Carbohydrates have had a target on their back ever since the trend towards low-carb, high-protein diets began decades ago. I’m talking about paleo-diets, the Atkins diet, and the South Beach diet, to name a few. But, there’s another problem with carbohydrates other than their propensity to help you pack on the pounds. That’s the gluten…
Gluten can cause immune cells to go haywire – wreaking havoc in the brain, nervous system, digestive tract, and other parts of the body.
While not everyone’s body reacts this way, researchers have found that millions of Americans experience harmful reactions to gluten. And most of these folks don’t realize that it’s gluten that’s causing them serious health problems, including memory loss.
Here’s what to watch out for…
Gluten is a series of proteins found in foods made from wheat, barley, and rye that, when they enter your digestive tract, can cause your immune system to overreact.
It’s taken quite a while for research into the effects of gluten to uncover the widespread brain and nervous system issues that result from this immune overdrive. But now, it’s time to take notice. Because the gluten brain drain is a problem that’s not going away and may be getting worse.
Millions Of Brains In Danger
When analyzing why so many people react poorly to consuming foods containing gluten, researchers have found that there are several different problematic types of response to consuming these proteins.
The most well-known problem is called celiac disease, which is an autoimmune problem.
When someone with celiac ingests a food containing gluten, the immune system becomes inflamed in ways that lead immune cells to attack the lining of the digestive tract while damaging various parts of the body including arteries and the nervous system, as well as the heart, the brain, and other organs.
Another group of people have what’s called “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” which involves a different part of the immune system than celiac and doesn’t do the same sort of damage to the digestive tract, but which can still negatively affect the brain.
A third possible problem, which is relatively rare, is an allergy to gluten – but so far there’s no evidence that this allergy involves brain cells.
Anywhere from one to six percent of Americans are estimated to have celiac (three to 18 million people). About three-fourths of these people don’t know they have the disease because, while it may be causing things like brain fog and neuropathy, it isn’t causing obvious digestive issues.
For instance, a study in England that looked at symptoms suffered by people recently diagnosed with celiac shows that about 30 percent of these folks had nervous system problems that interfered with their ability to walk, more than 40 percent suffered frequent headaches and more than ten percent had vision and eye issues.1 Another study, this one in Finland, found that more than 20 percent of celiac patients experienced peripheral neuropathy (tingling, numbness and pain in hands and feet).2
Gluten can shrink the brain
Research also shows that in people with celiac, consuming gluten often leads to shrinkage of the cerebellum – the part of the brain that controls walking and other movements.3
Gluten may also cause white matter lesions which damage the brain, disrupt memory and lead to mood problems, as well as hurt your sense of balance and increase your chances of having serious cognition issues.4
Meanwhile, for those people who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can result in brain fog and headaches.5 And researchers who have done brain scans on these folks also report an increase in white matter lesions. This too could be a huge problem since it is estimated that at least 18 million Americans are affected by this type of sensitivity.
Protect yourself from a potential
My take on all this is that everyone should be tested for their reactions to gluten. A blood test can show if you may have celiac disease. If the test is positive, further tests can determine if celiac is truly present.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is often diagnosed – after celiac is ruled out – by how you feel when going on a gluten-free diet. If your digestive symptoms, brain fog, headaches, or other complaints ease, you may have this condition.
For those who have issues with gluten, the only treatment is to go on a life-long gluten-free diet. That means avoiding anything made with wheat, barley, or rye. You must give up things like wheat bread, regular pizza, cookies, cakes, and beer. If you still want to eat things like bread or cake, you can purchase gluten-free versions of these foods or make your own using non-wheat flour.
The good news is that there’s still plenty of foods you can eat. You can still consume meat and fish, as well as fruits and vegetables and nuts. For a more complete list of what to eat, take a look here.
The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team