Milk Linked to Autism, Schizophrenia

More than 500,000 Americans have some form of autism, according to the Autism Society of America. The developmental disability typically appears during the first three years of life and is characterized by problems interacting and communicating with others. Many individuals exhibit repeated body movements such as hand-flapping or rocking and may resist changes in routine. In some cases, they may display aggressive or self-injurious behavior. Schizophrenia is noted for disturbances in thinking, emotional reaction and behavior and is the most common form of psychotic illness.

More than 2 million Americans suffer from it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with schizophrenia often hear internal voices not heard by others, or believe others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them. In addition, their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be incomprehensible or frightening to others.

Findings from two animal studies indicate autism and schizophrenia may be linked to a person's inability to properly break down a protein found in milk. The digestive problem might actually lead to the disorders' symptoms, whose basis has long been debated. This research was done by a physiologist at the University of Florida Dr. J. Robert Cade.

When not broken down, the milk protein produces exorphins, morphine-like compounds that are then taken up by areas of the brain known to be involved in autism and schizophrenia, where they cause cells to dysfunction. The animal findings suggest an intestinal flaw, such as a malfunctioning enzyme, is to blame. Preliminary findings from that study -- which showed 95 percent of 81 autistic and schizophrenic children studied had 100 times the normal levels of the milk protein in their blood and urine -- have been presented at two international meetings in the past year but have not yet been published.

The researchers also noted that all milk products must be excluded from the diet. This includes such things as ice cream, yogurt and whey. Even natural flavorings in food must be avoided unless the processor can guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that caseinate, the main protein in milk, is not included. We now have proof positive that these proteins are getting into the blood and proof positive they're getting into areas of the brain involved with the symptoms of autism and schizophrenia.

Researchers injected rats with the protein beta-casomorphin-7, one of the key constituents of milk and the part that coagulates to make cheese. They then observed their behavior and later examined brain tissue to see whether the substances accumulated there. Beta-casomorphin-7 was taken up by 32 different areas of the brain, including sections responsible for vision, hearing and communication. This could explain several of the things one sees in autism and schizophrenia, such as hallucinations. If part of the brain puts out a false signal because of casomorphin, it could result in the person seeing something that's not really there; either a visual or auditory hallucination could occur.

There are a whole number of behaviors that the rat has after beta-casomorphin-7 that are basically the same as one sees in the human with autism or schizophrenia. If we ring a bell beside a rat's cage, it normally looks up to see where the noise is coming from. But the rats after beta-casomorphin-7 didn't do that -- they were completely oblivious to the bell-ringing above them. This struck the researchers as interesting because many mothers of autistic children comment that they seem at times to be totally deaf -- they talk to their children and they just don't seem to hear them. The researchers suspect the process begins in the intestine, where the body absorbs the protein when a person eats foods containing it.

They think this process is linked to the production of antibodies in the gut when you eat something to which you're sensitive. Both schizophrenic and autistic persons have a high incidence of certain antibodies, and a high incidence of diarrhea, which points to an intestinal disorder. So the investigators believe that with autism and schizophrenia, the basic disorder is in the intestine, and these individuals are absorbing beta-casomorphin-7 that they normally should break down in the body as amino acids, rather than peptide chains up to 12 amino acids long.

COMMENT: Many of you know that within the past six months the treatment of autism has become a very large part of my practice. About one out of three of my new patients is autistic and about one out of three of these patients is coming from out of state. The main reason for this increase is the use of the hormone secretin for the treatment of autism. Secretin is a powerful hormone and appears to be a major breakthrough in this illness. I have treated about 60 children to date with over 100 doses of secretin. I would say the majority of the children do better with this treatment. I have even observed one three year who had no speech prior to secretin speak in full paragraphs days after the infusion. It is rare when secretin does not help. HOWEVER, I have also noted that if one could only chose between the diet changes that we implement or the secretin, the diet would be the better option. Nearly ALL children seem to respond favorably to the dietary changes when properly implemented. Dr. Cade's research discussed above may be a key to understanding why. Milk restriction is an ABSOLUTE imperative to the treatment of autism. Anyone managing this illness without restricting milk is deceiving themselves. Complete elimination of sugar, juice, soda, french fries and wheat (pasta, bagels, cereal, pretzels, etc) is a close second. Just like secretin, these dietary manipulations frequently clear up the digestive disorder which most commonly results in consistent loose stools. Dr. Cade also has a urine test that may be the best in the country for diagnosing the gluten and casein sensitivities. I have ordered his kits but have not yet performed the analysis on anyone.

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