You know that raisin bagel or bowl of bran cereal you have every morning, or the plate of pasta or spaghetti you have for dinner? Each and every serving erodes the health of your brain. Some of the effects are reversible, while others are cumulative and irreversible.
But understand the concepts behind living the Wheat Belly wheat/grain-free lifestyle and you are enormously empowered in regaining control over health, weight, and youthfulness.
Hi everybody, Doctor William Davis here. Why do I call this Bagel Brain? Well, a number of reasons — consumption of modern wheat and closely-related grains have a whole multitude of effects on the human brain — undesirable effects. Let’s talk about them.
You can group the effects that wheat and grains have on the brain into reversible causes (that is, temporary causes, that go away after you stop consuming them), and then there are either poorly reversible or partially reversible, or even irreversible changes in the brain — diseases of the brain that you cannot undo, or only can partially undo.
2. Partially reversible or irreversible
Let’s talk about the reversible changes. The reversible changes in the brain are due mostly to the gliadin protein and gliadin-derived opioid peptides. Recall, that wheat and grains are the seeds of grasses, and humans simply lack the enzymatic machinery to break down the components of seeds of grasses. That means many of the proteins are either indigestible, like wheat germ agglutinin (completely impervious to human digestion), or only partially digestible (like the gliadin protein within gluten). The gliadin is broken down into four- or five-amino-acid-long peptides (pieces), unlike, say, the proteins of a pork chop, steak, hamburger, eggs. Those proteins are broken down to single amino acids for absorption.
Well, when you eat the gliadin protein of wheat,and related proteins in other grains (like the secalin in rye, hordein in barley, zein in corn), you break them down into pieces, not to amino acids. These 4- or 5-amino-acid-long peptides are able to cross, into the brain, through the so-called blood-brain-barrier, and bind to the opioid receptors in the human brain. What does that do?
Well, in people who have paranoid schizophrenia, it causes paranoia — worsens paranoia, and causes them to hear voices — auditory hallucinations. In children with ADHD or autistic spectrum disorder, it triggers behavioral outbursts, and it abbreviates their attention span. In people who are prone to depression, it causes depression. In people who are prone to bipolar illness, it can trigger the manic phase. In people who are prone to bulimia, or binge eating disorder, it can trigger 24-hour-a-day food obsession.
How about you and me, who might not have those conditions? It “only” triggers appetite. So people who consume grains are prompted to consume around 400-800 more calories per person per day, though sometimes it can be much more, like 1500 calories per day. In other words, gliadin-derived opioid peptides, from the partial digestion of wheat and related grains, are appetite stimulants. That’s why people who consume grains will pile their plates high with food, then go back for seconds, or eating at a buffet, and go back-and-forth back-and-forth, because they can’t get enough. These are people who eat a big plate of pasta — they’re so full their stomach hurts — but they’re still hungry.
That all goes away, by the way, when we’re wheat- and grain-free. So those are the reversible changes, largely due to the gliadin-derived opioid peptides.
Now there’s also a collection of irreversible, or only partially-reversible changes, such as cerebellar ataxia. That’s a condition where the cerebellum, in the back of the brain, that controls functions like bladder control, bowel control, and balance — atrophies. It kind of degrades and it gets damaged, and it atrophies. On an MRI or a CAT scan you’ll see that the cerebellum is shrunken. This results in people losing balance. They fall. They stumble very readily. They lose control of their bladder and bowels. And they eventually, within a few years, die. That’s a disease of wheat and grain consumption.
It is only partially reversible, because autoimmune conditions of the brain are difficult to turn around, and the brain’s not very good at healing. Typically what happens is, that someone who identifies with cerebellar ataxia from the gliadin protein of wheat and related grains, you stop wheat and grains, and it typically stops getting worse, and you can get partial remission. I have seen cases of complete remission, but most commonly, partial remission. So the key, with cerebellar ataxia, is: identify it as early as possible.
Seizures, can be caused by wheat and grains. The most common form of seizure is what’s called temporal lobe seizures. We often see a collection of calcium in the temporal lobe, by a CAT scan or an MRI. It’s more common in teenagers. When you stop wheat and grains, in this case, you can reverse it. It may take some weeks to months, but those seizures typically stop. Wheat and grain consumption less commonly causes grand mal seizures, also. I have seen a handful of cases where grand mal seizures miraculously stopped, with halting consumption of wheat and grains.
Lastly dementia: wheat and grains contribute to dementia in a variety of ways. Of the two most important ways is something called gluten encephalopathy. This is an autoimmune process, that’s rapidly fatal. The onset of memory impairment (dementia), to death, is on average, two years — a very rapid, aggressive form of dementia. That’s gluten encephalopathy.
A much more common form of dementia is triggered by the high blood sugars, and the body-wide inflammation, triggered by the inflammatory components in grains. The high blood glucose, for instance, causes glycation, that is, glucose modification of proteins, that is irreversible. The various proteins in the brain become glycated. When proteins become glycated, the become ineffective. They become, essentially, debris, and it causes debris accumulation in the brain.
Also, you get insulin resistance in the brain. That’s why you hear people call dementia Type 3 Diabetes.Wheat and grain consumption raises blood sugar, raises insulin, over time generates insulin resistance, you grow visceral fat (a wheat belly), and the increasing insulin resistance, the glycation, all contribute to dementia. Those issues are largely irreversible. Once again, the key, just like cerebellar ataxia, is to go wheat- and grain-free as early as possible in life, so these irreversible changes don’t occur.
Bottom line: wheat and grains, contrary to popular opinion and conventional dietary advice, are awful for your health. In this case, they damage your brain. They have transient (or reversible) effects and they have irreversible effects. The key is don’t eat bagels, waffles, pancakes — unless you re-create them, using some of the Wheat Belly type recipes, and safe replacement ingredients, like almond flour, ground golden flaxseed, coconut flour, and natural non-caloric sweeteners.