Starting this diet is a huge leap of faith. How do you know it’s going to work for your kid? How can you possibly embark on such a major lifestyle change, without any guarantees? I know, I’ve been there. I know that there’s part of you that dares to dream you might see unbelievable changes in your child, maybe hear them talk to you for the first time… and yet strangely enough, there’s part of you that kind of doesn’t want it to work, because if it does, that means you’re committed to this.
Unfortunately, because the reaction to gluten and casein is not like an allergy, there’s not a reliable lab test to “prove” your child will benefit from going GFCF. But there is a way you can test-run the diet, without actually implementing it right away: digestive enzymes.
In a normally-functioning body, the digestive system produces many different enzymes that break down our foods. Some people are missing key enzymes, and thus are unable to digest certain foods. This is why some people are lactose-intolerant, for example, because they are missing the enzyme that digests lactose. There are even some specialty milk products, like Lactaid, that claim to be safe for lactose-intolerant people to drink, because the manufacturer has actually added the lactose-digesting enzyme to the milk, so it effectively digests itself.
So if our kids can’t digest gluten and casein (which are both broken down by one enzyme, called Dipeptyl Peptidase IV, or DPP-IV,) can we replace the enzyme, just like a lactose-intolerant person would? The short answer is, yes you can.
This digestive enzyme made by Enzymedica has been specifically formulated to break down gluten and casein, and some parents choose to use it in place of a GFCF diet. If your child cannot swallow capsules yet, you can open it and mix the powder into a small cup of applesauce, and there will be no noticeable flavor. However, your child must eat it immediately if you do this, because the enzymes will begin breaking down the applesauce.
Let me say right now, I believe that avoiding gluten and casein altogether is the safest choice for our kids. But if you’re not ready to jump in with both feet yet, then this is absolutely better than doing nothing. What’s more, you can use these enzymes as a diagnostic test: if you begin giving them to your child, and you see improvements, that is proof that your child has a problem with gluten and casein, and you can be confident that reducing (and hopefully eventually eliminating) those foods from their diets will be worth the effort.