Among the most fascinating–and crippling–of the consequences of wheat and grains on the foolhardy humans who consume them are the brain and mind effects. The myriad forms these take are truly–can’t help it!–mind-boggling.
Some recent comments shared by people on the Wheat Belly lifestyle:
Lori: “Less foggy. Sleep better. More energy.”
Jari: “Concentration and mood are great. I’m never upset and I’m supercalm. Energy levels up and creative as hell!”
Linda: “Almost can’t believe it, but my memory is better. Also, my concentration. At almost age 60, this is a BIG deal!”
The brain/mind effects of wheat and grain consumption can be broken down into several categories:
- Transient, reversible effects from gliadin-derived opioid peptides
- Autoimmune destruction of brain/nervous system tissue via gliadin-activated autoimmunity (partially reversible)
- Irreversible endogenous glycation via the high blood sugars resulting from amylopectin A grain starches
Followers of the Wheat Belly discussions understand that gliadin-derived opioid peptides (“opiates”) exert effects that vary depending on individual susceptibility. In kids with ADHD or autistic spectrum disorder, for example, they cause behavioral outbursts and further abbreviate an already-abbreviated attention span. In people with paranoid schizophrenia, they can worsen paranoia (“John is trying to kill me”) and cause auditory hallucinations (“Jesus is talking to me through the television”). In people with bipolar illness, it can magnify the severity or trigger the mania, or “up” phase. In people prone to depression, it can trigger depression, deeper depression, and suicidal thoughts (“I have to fight the impulse to drive into oncoming traffic” is a common one in grain-eaters). Others experience anxiety, phobias, and insomnia or disrupted sleep. In people without these conditions, gliadin-derived opiates trigger mind “fog” and appetite, especially appetite for junk carbs like chips, pizza, and candy. These effects are largely transient (meaning hours to days) and reversible–they recede with avoiding wheat and grains, though the opiate withdrawal syndrome will kick in for a week. (These effects make you wonder if there are many other forms of behavioral effects possible. I wonder, for instance, how often criminal behavior is unleashed or worsened by wheat/grains, or people with personality disorders, especially sociopaths, are compelled to do bad things. This raises some very trouble social issues, as such people are often incredibly also wheat/grain-dependent because of low-cost, availability, fast food, and may actually like the gliadin-derived opiate effects. Wheat products are a staple in prisons and mental health hospitals.)
Less reversible or even irreversible brain effects are less common though very important, as they represent conditions that are 100% avoidable or preventable with wheat/grain elimination. As with opiate effects, these also take on myriad forms, depending on genetic susceptibility and what part of the brain is involved. If the temporal lobe is involved (and often visible as an area of abnormal calcium deposition in the temporal lobe of the brain), temporal lobe seizures can result, a peculiar form of seizure that can involve odd, inappropriate, repetitive behaviors for which the sufferer has no awareness, such as staring off into space while lip-smacking. Many, if not most, cases of temporal lobe seizure reverse with wheat/grain elimination. Other forms of seizure, such as grand mal seizures, can also recede, though less commonly. (My friend and Wheat Belly supporter, psychologist Dr. Wayne Dyer, reported that his wife’s weekly adult-onset grand mal seizures, or at least weekly premonitory warnings, disappeared entirely with wheat/grain elimination.) If the cerebral hemispheres are involved, a rapidly lethal form of dementia, dubbed “gluten encephalopathy” by the Mayo Clinic research team who first identified this condition (most diagnoses made at autopsy–not a good method of diagnosis in my book), can result, with onset of symptoms to death occurring in about 2 years–an unusually rapid form of dementia. Nobody yet knows if the rapidly-progressive gluten encephalopathy is reversible. Both paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar illness may, in addition to the gliadin-derived opiate effects, have some aspects triggered by an autoimmune response, as subsets of people with these conditions have higher likelihood of antibodies against gliadin (and thereby brain structures such as those containing the synapsin protein, a gliadin lookalike). Schizophrenia and bipolar illness do not go away with this lifestyle, but become less difficult, more manageable.
Endogenous glycation, i.e., glucose-modification of proteins that occurs within the body (as opposed to exogenous glycation/lipoxidation that is a byproduct of high-temperature cooking of certain foods such as French fries and meats), is irreversible. While the science remains preliminary, endogenous glycation is looking like a major player in senile dementia, accounting for the label “type 3 diabetes” some people have assigned it, meaning that glycation occurs at an accelerated rate when blood sugars range above normal—which they virtually always do after consuming wheat and grains, whole or white. And glycation is irreversible, as humans have no enzymatic mechanism to break down the glycated protein debris that physically accumulates. The inflammation triggered by gliadin-derived peptides, wheat germ agglutinin, and the collection of allergenic proteins such as serpins, thioreductases, gamma gliadins, and alpha amylase inhibitors, as well as the inflammatory mediators that derive from the visceral fat of the “wheat belly,” all impact brain health, as well, likely making another contribution to long-term risk for dementia.
All this—depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsivity, problem behaviors, seizures, dementia—from consuming foods that dietitians, most doctors, the USDA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, etc. all urge us to eat more of, have at every meal, every day. Are you grasping the enormity of the blunder they’ve all made?