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The Food Opiodes: Casomorphins and Gluteomorphins

Food Addiction: Casomorphins and Gluteomorphins and Mental Health

In today’s article I’m going to talk about the connection between casomorphins, dairy, gluten and their connection to mental health problems including anxiety, depression, confusion, migraines nervousness and mood swings. While you may be familiar with dairy and gluten, what in the world is a casomorphin? and what does it have to do with mental health.


Casomorphins are the proteins that make up 80-90% of the protein content of cow’s milk and are formed during our attempt to digest casein. It is this same protein that can cause damage to the lower intestinal lining and a malabsorption syndrome similar to that seen in celiac disease, or gluten intolerance.

Casomorphins can be any opioid released from casein (milk proteins) during digestion. Ever notice why we feel so good when we eat cheese or why a baby looks so happy and calm when nursing? Cheese and milk contains casein but it also contains casein fragments called casomorphins.

Casomorphins have a morphine-like compound. Basically, dairy protein has opiate molecules built in. When we eat cheese, drink milk these fragments attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to.

To put things in perspective, a cup of milk contains 7.7 grams of protein, 80% of which is casein. When converted to cheddar, for example, the protein content multiplies 7-fold, to 56 grams. It’s the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store. Basically, if milk is cocaine, then cheese is crack. (1)

The breakdown of casomorphins and gluteomorphins (found in Gluten) are shared by a very specific enzyme called DPP-IV dipeptidyl peptidase. 


Opioids are some of the most powerfully addicting drugs known to the human body and every time you consume wheat, dairy or cheese you are flooding your body with opioids that potentially irritate your gut and your brain. New reports and studies are showing a link between casomorphins and things like autism and schizophrenia. The interesting thing about all of this is that there is an enzyme called DPP-IV dipeptidyl peptidase who’s job is to break down casomorphins and glutemorphines. This is an exciting area because if we can assist the body in breaking down casomophins and gluteomorphins, we can eliminate the opiod like affect on the Brain when these foods are consumed. 

Casomorphins found In cheese and dairy can cross the blood-brain barrier and attach to dopamine receptors in your brain. This causes your brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to feelings of pleasure and reward. Some researchers believe this occurs as a way to ensure babies (humans, cows, etc.) continue to nurse during infancy, which helps the survival of the species.

These Casomorphin antibodies appear

  1. Autism
  2. Celiac Disease
  3. non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Watch this video- 4 foods to avoid if you suffer with anxiety and depression 

Now that you are familiar with casomorphins, let’s talk a little about the proteins found in wheat that have also been shown to cause anxiety, depression, brain fog, mood swings and other mental health problems. Keep in mind that the enzyme DPP-IV enzyme not only breaks down casomorphin but it also breaks down gluten. Let’s talk about Gluteomorphins.


Gluteomorphin, also known as, Gliadorphin, is an opioid peptide formed from undigested Gliadin from gluten protein. In the brain, Gluteomorphins can directly interfere with neuronal messaging by binding to the opioid receptors thus inhibiting the natural binding of neurotransmitters to their receptors.

In addition, lymphocytes carry the same receptors on their own surfaces; therefore, Gluteomorphins can indirectly interfere with opioid receptors through lymphocyte secretion of cytokines and cause the delivery of wrong messages to the brain.

If antibodies are produced to Gluteomorphin, these antibodies act like the natural opioids, on the lymphocytes and the nerve cells causing neuro-immune abnormalities. Thus, Gluteomorphins can disturb neuro-immune communication through neurotransmitters and cytokines.

These Gluteomorphin Antibodies Appear

  1. Autism
  2. Celiac Disease
  3. non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Wheat/Gluten Sensitivity and Autoimmunity 1

Symptoms of Casomorphins and Gluteomorphins

Opiates are recognized as some of the most powerfully addictive drugs out there, so it’s no surprise that those suffering from circulating casomorphin or gluteomorphin would struggle with strong cravings for products containing gluten and casein. But its much bigger than just a craving. These foods can cause serious problems in people who have problems with producing DPP-IV or have antibodies against casomorphins and gluteomorphins.

Other common symptoms of course involve GI distress and inflammation, particularly constipation and abdominal pain.

Opiates and food opiates alike are also associated with mental disorders, including trouble focusing, confusion, nervousness, dysphoria and euphoria (or mood swings).

There is even speculation that increased casomorphin or gliadorphin can later cause Celiac Disease.

For those with plenty of DPP-IV, this isn’t an issue. However, some people don’t produce enough DPP-IV. Others may consume gluten and dairy at such a quantity that even normal enzyme production levels are insufficient for the task.


Diabetic Medications Casomorphins and Gluteomorphins

Medications for Type 2 Diabetes including Gliptins (Januvia,  saxagliptin, and vildagliptin) are (DPP-IV) dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors. They work by increasing insulin and lowering glucagon. This might sound like a good idea but remember that when you can’t break down gluten and dairy, you become more vulnerable to increase circulating levels of Gluteomorphin, Casomorphin and prodynorphin (opiods) in the brain.

Another situation we often see with people who have problems with dairy and gluten is the problem of leaky gut. A leaky gut allow these proteins to leak into blood stream.  Once in the blood stream they elicit a very powerful immune-inflammatory reaction in both the brain and gut. They are now multiple studies reporting the Connection of Gluten and autism and schizophrenia.

