The proteins casein and gluten are two of the top allergens found in the American diet, the former being found in dairy products and the latter in many grains. Some digestive enzyme supplements containing the enzyme DPP-IV, or dipeptidyl peptidase-4, can facilitate the breakdown of these offending proteins. Although digestive enzymes appear promising, they cannot be recommended to people with casein or gluten allergies until more clinical trials are done in humans. However, people with food sensitivities to gluten, casein or both could benefit from using this digestive support. Consult your doctor before using this specific digestive enzyme and reintroducing gluten or casein into your diet.
Casein is one of the proteins found in dairy products produced by all mammals, such as cow, sheep and goat. If you are intolerant to casein, you need to avoid milk, yogurt, cheese, buttermilk, whey and butter. Casein is also found in foods containing milk ingredients, including whey, whey protein, casein, casein hydrolysates and caseinates. Normally, casein is digested by your enzymes, but for some people, their enzymes are not as effective and the entire molecule of casein can be directly absorbed into your blood, triggering your symptoms. The symptoms of an intolerance to casein include itching, hives, eczema, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or dizziness, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Gluten is the main protein found in wheat, but is also present in barley, rye and most oats found in the US. People with celiac disease, which correspond to about 1 percent of Americans, need to eliminate all traces of gluten to prevent the development of autoimmune conditions, osteoporosis, infertility and cancer, according to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. It is estimated that at least 6 percent of Americans also have an intolerance to gluten, which can results in headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and weight problems. Elimination of gluten is the only way to alleviate and prevent your symptoms if you are gluten intolerant.
A digestive enzyme called dipeptidyl peptidase IV, also abbreviated DPP-IV, is able to break down casein and gluten. This enzyme is naturally produced in your intestines, but studies indicate that their levels are low in people with celiac diease, according to ProThera and Klaire Labs. Research done in vitro and in rats is promising, but data in humans are lacking. One trial done with children and young adults with autism, which are thought to be sensitive to both gluten and casein, showed that supplementation with DDP-IV enzymes for 12 weeks resulted in significant improvements in their behaviors and abilities, as reported by ProThera and Klaire Labs. However, more studies are warranted before this digestive enzyme can be widely recommended.
Although the digestive enzyme DPP-IV can help digest and better tolerate casein- and gluten-containing foods, more research is needed to ensure that is safe and effective. This enzyme is currently available on the market, but shouldn't be used by people with celiac disease or milk or casein allergies. However, if you do not have an allergy but are intolerant to gluten or casein, you can give DPP-IV digestive enzymes a try, as long as you have your doctor's approval.
- Celiac Sprue Association: Living Life Gluten-Free
- The Cleveland Clinic: Milk Allergies
- ProThera and Klaire Labs; DPP-IV Enzymes: Clearing Up the Confusion about Activity Units; Summer 2010
- Enzymedica: GlutenEase
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Study from University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research Places Gluten Sensitivity on Center Stage of Spectrum of Gluten-Related Disorders