The Impact of Gluten-Sensitivity on the Lactogenic Diet
Wide-spread gluten sensitivity has developed due to changes in commercial wheat. While not actually genetically modified, wheat has been bred to contain increased levels of gluten, which is the “gluey” protein in wheat. The result is a chewier, gluier, and more delicious dough, which may be handy for the bread industry but has wreaked havoc on the sensitive tissues of the intestine.
Mothers might not be aware of having gluten sensitivity. The symptoms can be mild.
However, we can pass a sensitivity on to our children in a more acute form than we ourselves have it.
Think of this: many children with ADHD or autism improve when they are put on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. The numbers of children with these problems are growing exponentially year by year. These problems often do not become apparent until two years old. We have to act preventatively. We can protect our children by making breastmilk a safe food, free of inflammatory triggers such as gluten. This allows their digestive systems to heal, and they can ride the toxic roller-coaster of childhood with greater success and better outcomes.
The consequences for the lactogenic diet are very sad. Two important lactogenic grains, barley and oats, both contain gluten. These grains do not contain as much gluten as is in wheat, but once the body is sensitized to gluten, the source and the amount do not matter. Any little bit will cause a reaction.
It used to be that gluten sensitivity was diagnosed by detecting changes in the intestine. This condition is known as Celiac disease, and it was considered rare: the intestine became so inflamed and damaged that it could no longer digest well; weight loss and signs of malnutrition were obvious.
Today’s gluten sensitivity is different from Celiac disease. Gluten proteins pass through the damaged intestine (damaged by poor food choices, by substance abuse, antibiotics and birth control pills) with irritating effects on the entire body, even the brain.
No wonder people have seen improvements in a huge variety of health conditions, even mental health conditions, after removing gluten from their diet.
It is problematic though. Removing gluten without improving one’s diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. This is why we think of global dietary changes in response to gluten sensitivity, and not just taking this or that out, and adding this or that in.
Gluten-free bread and pastry substitutes tend to contain other carbohydrates that are lower in nutrition. It becomes important to transition to a whole-foods diet, as none of the commercially available foods meet the standard needed by the new mom and baby.
I write this article with such a heavy heart. It has been a delight to me to discover traditional foods that support lactation. To have to say, not barley or oats, and no grains with gluten, feels like such a loss. But what is the point of breastfeeding and of a lactogenic diet, if not to give our babies their best start?
The following lactogenic foods contain gluten: barley water, beer, malt, oatmeal, lactation cookies, barley-based alternative coffees, anything containing wheat, barley, rye or oats.
In my new Mother Food book, I’ll describe alternatives to our traditional galactagogues.