Welcome to “The G.A.R.D.” – The Universal Diet
It all began with my personal diagnosis of celiac disease (gluten intolerance) in April of 2000. The miraculous recovery that followed the elimination of gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) from my diet gained my full attention as a patient and as a doctor. In less than a month, long-term symptoms of allergies, heartburn, IBS, fibromyalgia, insomnia, and depression/chronic fatigue vanished. Because of the rapidity and completeness of my response, I plunged into medical research in an attempt to fully explain this remarkable phenomenon. I felt as if I had been given a completely different body and needed to know how one of the very staples of our diet, wheat, could have been doing so much harm throughout my life.
While the desire to shout this from the rooftops became almost overwhelming, I did want to be able to talk intelligently about this medical miracle, on any level with anyone. I began with a study of gluten intolerance and found a comprehensive resource in Celiac.com. The wealth of celiac-related information on the Internet was impressive, even in the year 2000, but was quite disturbing when I realized the commonness far-reaching effects of gluten intolerance. I got a good glimpse into what would later become a passion of mine: The vast gulf between what researchers know and what health care professionals in the field believe to be true.
However, I quickly found that gluten was not the only culprit. Through a series of interesting personal experiences, I discovered that dairy, soy and corn were also causing major problems in my health as well as that of millions of suffering people and their pets. While eliminating gluten, I began to consume more dairy products and found my symptoms to return with a vengeance. There was something wrong with “nature’s perfect food” and its name was casein. Soy proved to be even worse as I scrambled to find a suitable dairy substitute and began to eat soy cheese, tofu ice cream, and drink soy milk. Within two weeks of doing this, my gut was in an absolute knot. My IBS had never been this bad in my entire life. Like so many, I thought soy was “the newest health food”. Five minutes on the Internet and I was staring at the truth: Soy is one of the worst things that can be out into the human or animal body. I quickly labeled it “the third plague” behind gluten and casein.
It was months later when I found the last member of what I would later call “the big 4”. Although it did not affect me nearly as negatively as the other three, corn simply made me feel crummy- a less-than-technical word but a description with which many can identify. After eating corn, I experienced an energy level drop and felt bloated, symptoms that had previously vanished with the elimination of gluten, dairy and soy. A little research into the history and nature of corn told me all that I needed to know: Corn was a major allergen and fully capable of damaging the intestinal lining in the same manner that gluten harms the bowel of the celiac.
As I learned of and personally experienced the health benefits of eliminating these foods, I began employing the diet in my veterinary practice. Skin allergies, ear infections, and chronic gastrointestinal problems suddenly became a thing of the past. By the end of the first year of using these hypoallergenic diets, I became genuinely concerned that I was about to cure myself right our of practice. If it were not for human nature (the tendency to cheat on a diet) and referrals from satisfied clients, that notion may have become a reality. The new diet worked that well!
I began writing extensively about the wide-spread effects of “the big 4” and placing these papers on my first Website, a quickly thrown together homemade base from which to share my work with friends, family and veterinary clients. DogtorJ.com was born. A central theme was the attention-grabbing fact that all four of these foods were the only ones used to make industrial adhesives, supporting the concept that these dietary proteins (glycoproteins) stick to the lining of the intestinal tract and do direct harm to the delicate villi lining the gut in sensitized individuals. Pointing out that Borden makes Elmer’s Glue was usually a high point in the exam room lectures that I gave multiple times each and every day.
But the damage to the lining of the small intestine and its ability to absorb vital nutrients was only the beginning of the harm being done by these four foods. Once in the bloodstream, the antibody-sized components of “the “big 4” (called lectins) could trigger inflammation in any tissue with which they came in contact, including neurons, joints, liver and kidney cells, and blood cells themselves. There appeared to be no limit to their marauding ways. I would eventually label them as “the four horsemen of our medical apocalypse” once the breadth and depth of their negative potential was fully realized.
The G.A.R.D. is Born
From ten years of medical and nutritional research came The G.A.R.D.- an elimination diet for the treatment of most conditions afflicting man and his four-legged companions. The original meaning of the acronym was the glutamate & aspartate restricted diet, derived from the fact that The G.A.R.D. placed a premium on the elimination of two non-essential amino acids, glutamic and aspartic acid. These are parent proteins in MSG and aspartame (NutraSweet), respectively- compounds that are now termed “excitotoxins”, being known triggers of seizures and other neurological disorders. These two neurostimulating amino acids clearly play a major role in the development and perpetuation of epilepsy, migraines, insomnia, ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia and numerous neurodegenerative diseases.
One of the first and most fascinating findings in my investigation of gluten-related disorders was the response of celiac children who were suffering from epilepsy. The gluten-free diet had been shown to greatly improve if not completely eliminate seizure activity in these kids. That grabbed my attention, knowing that epilepsy was considered “idiopathic” in both veterinary and human medicine. Without knowing the details, I began placing my epileptic dogs on wheat-free diets and witnessed one dramatic recovery after another. The cases in which an incomplete recovery occurred forced me to dig deeper. Before long, the “syndrome” of epilepsy unfolded before me- the intestinal harm, malnutrition, neuronal damage by lectins, and bombardment of those diseased neurons and glial cells by the “excitotoxins” supplied by the same foods.
