I’ll bet you pride yourself on living a pretty clean life.

It’s doubtful that I’d stumble on you in some alley, track marks up your arms, lying in a puddle of your own urine, unconscious from a night of shooting up heroin, snorting coke, or smoking crack. And you probably have all or most of your teeth, unlike the toothless addicts on methamphetamine.

Perhaps you even avoid or minimize your use of the softer recreational drugs in cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. You likely adhere to healthy practices and keep such indulgences to a minimum.

The truth is that you’ve been doping it up for most of your life. You’ve been doping it up with an opiate, not unlike heroin, Oxycontin, or morphine. You’ve been doping it up for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. No tracks, no toothlessness, no pee stains on your trousers, no cardboard sign reading “I’m homeless and need help” . . . but you’ve still been doping it up.

You’ve been cleverly disguising your opiate of choice as muffins, bagels, breakfast cereals, and sandwiches. As with many of the dark and fascinating hidden issues surrounding modern wheat, this is the effect of the gliadin protein of wheat.

Gliadin is digested via stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to a collection of polypeptides (small proteins) called exorphins, or exogenously-derived morphine-like compounds. The message to take from the research is quite clear: Wheat-derived exorphins bind to the opiate receptors of the brain (the delta class of opiate receptors, for you neuroscience people). Different wheat exorphins, such as the A5 fraction, differ in their binding potency, but as a whole, the wheat exorphins exert an opiate-like effect.

For unclear reasons, wheat exorphins do not provide relief from pain, nor the “high” of other opiates. They “only” cause addictive behavior and appetite stimulation. People who consume wheat increase calorie consumption by around 440 calories per day, every day.

Just as the tobacco industry doped their cigarettes for years with added nicotine to increase addictive potential, so Big Food has likewise been doping their foods by adding wheat to every conceivable processed food. Wheat is in nearly all breakfast cereals, granola bars, canned tomato soup, powdered instant soups, taco seasoning, and licorice. Show me a processed food product and I’ll show you something that contains wheat.

Just as the sleazy drug dealer selling you your next hit of crack or heroin profits from your continued addiction, so Big Food acts as your opiate dealer in the wheat exorphin world of addiction. And, just as the drug dealer knows you will be back, else you will suffer withdrawal, sweating, hallucinating, finally begging for your next hit, so Big Food knows you will be back within hours as you begin the exorphin withdrawal process—tremulous, cranky, and foggy . . . until you get your next hit of a bite of pretzel or bread.

This entry was posted in Brain effects, Gliadin, Neurologic consequences of gluten. Bookmark the permalink.

105 Responses to Doped

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    I just finished reading Wheat Belly. I couldn’t put it down. Thank you for writing this very detailed, scientific, and important book.

    I’ve been dealing with an unknown malady for close to 7 years. I’m 43 and lead a fairly healthy life with a “balanced” diet. My primary symptoms have been severe fatigue with very sudden onset after meals, where I indeed feel doped and drugged. I feel compelled to go to sleep, even in the middle of the day (and I work from home so frequently I do nap for hours in the middle of the day). The other major symptom is “brain fog”. It is fairly acute mental confusion that starts suddenly and can last a few minutes at a time. I hardly know my name during these episodes. I also will have trouble enunciating words, work recall, memory issues, etc. My doctor has diagnosed me with “Silent Migraines” as the main cause. I take Magnesium supplements and Nortryptyline as a prophylactic against the Migraines. I also avoid certain foods that are said to trigger migraines. These measures have decreases the symptoms, but not eliminated them.

    Here is the diet I follow for Migraine prevention:

    I’m curious if you’ve seen similar cases in your practice? I’m wondering if Wheat intolerance could be the underlying issues that is causing inflammation and triggering Migraines (and in turn the brain fog/confusion). Your thoughts would be appreciated. FYI, I’m only on day 3 of Wheat elimination, so this is an experiment in progress. Also, my MRI was “normal” and I tested negative for Cealiac (though I don’t recall exactly what test was performed).

    • Dr. Davis says:

      Gee, Tom: Your experience sounds like a classic case of wheat intolerance! In fact, I would be shocked–shocked!–if this proved to NOT be the case.

      I’d love to hear what the next few weeks bring. I predict that you will have an extraordinary turnaround in all these phenomena.

      • Tom says:

        I sincerely appreciate your response. I hope you’re proven 100% correct! I’ll certainly let you know.

  2. Tom says:

    So I can report that a few days before Thanksgiving is not the wisest time to start a Wheat free diet. I relapsed when presented with Stuffing and Pumpkin pie. I’m now on 7 days without Wheat or any glutens, post Thanksgiving. I definitely have experienced a decrease in appetite and seem to be losing weight. However, I’m still experiencing the brain fog and sleepiness, thought with some slight improvement.

