FOOD INTOLERANCE, EPILEPSY,
AND “THE G.A.R.D.”
John B.Symes, D.V.M.
Beltline Animal Hospital, PC
One of the earliest and most dramatic findings in my seven years of research into these food-related issues was the
phenomenal response to elimination diets in those suffering from idiopathic epilepsy. In my initial study of celiac disease,
I came across accounts of epileptic children with gluten intolerance showing significant improvements when placed on gluten-free
diets. As most epilepsy in pets is considered “idiopathic” in the veterinary literature, this caught my attention.
I also read that MSG (monosodium glutamate) and aspartame had been identified as seizure triggers in children with epilepsy.
It did not take long for me to see that gluten was absolutely loaded with the parent non-essential, neurostimulating amino
acids glutamate (glutamic acid) and aspartate (aspartic acid). “Could it be that simple?” I asked myself. “Could
the brain be too unhealthy in some individuals to handle these amino acids in common foods? Could the “bound”
forms in those food sources do to those individuals what the “free” and concentrated forms found in common food
additives do?” I came across the work of Dr. Russell Blaylock (Excitotoxins-
The Taste That Kills) in which he clearly states that MSG and aspartame have been linked to numerous neurological conditions,
including migraines, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases. “But could the bound forms in food really do the exact
same thing?” was my question.
This seemingly novel question was quickly answered with a resounding “Yes!” The very first epileptic dog
I put on a gluten-free diet stopped seizing within 48 hours. Surpassing my newfound expectations, every single case of idiopathic
epilepsy (and even some cases of brain tumors) that I put on a gluten-free diet had a significant response. And with a little
more research, I was able to determine what was required to completely halt the
seizures in those that did not respond as well as I had come to expect. There were a number of other culprits to be identified-
namely casein, soy, and corn- as well as other foods rich in these two amino acids. But what do these phenomenal responses
say about the true cause of idiopathic epilepsy?
Well, what do we know about epilepsy? It is the most common neurological condition worldwide. This is also true in
dogs. 50 million people are afflicted with epilepsy at any given time. In humans, epilepsy typically strikes between 2 and
14 years and then again after 65. Seizures usually start in the dog between 6
months and 6 years. The age of onset and the fact that developing countries have a much higher incidence than developed ones
suggest an “opportunistic” disease state to me, one that preys upon an immature or inefficient immune system.
And yet, the majority of epileptic cases are still classified as “idiopathic”.
Fact- there are over 20 viruses that have been shown to cause seizures in people, including many that are ubiquitous
and known to have latent states, with Epstein Barr, other Herpes viruses, influenza, Coxsackie, measles and mumps being among
them. Now I do not plan to turn this into a virology lecture but will simply state that I am personally of the opinion that
chronic latent viruses which have an affinity for glial cells are the main underlying cause of idiopathic epilepsy. My Website
goes into great detail as to why I am convinced of this.
So, if viruses are the true cause of idiopathic epilepsy, where do the “big 4” foods come into the picture?
One of the key points that my research revealed is that the “big 4” (gluten, casein, soy, and corn) are the main
foods that induce villous atrophy of the duodenum, the principle lesion found in celiac disease. This is a crucial fact to
grasp because that particular area of bowel has the vital role of absorbing many essential nutrients, including calcium, iron,
iodine, B complex, vitamin C, zinc, copper, magnesium, and much more.
How hard is it to imagine the far-reaching and potentially devastating effects of the villous damage induced by these
foods? In fact, there is no tissue or bodily function that does not depend on these nutrients for optimal performance. The
brain, liver, immune system, and every other organ and enzyme system could suffer when this sort of chronic malabsorption
takes place. And the celiac experiences it all. That is why I often refer to the duodenum as “Pandora’s Box”…damage
it and we unleash the plagues that await us.
And, why these are the main four foods that damage this area is equally fascinating. These are the only four foods
that we consume from which adhesives are made, with gluten and casein being used to make industrial glues and bases for paint.
