Gluten – a Sticky Situation

Gluten is an important piece of this healthy brain puzzle. It is the glue found in wheat, barley and rye and if sensitive to it can adversely affect brain health. Signs outside of celiac disease include “the prevalence of extra intestinal symptoms, such as behavioral changes, bone or joint pain, muscle cramps, leg numbness, weight loss and chronic fatigue.” (Saponeetal.BMC Medicine 2012, 10:13) Generally gluten free diets are only recommended to those with Celiac Disease but that ignores a large population who are still sensitive to it with different sorts of symptoms suffering unnecessarily. However most patients who display neurological manifestations that may result from a gluten sensitivity (e.g. ADHD, depression, or headaches) have no signs of gastrointestinal upset.


Dr. Perlmutter proves this point through a case study involving a 66 year old man plagued with severe headaches on a daily basis for 30 years. Drugs taken were Vicoden® and Imitrex® daily. After blood work, it was discovered he was gluten as well as dairy sensitive that resulted in a diet eliminating those foods. After 3 months he was having 2 to 3 headaches per month with his worst one rated as a 5 out of 10 in the level of pain. He is no longer on his previous medications.

Gluten sensitivity can lead to a variety of conditions as stated in Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain. Some of these include depression, headaches, movement disorders, ADHD, Autism, anxiety, brain fog, and neurological disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia etc. While Dr. Perlmutter advocates that a gluten free diet is best for most, he does caution people. While there are many products out there which are gluten free, read the label for carbohydrate content. Prepared gluten free bakery items still have the high content of carbohydrates.


So beware of what is in your prepared foods. Grains and Starches that contain gluten are barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat and wheat germ. Any of these items can be found in common prepared foods such as canned baked beans, blue cheeses, cold cuts, flavored coffees and teas, fruit fillings and puddings, ketchup and mayonnaise. Those items may be renamed as yeast extract, soy protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, dextrin and a number of others listed in the Grain Brain book. “ Chance favors the Prepared Mind,” Louis Pasteur




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