine the benefits of your body properly absorbing the calcium, iron, iodine, B complex, vitamin C, and trace minerals it so desperately needs. Imagine a brain, liver, and entire body that is getting what it needs to repair and thrive and in an environment free of the top four human, dog, and cat food allergens (cow milk, wheat, soy, and corn), which are also providing major quantities of allergens, damaging lectins, estrogens, depressants (casomorphins/gliadomorphins), and excitotoxins. Do you think you might just start feeling better. (Smile)
But there’s more good news (and this is the main reason for placing this information here on this page). Once you have recovered…your brain, liver, and immune system are back to normal or close to it…then you can go back to eating some of those sources of glutamate and aspartate that are not one of the “big 4”. Again, the reason for the more severe restriction of these other foods was to place a Band-Aid on the situation- to provide relief for your ailing brain and liver (which regulates the glutamate in the bloodstream) by reducing the load of these potentially harmful neuroactive amino acids on these unhealthy organs. Once the nervous system and liver have recovered, most of us can go back to eating the nuts, seeds, beans, and meats that we were limiting in the beginning.
Just remember- “Everything in moderation”. Some individuals will recover to such a degree that they could go back to eating all of the peanuts, lima beans, and steak they want without experiencing a seizure, pain episode, or bad night’s sleep. BUT, most will fall into a category somewhere in between this level of recovery and where they were to start with, depending on several secondary factors, such how much we cheat with the “big 4”, our age, local pollution, and more. And after all, loading up on peanuts is not good for anyone. (All you need is about 6 peanuts or almonds to get all that you need from them for the day. BUT, who does that. ) Similarly, we do not need the cowboy-sized serving of steak they throw at us at your favorite restaurant. (I have to keep telling myself that.)
So, please do not think that I am saying you cannot eat any of the foods on the glutamate-rich list ever again. The formal name of the diet is the glutamate-aspartate restricted diet. That is a relative term, with some individuals requiring a more severe restriction than others. But when it comes to the “big 4”, I use the term elimination. If you are gluten, casein, soy, and/or corn intolerant, elimination is the key to your optimal recovery. These are the guys that set us up for all of this mess. That is why I now “lovingly” call them the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The effects they can have on man and animals is potentially catastrophic and hopefully the reader now has a much better idea of why I have dedicated my life to this mission.