Casein, which makes up 80% of the protein fraction of cow’s milk, is the protein from which Borden makes Elmer’s
glue. As most of you know, powerful super-glues are made from soy with which much of your car is assembled. But the best they
can do with corn adhesives is to put cardboard boxes together with it. And in examining these four foods, it is interesting
to note that corn is the best tolerated.
A good example of a secondary problem resulting from this villous damage is reduced serotonin production. 98% of the
body’s serotonin is produced by the enterochromaffin cells that line that same area of gut that is damaged by the “big
4”. The other two percent is produced by the brain itself from tryptophan. However, in both areas, B complex is utilized
as a coenzyme to make that conversion. But where is that B complex absorbed again? Yes, B complex is absorbed primarily by
the duodenum. Thank Goodness some is absorbed sublingually. And serotonin is not only a mood moderator but plays a role in
moderating the neurostimulating effects of glutamate at the synapse. I certainly believe that serotonin deficiencies play
a vital role in the severity of epilepsy. Celiacs are notoriously low in this vital hormone, as illustrated by their depression,
bleeding tendencies, high rates of epilepsy, and severe immune-mediated diseases.
The fascinating thing to see is that these four gut-damaging foods are also the leading dietary sources of the non-essential,
neurostimulating amino acids, glutamate and aspartate. They are also rich in tissue-damaging lectins, food allergens, and
estrogens. I’ve come to understand that this is no coincidence. “Lectin” is the term given to antibody-sized
glycoproteins that occur in nature, being derived from foods, bacteria, and even our own cells. For example, the oligodendrocytes
in our brain are capable of producing two different lectins, one that supports the neuron and one that can kill the neuron
The lectins that pertain to this discussion are those derived from foods and the astute reader already suspects that
the main players are those derived from the “big 4”: Gluten grains, dairy products, soy, and corn. All complex
cells have glycoprotein receptors on their outer cell wall, to which “dock” things like antibodies, viruses, and
lectins. When a lectin docks to a receptor, any one of ten different reactions can take place, from cell death to tumor formation.
In between are inflammatory reactions, the production of hormones, and changes in the cell wall. Dr. D’Adamo based his
eating-for-your-blood-type work on lectins, noting that certain blood types were more prone than others to the different glycoproteins
of dairy, wheat, soy, and corn.
On that note, how does a cell know which is the appropriate response to
this non-living entity? I contend that it is the viruses in that cell that determine
the response. These viruses can force that cell to adapt or they can make that cell grow out of control, which we call tumor
formation, a process that I believe is the viruses’ ultimate adaptation. The role of lectins helps to explain much about
the celiac’s medical history, including their staggering rates of immune-mediated diseases and certain cancers.
So once again, we see that the foods that are unhealthy for us are so in numerous ways and are practically screaming
out to us to stop eating them, often beginning in childhood with colic, congestion, asthma and other allergies. As I mentioned
in the first hour, I found a study a few years ago that found our children who get cow’s milk in the first five days
of life had a 40-50 times higher rate of asthma, type 2 diabetes, and juvenile onset rheumatoid arthritis. My study of lectins
certainly supported this and I recommend everyone learn as much about these antibody-sized glycoproteins as possible. And
the allergies to these foods are primarily formed at the time the damage to the gut takes place as a prelude to the showering
of the body with these damaging lectins, which have their hand in a wide range of immune-mediated disorders. The estrogens
these foods contain add significantly to the problem, as estrogens are both inflammatory and immune suppressive.
But for the topic of epilepsy, I will focus on the glutamate content. The foods richest in glutamate are the gluten
grains (wheat, barley, and rye), dairy products, beans and legumes (especially soy and peanuts), nuts and seeds, and foods
prepared with the “free” form known as MSG. Meats are also rich in glutamate content but alone do not do any intestinal
harm. It is the combination of the villous atrophy, damage to the cells that covert glutamate to glutamine, and the rich glutamate
content of the “big 4” that distinguish them as the main culprits.
I have done my homework, finding sites that list the glutamate and aspartate
content of common foods and making tables and charts to give to interested parties, mainly to illustrate the fact that the
main food allergens are also the culprits here, while the universally healthy food-namely fruits and veggie- are lowest in
these non-essential amino acids. Some things do make sense.