As a veterinarian, it was not hard to see that the food sources- grains, dairy, soy/legumes, and nuts/seeds- were playing the same role in the manifestation of epilepsy as the “crack cocaine” versions of these excitotoxins, MSG and aspartame, since most pets were not consuming these common food additives in their commercial diets. One of the most fascinating aspects of epilepsy, which supported this idea, was the observed time interval between mealtime and seizures. Whereas it was reported that MSG caused problems in epileptics and migraine sufferers within an hour of ingestion, it took 4-6 hours for wheat, dairy, and soy-based foods to trigger the seizure. This became a consistent finding in unmedicated individuals but was frequently obscured in those on anticonvulsants, perhaps helping to explain why the medical profession had not yet made this observation. This interval is also experienced by countless “insomniacs” who find themselves waking up like a shot at 1-2 AM, 4-6 hours after having dinner and dessert, which are usually rich in gluten, dairy and sugar.
The results of The G.A.R.D. in canine epilepsy have been nothing short of astounding. I have now lost count of the number of dogs that have completely stopped seizing on the diet. As anticipated, I have been contacted by a rapidly growing number of people who are utilizing this elimination diet for their own epilepsy, insomnia, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. MS) as well as in their ADHD and autistic children. Truly, the G.A.R.D. has a universally positive effect in these and numerous other non-neurological conditions.
To fully understand these universal applications, all that is needed is a grasp of the cascade of events that follows the intestinal damage done by the “big 4”. This is outlined in my paper, The G.A.R.D. Made Simple. Once the small intestine’s villi (those tiny, finger-like projections that perform the absorption) are damaged, the ability of that individual to absorb essential nutrients can be greatly compromised. The small intestine absorbs everything our body needs to operate properly- vitamins (e.g. C, D, E, B complex), minerals (e.g. calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, zinc), proteins, fats, carbohydrates and water. How hard it is to imagine the far-reaching consequences of their deficiency? Remember: All of the “big 4” are fully capable of compromising the absorption normally performed by the small intestine .
However, the employment of the The G.A.R.D. can and does reverse this damage, giving rise to the second meaning for this acronym- the “gut absorption recovery diet”. By removing the “big 4″ foods- gluten (from wheat, barley, and rye), dairy, soy and corn- we can restore the integrity of the intestinal tract (and quickly), regaining the nutrients that are so vital to every bodily function. The elimination of these destructive dietary proteins also halts the damage being done at the cellular level, which we know now to be immense. Celiac disease has been directly tied to innumerable medical conditions and this is no longer a mystery.
The G.A.R.D. also has the added benefit of restricting dietary estrogens, the most abundant of which come from dairy and soy. Bioactive dietary estrogens (isoflavones) have both an inflammatory and immunosuppressive effect as well as being neurostimulating (e.g. PMS). These estrogenic compounds worsen most inflammatory and neurological conditions, including epilepsy.
By now, the reader should have a good idea why I am so excited about the prospects for The G.A.R.D. It is truly a universal diet, both in its medical applications and in the species it can help, two and four-legged. I have come to see that the “big 4” are not beneficial to anyone or anything consuming them. They are simply tolerated better by some individuals that others. There is nothing that we gain in the way of nutrients from these four foods that we cannot derive from multiple non-offending dietary sources. Who can argue against a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, berries, lean meats, eggs, and gluten-free grains (e.g. rice, millet, flax, sorghum)? And yet, approximately 80% of the calories in the standard American diet (that’s S.A.D.) come from the “big 4” foods as do the vast majority of ingredients found in our pet’s commercial diets. This must change.
Here is the good news: There are a multitude of medical conditions in which the G.A.R.D. should be utilized (e.g. chronic gastrointestinal disorders, pain syndromes, epilepsy, ADHD, autism, insomnia, and neurodegenerative disorders) and, in each of them, the diet is not only a quick and effective Band Aid for the symptoms being experienced but it is also the major component of the long-term solution for these conditions. If there is still any doubt of this, the following papers in this G.A.R.D. section should help.
What is “The GARD”? – This is a summary of the rationale behind and applications for the glutamate/aspartate restricted diet, also known as the gut absorption recovery diet. It took ten years of medical and nutritional research to develop and refine this amazing elimination diet. If it does not make sense by the time you finish reading this section, then I certainly haven’t done my job…yet.
The Glutamate/Aspartate Restricted Diet – This section will be a series of posts that I have placed on applicable sections of a large medical forum known as BrainTalk Communities. This site is an expansive set of forums that cover medical conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to Visual Impairments. I have personally contributed to threads on many of these forums, including those dealing with ADHD, ALS, Celiac Disease, Epilepsy, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, and Child Neurology. The main reason for my involvement in these forums can be found in the content of the following posts. I hope that you get something very special from this section. It is my personal favorite.
The GARD Made Simple – 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.
Pain, Pain Go Away – This paper chronicles my triumph over fibromyalgia and joint pain through my own personal employment of The G.A.R.D. Once you see what was eliminated and why, you should have a much better understanding of what could be driving your pain through lowering your normal threshold. Some of these you are familiar with, others may surprise you.
Food Intolerance, Epilepsy and The G.A.R.D. – This is the transcript for my lecture at the 2007 NAVC (North American Veterinary Conference) in Orlando. It was the second hour that followed a talk on food intolerance in general. This speech on epilepsy briefly covers most aspects of the “syndrome” we call epilepsy and introduces the role of viruses in the development and perpetuation of idiopathic epilepsy.
Food to Avoid, Foods to Enjoy – In this section, I will try to make it clear which foods should be avoided when coping with the “excitotoxin”-related disorders such as epilepsy, insomnia, ADHD, chronic pain (e.g. fibromyalgia), and neurodegenerative diseases such as A.L.S., M.S., Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and more. Autistic patients should benefit from these dietary guidelines as well, especially the avoidance of the gluten grains, soy, and dairy products. Please check out the autism, A.D.H.D., and food addiction parts of theAppetizers section.You can also read my paper “What in the World Do I Eat?” for more ideas and explanations.
More GARD Articles…