Are You Killing Your Brain with Gluten?
How Can You Protect Your Brain
You know those moments when you can’t think straight or lose your train of thought. Or perhaps it’s what we like to call a ‘senior moment’ and despite not being old, you’re having trouble remembering a name or a word. It’s frustrating, right?
But what if every day was like that? What if your brain or nervous system just wasn’t working the way it should? We at Root Cause Medical Clinic have had many patients come through our clinic with symptoms like these.
You might be diagnosed with something like:
• Multiple Sclerosis
And what might be causing these symptoms to be created? Isn’t that the key question we should be asking? What is CAUSING this to occur in my body and what can I do to reverse it? I think so. Let’s look at some possibilities that can help you or someone you care about.
Inflammation Causes Most Diseases
The undercurrent to all the above conditions is inflammation. It’s actually the cornerstone of pretty much every degenerative disease including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, to name but a few. The insidious side of inflammation is its silence. You don’t initially ‘feel’ it.
Sadly when it comes to Alzheimer’s the saying is that by the time you’ve officially diagnosed it, the best you can do for that patient is to talk to his/her younger family members. In other words, too much damage has occurred in the diagnosed individual. Where you can best assist is in those who don’t yet have the disease.
Now, this is extreme and happily not the case for most degenerative diseases where you CAN make a difference, even after a diagnosis is made. But this evil thing called inflammation is quite rampant amongst Americans and putting out the fire that it causes is urgently needed.
54% of Alzheimer’s Cases Could be Prevented
Case in point: Lancet Neurology published that over 54% of the current worldwide Alzheimer's patient load could have been prevented by addressing lifestyle. In the U.S., 2.6 million have Alzheimer’s who, according to this study, over half of them didn’t need to get it. A food group is known to cause inflammation is simple, refined carbohydrates. Remember that vegetables and healthy fruits are also carbs, but that isn’t what I’m referring to. Instead, I’m talking about the white flour and white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
A Low Carb/High Fat Diet is Anti-Inflammatory
A diet low in carbs and high in good fats is a healthy, low inflammatory diet. In the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008, over 300 moderately obese adults in their 50s were put on one of 3 diets: low fat, low carb, or the Mediterranean. Low fat meant high carbs. Those on the low carb diet lost the most weight and kept it off and their blood values improved showing less inflammation, especially good cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin.
Did you know that 20% of the calories ingested by humans on this planet come in the form of wheat products? And such refined products are definitely the types of bad carbs we’re discussing.
A High Percentage of Headaches are Caused by Gluten
A paper in Integrative Medicine noted that in patients who presented to a neurologist, 30% of them with chronic headaches had indicators of celiac disease – 56% had indicators of gluten sensitivity.
Here at Root Cause Medical Clinic, we have certainly witnessed the ‘miracle’ of removing gluten from someone’s diet and having their chronic headaches disappear. Personally, my mother and I were migraine sufferers and these debilitating headaches had gluten as their root cause. I haven’t had a migraine in decades and it’s the same for her.
When it comes to neurological problems, it’s a shame how many doctors discount entirely anything that a patient is eating. Sadly, even gastroenterologists (digestive doctors) don’t give much credence to diet for their patients and the GI tract is where the food goes! I guess with that much-antiquated thinking, it’s no wonder that neurologists don’t give credence to a patient’s diet affecting the nervous system.
Gluten Sensitivity Highly Linked to Neurological Problems
Dr. Hadjivassiliou (just say ‘Hadji’, it’s easier!), a renowned British researcher, began back in 2000 publishing articles discussing how gluten affects the nervous system. He specifically encouraged doctors to face the truth that gluten sensitivity creating neurological problems is a scientific fact. He further stated that doctors confronting neurological problems of unknown origin or those not responding to standard treatment, “owe it to their patients” to screen them for gluten sensitivity as a gluten-free diet was a truly harmless but potentially effective treatment.
How? Through a Leaky Gut
Gluten may ‘come in’ through the gut, but it can quickly make its way out to the nervous system and other areas of the body where it wreaks havoc through inflammation. How does that occur?
In Physiology Review in 2011, Dr. Alessio Fasano and the team produced a study that revealed gluten’s association with the production of a protein called zonulin. Don’t get hung up on the funny name; all you need to know is that zonulin creates a leaky gut. Dr. Fasano stated that the gluten-zonulin mechanism occurred in everyone eating gluten. Everyone? You mean just the people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, right? Nope. He said “everyone”.
It Also Influences Cancer and Autoimmune Disease
And he further stated that the leaky gut was the “biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer”. Read that last sentence again because it’s profound. It’s saying that a leaky gut is a door to inflammation (the cause of almost all degenerative diseases), autoimmune disease (there’s over 100 of them and their incidence has been steadily on the rise), and cancer.
Think about it – making an impact in those three areas would all but reverse the dwindling spiral of poor health in this country and most of the world! And it starts with a leaky gut. And the leaky gut comes from eating gluten. And everyone who eats gluten has, to some degree, a leaky gut created. Oh my…
You Can Have a “Leaky Brain”
Interestingly, you can have more than a leaky gut, you can also have a ‘leaky brain’. There’s something called the blood-brain barrier that we used to think was quite resistant to the passage of proteins or materials of a certain size. While it should be impenetrable, our friend gluten can cause that barrier to losing its integrity, in much the same fashion as the gut does, thereby allowing these larger particles to pass through it.
I’ve written about the tTG6 antibody test in the past. Much like the tTG2 antibody test for celiac, tTG6 instead measures antibodies created to a protein found in brain tissue. It’s felt to be related to ataxia and perhaps schizophrenia too. This test has been on the market for a short time and one we offer here at Root Cause Medical Clinic. In Neurology 2013 (Vol 80, p 1740), there was a paper discussing this reaction and how it can be the cause of gluten ataxia (unstable gait) and brain damage.
Autism is Linked to Gluten Too
There’s such an abundance of studies, but one more worth mentioning was by Dr. Peter Green and the team published in 2013 entitled “Markers of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in children with autism”.
The study revealed that 24% of autistic children tested had high antibodies to gliadin, the classic gluten sensitivity test. Only 2% of the children were positive for markers of celiac disease. That means that gluten sensitivity is once again being shown to negatively affect the nervous system, this time in our innocent children. Dr. Perlmutter, a brilliant neurologist who recently wrote the book The Grain Brain discusses much of this in his book and I highly recommend it. I must say that we also discussed this association between gluten and the nervous system in our book The Gluten Effect, which is about to enjoy its 5th birthday and going strong.
I’m proud that after 5 years The Gluten Effect is still current. What’s really occurred since the time we wrote it is not so much new material about the nervous system link, as corroborating material that solidifies what we’ve known for a long time. And when it comes to the connection between gluten and the nervous system, more and more information in the form of research is being published, which is a very good thing.
Yet you can walk into your local neurologist’s office and he/she often has no idea of this connection. Obviously, we have more work to do.
Do you need help with your health?
We have the tools to discover why you may be having trouble with a weakened immune system. It’s not difficult as long as you’re ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. We will hold your hand through the changes and make each step of change an easy one.
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC. CCN
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr Vikki Petersen is a public speaker, author of two books, several eBooks and creates cutting edge content for her YouTube community. Dr Vikki is committed to bringing Root Cause Medicine and its unique approach to restoring health naturally to the world.