As I mentioned, I have been treating epileptic veterinary patients for several years employing a glutamate/ aspartate-restricted
diet (now known as “The G.A.R.D.”) with phenomenal success. In fact, I have yet to have a case that did not show
significant improvement, most of which stopped seizing within 48 hours and only had recurrences when the owners were non-compliant.
My (free) Internet consultations during those years have generated some fascinating human testimonials by those who have applied
these principles on their own. Both children and adults have responded dramatically, just as my early study about celiac epileptics
One extremely important personal discovery was a seizure pattern of the un-medicated epileptic dog, which showed that
the typical interval between eating a high glutamate meal and having a seizure was 4-6 hours (as opposed to a 30 minutes to
an hour interval seen when people ingested the “free” forms, MSG and aspartame.) This 6 hour lag time is consistent
with the effects these same foods have on the human “insomniac”, who eats dinner and dessert at 7-8 PM and awakens
each night at 1-2 AM. The parallels are obvious.
By applying The G.A.R.D., we put an immediate Band-Aid on the situation by dramatically reducing the glutamate load
on the diseased neurons, liver, and intestinal cells. This has halted seizures, literally overnight, in otherwise refractory
seizure patients. Again, I cannot over-stress how well this has worked. But the long-term recovery of the epileptic comes
from the same restrictive dietary approach, as it allows the gut to heal and function better. This includes the return to
proper nutrient absorption as well as the production of serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that are vital to our health,
especially to that of the central nervous system. That is why I now also refer to The G.A.R.D. as the “gut absorption
Of course, epilepsy is not the only neurological disorder that is affected by the downward spiral created by these
trouble foods. The “excitotoxins” are vitally involved in ADHD, migraines, pain syndromes (e.g. fibromyalgia)
and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Alzheimer’s. Again, Dr. Blaylock has pioneered much of this work. Now
imagine the brains of those individuals with food intolerance that have been afflicted by nutrient malabsorption their entire
life. Then, throw in the deleterious effects of fast food, hydrogenated oils, and polluted environments while folding in our
fast-paced lifestyles, lack of restorative sleep, and overuse of symptomatic medication and we have a recipe for disaster.
Our current medical dilemma really should be no mystery at all.
And the real problems begin in “Pandora’s Box”. The “big
4” are the “Who’s Who” of unhealthy foods and celiacs are the “martyrs”, showing the world
just how bad things can get when we eat something that our body no longer wants. In the sensitized individual, these foods
can induce villous atrophy with the resultant malabsorption syndrome compromising the entire body including the brain, liver,
and immune system. They also cause the release of histamine which increases the permeability of the blood brain barrier thereby
allowing more of the excitotoxins into the brain. Furthermore, these foods are loaded with those harmful lectins on which
Dr. D’Adamo has written volumes of great information. And last but not least, the gluten grains, dairy and soy are also
suppliers of medically significant amounts of dietary estrogens, which can be both chronically inflammatory and immune suppressive-
a deadly combination when viruses are in play. Their role in breast cancer is well-established.
The “four horsemen” are wreaking havoc on countless lives and now we know exactly why. They are particularly
nasty when it comes to neurological conditions, ranging from simple depression/chronic fatigue to severe neurodegenerative
disorders. Their bombardment of the brain with lectins and excitotoxins (once the brain has become adequately diseased) clearly
precipitates the seizures seen in idiopathic epilepsy. I now view epilepsy as a “syndrome” but these trouble foods
have their hand in multiple aspects of that syndrome. And dramatic recoveries can
occur when the “big 4” are eliminated from the diets of afflicted individuals. However, epilepsy is just “the
hook” as I like to term it. It is simply a glaring example of the vast array of conditions in which food intolerance
has its hands.
It has become painfully clear to me that a proper diet has more potential to prevent and treat disease- as well as
extend life expectancy- than anything else under our immediate control. Once again, we do have our health destinies in our
John B. Symes, D.V.M. (aka "Dogtorj")