Help Your Body Digest Gluten and Dairy with

Gluten/Dairy Protect is a blend of digestive enzymes that support normal gluten and dairy digestion. Gluten/Dairy Digest helps to relieve bloating or gas due to dairy consumption.*

If you’ve been in the gluten-free community long enough, chances are you’ve heard of gluten and dairy digestive enzymes,  sometimes known as glutenases or gluten pills. These supplements have been designed to help minimize inadvertent exposure to gluten or dairy. gluten.

Optimal digestion is dependent upon effective digestive enzymes, and those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are at greater risk for enzyme deficits.  DG Protect is a uniquely designed digestive enzyme targeted to help maintain healthy gluten and dairy digestion. DG Protect includes both endopeptidase and exopeptidase activity, chosen for their ability to hydrolyze gluten proteins, as well as a unique mixture of protease enzymes and lactase to assist the digestion of multiple constituents of dairy products.

Some people do not produce a sufficient amount of gluten and diary digestive enzymes due to genetics, injury or illness (including celiac disease). When the body doesn’t produce enough of these digestive enzymes, a person might experience poor digestion and a slew of annoying and sometimes painful gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, bloating, stomach aches, and more. Poor digestion will result in nutritional imbalances.

Gluten/Dairy Protect contains a blend of digestive enzymes targeting gluten and dairy digestion. It provides a blend of proteases specially formulated with dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) activity to help break down gluten peptide fragments in normal digestive systems.

Studies suggest that it may also promote a healthy cytokine balance to support GI comfort and function. Additionally, this formula provides a unique mixture of protease enzymes and lactase to assist digestion of multiple constituents of milk and dairy products.

Protease enzymes targeting casein and beta-lactoglobulin proteins support dairy protein digestion. Casein is the predominant protein in milk and cheese.

Beta-lactoglobulin occurs primarily in the whey fraction of milk. It is an acid-stable protein and therefore may not be broken down by pepsin and pancreatin.

Lactase breaks down the milk sugar lactose, helping to relieve occasional bloating or gas that some people can experience from dairy consumption.

If you are on a controlled diet and/or under the care of a health care professional for dairy and/or gluten digestion, continue to follow those recommendations.

What you should Remember

  • These morphine-like psychoactive peptides results from the incomplete digestion of these gluten containing dietary proteins.
  • These protein bind to the opiate receptors in the brain.
  • Psychiatric reactions to these gluten proteins, including the sense of “brain fog” behavioral problems, or mood swings that often accompany immune reactions to these foods and which may follow with panic attacks, depression, or other neurological complaints.
  • Both Gluteomorphins and Casomorphins are morphine-like opiods that have been likened to drugs like LSD.
  • They can be very sedating and addictive and help to explain why 75% of the calories in the standard American diet (S.A.D.) come from wheat and dairy alone. Food addiction is a very real thing and these opiods play a huge role. 
  • These sedating compounds are also the single biggest contributing factor to post-meal drowsiness. 
  • In the next several years, more and more doctors will become familiar with these two terms. Unfortunately, even most doctors have no idea what these substances are and how much they can affect a person. How can something that plays such a vital role in the lives of the multitudes, contributing to autistic symptoms, food addiction, clinical depression, chronic fatigue, caffeine addiction, highway deaths, and more go without being learned and kept in the forefront of the minds of all doctors? Something to consider? 
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What’s Next?

When a patient has intestinal dysfunction or intestinal permeability, these small, undigested molecules may enter the blood stream, and, if blood-brain barrier permeability exists, pass through the blood- brain barrier. In the brain, Gluteomorphins can directly interfere with neuronal messaging by binding to the opioid receptors thus inhibiting the natural binding of neurotransmitters to their receptors. If you tested positive for either of these, it may be time to get your barriers tested.

  1. Blood Brain Barrier Testing
  2. Intestinal Barrier Testing aka Leaky Gut

To find out what may be affecting you and causing symptoms similar to those stated above, contact our office.


  1. Chavkin, et al. Characterization of the prodynorphin and proenkephalin neuropeptide systems in rat hippocampus. J Neurosci, 1985; 5(3):808-816.
  2. Cosford. PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disease associated with Streptococcus) in autism? Electronic J Appl Psychol, 2009; 5(1):39-48.
  3. Gardner. Exorphins and other biologically active peptides derived from diet. Brostoff and Challacombe (eds) Food allergy and intolerance (2nd edition). Saunders: New York; 2002.
  4. Northrop. Endogenous and exogenous regulation and control of physiological systems. Chapman and Hall/CRC: Boca Raton, FL; 1999.
  5. Roy, et al. Serum antibody for somatostatin-14 and prodynorphin 209-240 in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and advanced HIV infection. Biol Psychiatry, 1994; 35:335-344.
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  11. The Psychiatric quarterly. 2012;83(1):91-102. Losurdo G, Principi M, Iannone A, et al. Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm.
  12. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2018;24(14):1521-1530. Peters SL, Biesiekierski JR, Yelland GW, Muir JG, Gibson PR. Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity – an exploratory clinical study.
  13. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 May; 39(10):1104-12. Gluten Psychosis: Confirmation of a New Clinical Entity. Lionetti E, Leonardi S, Franzonello C, Mancardi M, Ruggieri M, Catassi C Nutrients. 2015 Jul 8; 7(7):5532-9.

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