Mon, 18 May 2009 08:22 UTC
Seems that since I've written the last few articles, I've received numerous comments on gluten. Don Shepherd, John Ho and Pat Becker all made comments on the dangers of gluten. One does not have to have Celiacs disease to be negatively affected by it.
We discussed in earlier posts how there can be many different causes for one disease. If you remember, we used the example of depression in which it could be caused by one's thyroid, a deficiency in folic acid, blood sugar disturbances, hidden infections, deficiency of omega-3 fats, low testosterone and so on.
Now let's flip the coin and turn to gluten and see how one thing can be the cause of many problems and diseases.
In fact, a recent review in the New England Journal of Medicine listed fifty-five diseases that can be caused by eating gluten!
That was not a typo!
Many of the diseases are neurological and psychiatric. Among them are depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, migraines, neuropathy, anxiety, dementia, and autism.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains such as oats, rye, spelt, kamut, barely, triticale.
Why is gluten so bad for so many of us?
There are numerous reasons. For starters, we have not genetically adapted to the grasses, mainly gluten, that were introduced to our diets in the Middle Ages. Thirty percent of people of European descent carry the gene for celiacs disease. This greatly increases their likelihood of having health problems from eating gluten.
In what ways can gluten negatively affect the brain?
First, gluten can inflame the brain by causing an autoimmune response. Autoimmunity is an abnormal response to the body's own tissues. In other words, something comes into the body and the body goes on alert but somehow mistakes its own tissues as a foreign invader and declares war mistakenly upon itself. Allergies are a prime example. In this case, antibodies meant to fight gluten also attack your body.
Secondly, during the digestion process, gluten can be broken down into into strange proteins that are a lot like psychedelic drugs. These are opium-like proteins called gluteomorophins. As you can probably imagine, these can drastically change brain function and behavior. When is the last time someone dropped acid and smoked some opium and maintained their mental homeostasis?
Does gluten then make music sound better and colors more vivid? Hell yeah man. Far out! So let's all get our hand drums, get naked and head for the woods and make a bonfire!
I don't think that is the psychedelic experience anyone is looking for. I don't think there will be a high (pun intended) gluten bread coming out bearing the Grateful Dead's logo! Cherry Garcia was pushing it!
The third way gluten can affect the brain is due to its high content of glutamate (think MSG), a molecule that accelerates, activates, irritates and damages brain cells through a special "docking station" called the NMDA receptor. Excessive activity in this receptor due to glutamate has been linked to many psychiatric disorders. Glutamate is an excitotoxin (a substance that agitates and kills or damages brain cells).
These are the three ways gluten can harm the brain: through inflammation, as an excitotoxin and as morphine or psychedelic proteins.
Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg with gluten. It can also cause arthritis and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases/conditions. However, I just wanted to stick with the brain stuff for now.
That's all for this evening!
Until next time...