HAS YOUR BRAIN BEEN GLUTENED?
So much has been made about Gluten in the media over the last few years. The conventional understanding is that If you don’t have Coeliac than you can’t have a problem with gluten. If you present to the GP with a Gluten free philosophy on the back of no coeliac diagnosis he will pass you off as a muesli crunching Hippie and your efforts are a waste of time and money. But are they?
Every argument must first start with a hypothesis. The hypothesis that I must first prove is that what you put into your belly affects your brain. The following proof is crude but it is sufficient to prove to you that your brain is affected by what you put into your gut. If you drink a pint of beer the organ affected is your brain. If you take drugs, you don’t say ‘my intestinal tract is high’, such a statement would draw ridicule and you would be asked if you are on drugs?. ''Indeed, I am'' you would say. We know the chemicals that pass from the beer and drugs percolate across the intestinal membrane and into the blood stream and subsequently affect your brain. Do you stuff an anti depressant in your ear or ingest it?.
The same applies to food also. How about the migrainee that is struck down with a migraine for three days after eating a histamine rich blue cheese sandwich, or the autistic child who falls into an hour of repetition and a full-blown melt down after eating a glutamate rich food.
The first time I saw how profound an effect gluten can have on the brain was with a student case in London. Mary (alias) presented with depression. We went gluten free and the effect was profound. Years of depression and anxiety literally vanished overnight. Mary's certainty that it was the gluten came after indulging on pizza one night mid program and for the next few days suffered her usual depressed state. I wish every depressive case was this simple but this case really emphasised to me how powerful an effect food can have on our state of mental well being.
Dr David Pearlmutter (neurologist and author of ‘the grain brain’) in America says that ‘’Gluten is a foreign protein to human physiology, and is the cornerstone of leaky brain-causing inflammation’’.
Dr. Robert Fasano is an internationally renowned paediatrician and researcher and he has shown through his work that ‘’Based on our results, we concluded that gluten activates zonulin (gate keepers of the intestinal tract) signalling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity (irrespective of the presence of coeliac), leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules (stuff you don't want floating around you blood stream)’’(1). What this means is that Gluten triggers the gate keepers in the intestinal tract to open. This creates leaky gut and stuff gets into the blood stream that should not be there and pisses the immune system off. This occurs irrespective of whether you have coeliac disease or not. In effect Gluten damages my intestinal tract, yours and everyone else’s.
The significance of all this should not be underestimated. The intestinal tract junctions are tightly regulated to prevent material from our diet, environment and from our internal digestive processes getting into our system. When this barrier breaks down then the material joining our circulation will trigger inflammation and compromise other systems in the Body. Did you know that every autoimmune disease has as a precursor leaky gut? Therefore, it is so important to heal your gut as one of the first therapeutic objectives.
GLUTEN AND THE BRAIN
There is a growing body of science that is linking gluten to depressive disorders. Inflammation, Food sensitivities (2) and leaky gut can all go a long way to contribute to
Autism and other developmental disease
Nerve pain syndromes
Facial Palsies (i.e. Bell’s)
In relation to the above conditions we know that with
DEPRESSION; The feelings of depression can be induced through short term exposure to gluten. Bearing in mind that some people eat gluten 3-4 times a day. Trialling a fully gluten free diet to improve mood and wellbeing should be the first protocol for any mental health related issues (3).
SCHIZOPHRENIA: There are studies that have documented a drastic reduction and sometime full remission from schizophrenia after complete exclusion of gluten. It should be noted that this is not the case for all schizophrenic cases but there is certainly enough evidence to warrant trialling a gluten free diet for each schizophrenic patient (4).
AUTISM: Studies have shown that a gluten free diet may be effective in moderating the gastrointestinal symptoms and autistic spectrum disorders. This will again be certainly true for many ASD patients but further measures will be required (5).
BIPOLAR: Bipolar show an elevated immune response to gluten greater than non-Bipolar individuals. For a impressive case study of just how profound an effect gluten can have in relation to mental psychosis then read this article....file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/nutrients-07-05235%20(1).pdf
The list is endless and the threads of discussion that arise after each new study is ever growing our understanding of the intimate link between our bellies and our brains. We do not fully understand all the science but a gluten free diet should be an inexpensive first protocol for any patient suffering from any neurological conditions.
When it comes to Gluten the best intervention is to remove it entirely along with dairy for 45 days. On day 45 sit down with a lovely Hovis white bread sandwich. If you react then you know there is an issue. If not all the better for the Hovis bread company.
If you are happy to undertake testing then the Cyrex lab array 3 is the most comprehensive test available that looks at gluten. It has proven an invaluable tool in practice to help identify issues that can have so many clinical implications
Now for your comments. It is always most helpful to hear back personal testimony so if you have an experience with Gluten please share it with me.
Paul Foley Nutritional Therapist Dip Nut CNM, mBANT, mCNHC