    Is there an average amount of days or weeks of wheat free living required before people experience improvements? What was typical in your experience?

    • Lizzie says:

      Hey Tom, I was like that for four weeks ! But am happy to say that I am now feeling great, much more energy in the morning (up and at ‘em before way before the alarm ). The girls at work also say that my skin has improved quite a lot. Hang in there !

    • Dr. Davis says:

      5 days is typical, Tom, though there can be substantial individual variation.

      • Tom says:

        I continue the process, but now suspect that wheat/gluten may not be my primary issue, at least when it comes to my acute issues of brain fog and fatigue. I reintroduced some wheat as a test over the weekend and have actually been feeling better since that time. I don’t attribute that to the wheat, but I have also gone back to strict adherence to the “migraine diet” recommended by John Hopkins. During the wheat free diet, I reintroduced some of the migraine diet items like cheese and dark chocolate.

        I’m keeping a detailed food and symptom log and now suspect that by avoiding wheat and introducing a few gluten free alternatives that were high in things like corn starch and modified corn starch, I may have stumbled upon an alternative suspect. I had one of the worse weeks of brain fog and fatigue I’ve had in a few months last week, while on the wheat free diet. I’m going to test corn more seriously now with an elimination diet and challenge test. The other most persistent symptom I did not previously mention is an eczema like rash in my arm pits and backside. the rash in the armpits has actually become a bit painful over the last week, though it has been improving over the last couple of days (I noticed my deodorant actually has corn starch in it too!). I’ve been at this too long to think its that simple, but its worth a test. I’ve always hoped to find a silver bullet, but so far the best results have come with the Migraine diet I linked to in my previous post along with Magnesium supplementation and migraine preventative Nortryiptiline.

        I still think very highly of the wheat free diet and intend to continue with it once (and if ) I definitively eliminate it as the primary cause of my acute issues. I definitely noticed weight loss and appetite control. I also found the long term health risks described in the book very compelling. I continue to search for the primary culprit and while I can’t say with total confidence that wheat/gluten is not it or at least a contributing factor, the evidence so far points to something else.

        Thanks for your comments and suggestions! I’ve recommended your book to many people. Any other thoughts appreciated.

        • Dr. Davis says:

          Gee, Tom: This sounds like a case of prolonged wheat withdrawal. Feel awful by withholding wheat, feel better with reintroduction.

          I would not necessarily interpret this as meaning you somehow respond positively to wheat, but that you have created an addiction to the gliadin opiate of wheat.

          However, I hear you on listening to your body. That is a wise thing. We just have to interpret the signals properly.

          • Tom says:

            Very good point. My problem, in my desperation for a solution, has been that I often change too many variables at once and then have a hard time connecting cause and effect.

            I’ve discovered that being the subject of your own experiments is very tricky! :) I’m finally using a detailed log and only changing one variable at a time. I have not ruled out wheat, but will test corn next. If that fails, I’ll go back to wheat and give the elimination period more time.

            What is a typical time for withdrawal?

          • Dr. Davis says:

            3-5 days is the most typical, Tom. Occasionally, it can go on for weeks, but this is uncommon.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Hey Tom ,
    I have celiac’s and I know I suffer for monthsg after exposure. I often have frequent painful headaches, brain fog, forgetfulness( even trouble remembering how to spell simple words when writing). I have what is playfully nicknamed celiac’s skin which will continue for a few months after exposure. I have read many different websites that write about the celiac condition most say 6 to 12 months after exposure till you are completely back to normal. If you continue on the path try to stay not just wheat but gluten free , follow the diet and watch out for foods that stress out your blood sugar levels. I think in a month you will really notice an improvement.

  4. Heather says:

    I’ve been on a wheat free gluten free corn free diet for about 4 months now, and only within the last 2 weeks have I noticed the cravings go away, the brain fog lift, and most of my skin issues clear up. My brother also read the book and he agrees that I’ve probably been going through wheat withdrawal for the past few months. I’ve also suffered from debilitating menstrual tantrums (for lack of better descriptions) for 1.5-2 weeks of every month for many years, and this past month, I felt normal! I’ve lost almost 40 lbs in the past 5 months (only 80 more to go!) I sleep better, a good majority of my chronic pain has gone away, my blood pressure is normal for the first time in my life… I could go on forever about the things I’ve noticed that are different. And i’m only 29. I only picked up Wheat Belly this past week, and I was thrilled to find that there are others like me and that I am not crazy, like some people (including doctors) had me believing.

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