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Your Brain on Gluten

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Many people today are shocked and confused about why Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are affecting their loved ones. Nowadays 2.6 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s. What science is finding is that both of these diseases, plus many other neurodegenerative diseases may have root causes that stem from the patient’s diet.

Alzheimer’s actually displays the same symptoms of inflammation as the rest of the body does, only in the brain. To understand a little further, there is a process in the body called glycation that causes sugars to bind to proteins when the blood sugar level is mildly elevated. When this happens, it results in inflammation and free radical production. This brings up a very important question about lifestyle and macronutrient balance in the diet. It is absolutely fundamental that the diet be balanced with high healthy fats, proteins and low whole carbohydrates. The high carbohydrate diet has only been adopted in the past century or two and is not faring well for our bodies.

Now, some people may turn away when advised to consume fats more than carbohydrates, but there is a method to the seeming madness. The cell membranes in the human body, which are wall-like structures of each cell, are made of fats. Therefore, many fats that are consumed, construct cells in all of the body cells including those in the brain. The fats that deserve to be turned away from are those that have been highly modified and are made to endure long shelf-lives. These fats damage the brain and cell membranes. However, healthy fats found in natural sources like grass-fed beef, fish, avocados, nuts and seeds are very beneficial to the entire body.

When comparing people who have followed a low-carb versus low-fat diet, low-carb delivered better results for healthy cholesterol levels, long-term weight loss and importantly, a decreased inflammation marker called C-reactive protein. That inflammation is what is thought to cause Alzheimer’s and brain degenerating diseases. Now when examining the culprits for inflammation, we must address that 20% of total caloric intake in the world today comes from wheat. Wheat that makes up bread and pasta which are almost purely carbohydrate. Gluten, being present in all wheat products, is slowly being identified as a problem for many people. Patients are reporting headaches, ADHD, depression, dementia and some cases of schizophrenia who also are found to have a gluten intolerance. Many of these symptoms are treated with prescription drugs without ever looking at changing the underlying diet.

It is commonly and mistakenly assumed that only those patients who have problems in their gut are suffering from a gluten sensitivity and need to try a gluten-free diet. That is however proving not to be the case according to modern scientific studies. A person’s body can be undergoing extensive inflammation and damaging the brain without damaging the gut. The problem only intensifies when it affects the gut because gluten is actually making the intestine more permeable which is resulting in proteins that normally wouldn’t be able to pass into the blood, able to pass through. This causes an increased burden on the immune system. Doctors propose that this challenging of the immune system opens the door for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, along with cancer. Gluten sensitivity which is commonly thought to affect those with celiac disease, may indeed affect 100% of people on this planet to varying degrees.

The good news is that the damage done by gluten is reversible. In a study conducted by Integrative Medicine in April of 2013, a man who had been on heavy medication for years for his headaches underwent testing for sensitivities. He showed positive for about 10 antibodies that were present above normal levels and attacking his immune system. After following a gluten-free diet, 8 out of 10 of these levels were reduced to normal, his headaches had seized and he was able to get off of most of his medication. Research on different cases has been growing that demonstrate that gluten is causing a myriad of manifestations, commonly including attacks on the cerebellum that result in the loss of arm and leg movement.

Unfortunately, testing for gluten sensitivity is often overlooked by physicians who are quick to prescribe a medication to treat the symptoms of a disorder. New tests are available that are not hard to conduct but must be specifically requested. Statistics say that 1.8% of people have celiac disease, while 30% of people are gluten sensitive. Tests to measure antibodies that the body is producing are not commonly administered without the premise of celiac disease. It is absolutely eye-opening when you understand the far reaching manifestations that diet may be causing. With the research, case studies and information available on gluten, physicians may be changing the way they look at healing from trying to blow away the smoke to actually putting out the fire by investigating into a gluten free diet.