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How Can Eating Gluten Affect the Health of My Brain?

Gluten is a foreign protein to human physiology, and is the cornerstone of leaky brain-causing inflammation. Science has made some amazing discoveries about the blood brain barrier in recent years, most importantly that it can become just as permeable as our gut lining. When gluten is introduced to the body, it turns out that inflammation that degrades this important barrier.

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  • Cynthia

    I maintain a generally gluten free diet. What is the effect on my chemical balance if I occasionally eat a traditional home-made cookie that contains flour, sugar and rolled oats?

    • David Perlmutter

      Halfway measures only work halfway. Many folks who go gluten free and then reintroduce a small amount of gluten into their diet, experience significantly negative repercussions.

      • Chris Noecker

        Oh, yes. I have been gluten free for 18 months. If I have even the slightest exposure, I become violently ill. Its very hard to explain, as people are now on the bandwagon that if you do not have Celiac’s, then you can eat gluten (i.e., stating there is no such thing as a gluten allergy). It is very frustrating being told that it’s “all in my head” – no, being unknowingly exposed and spending six hours curled up in bed or running to the bathroom with violent gastrointestinal distress, is not somatic!

        • Bonnie Matos

          Eliminate gluten, I did and I feel wonderful! You can have sensitivities to gluten without Celiac’s. Follow your gut instinct and if something makes you feel that bad eliminate it. I did. You are your own best advocate.

    • Marley

      I’ve read that any time we consume sugar our immune system is negatively impacted. And really, I think there are better options in the arena of whole foods, even for snacks and desserts.

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  • Lynn Dell

    I wonder if pandas would be greatly decreased or eliminated if people did not consume gluten, or other items that could lead to a leaky blood brain barrier.

    • Marilyn

      Say what?

      • Lynn Dell
        • Lynn Dell

          You will see it is hypothesized that it is not the strep per se, but the antibodies to it that attack a certain part of the brain, because those antibodies treat that tissue as though it were strep, and this is what is called molecular mimicry. The area of the brain under assault is called the basal ganglia. And it is thought that antibodies do not cross the blood brain barrier, and that is why I asked.

  • Marilyn

    Can eating gluten intensify SAD in the winter?

    • David Perlmutter

      Gluten can certainly be linked to issues with mood.

    • Lynn Dell

      When I increased vitamin d3 consumption a few years ago I noticed a great decrease in the winter blahs.

  • Deirdre

    2 sons & I a Auto Immune/Thyroid /Adrenal people. Forced to self-treat with FOOD based Supp’s. My research had led me to the fault in our 30 year old PYRAMID diet & the other advices that Dr Perlmutter so succinctly enunciates here. For the last year while in Italy seeing Dr Hertoghe to balance out my abnormal chemicals after 27 years since 1st Sign of health problems started – I have eaten the Sat Fats, Proteins and low carbs diet. before Xmas & until 31/12/14 I ate whatever I wanted too +milk Coffees. a fall on ice and that night I had marked Signs & Symptoms of Hypothyroidism & Hypoadrenia. New Years Da slept & slept. took stock of myself and put the jigsaw together and it was the wrong food intake that had spiralled me – so abruptly over 2 weeks – into poor health – so dramatically.
    Within A FEW DAYS I was back to my healthy, vital sparkling old self, AFTER NIL grains. wheat products’, coffee, chocolate intake, and following faithfully the Diet that Dr Perlmutter advocates – I only learnt of Dr Perlmutter re the SUMMIT from the USA in October 014 & his emails are eagerly awaited and read by me, as he verified my never-ending research – I only wish had found him sooner!. I think I “bounced back” so quickly, was due to the fact that my Gut has improved so much with home-made broths, & the Diet & followed for nearly a year.
    It brought home to me that if I even have a coffee it is do damage to my body/brain. NO MORE – this food s for everyday for the rest my life & I look forward to it as the taste buds have been reinvigorated and appreciate the natural flavours so much yet I ate a so-called healthy diet for all my life. Denied my sons lollies – only the odd one in school hols at the movies, parties etc – y & I after major stress fell ill with these Auto Immune disorders and Dr’s cannot work it out???
    this am I w on SKPE rying to summarise to my son and later the email from Dr Perlmuter arrived – I sent this to my son and said this s what I have been trying to ell you for sometime – KEEP THIS &email on and refer frequently& FOLLOW ALL HIS ADVICE.
    The human race is so fortunate to have you Dr Perlmutter (a black pearl is the rarest??l) Thank you.

    Deirdre

  • Myron

    Dr. Perlmutter – what effect, if any, might gluten have on the major glands in the brain, such as the hypothalamus, pituitary. etc.? These control vital hormones and therefore the whole body and its health. Any thoughts?

    • David Perlmutter

      Across the board, gluten is detrimental to brain health.

      • Bonnie Matos

        I recently was feeling a lot of dizziness, fatigue, mood swings, and have had Arthritis pain for years. I went to the doctor and had a blood draw (fasting). I started to take note of when and why i was getting the dizziness and noticed that when I ate bread that I had gotten very dizzy. I did my own experiment and noticed that when I eliminated all carbs and gluten in two days I started felling wonderful. I felt like my old self again. I was in a good mood and all of my energy back. No dizziness or brain fog and the arthritis pain was nearly gone. When I went to discuss my blood work results my sugar was 109. I explained my experiment and the results to my doctor and he told me to eliminate gluten from my diet because I had gluten sensitivities and to stay off high carb foods. I only eat fruits vegetables, chicken and fish, shrimp etc. No red meat and am feeling fabulous! I lost two more pounds this week also.

  • Teresa Coste

    Dr. Perlmutter, I have been off Gluten, Grains, sugar including high fructose fruits. I had Sibo and was treated with xifaxan for 28 days. I’m eating organic, especially my meats and fishe wild caught and grass fed. I’m also off dairy. I’m take extra D, C, good multivitamin and minerals. I’ve been using raw organic grass fed butter, virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil. My GI Specialist is now performing more tests because I’m not absorbing any fats. I do not drink alcohol and last year ultrasound showed the start of fatty liver. When I eat healthy fats I get really bloated and it’s painful, I get sick. I tried something digestive enzymes with a bloated uncomfortable belly full of fat, with in 30 minutes of taking the enzymes my bloating went down, my all over muscle and bone pain subsided and the daily migraines I get went totally away. I was so clear headed and felt well for a time. Then boom pain on my right side through to my back. My point is by me doing this little test on myself, I see I’m severely fat deficient but how do I get the fat without it harming me? I not only don’t eat Gluten, I don’t buy any products with Gluten as it can absorb into the skin. Shampoo conditioners soaps toothpaste makeup and more. Also people should also know gluten is in so many food products not just bread processed foods and simple carbs. It’s in mayo, ketchup, and more. Read your labels. Also what are your thoughts on carreggean? It’s thickening agent in many non organic and organic products like almond milk. I was told to stay away from it because it can actually make any Gut problem worse, do you agree?

  • Marley

    The discussion on Gluten in Grain Brain is eye-opening and a comment that caught my attention in this post is that Gluten is a protein foreign to human physiology. Isn’t that also what we face with GMOs?

  • jessie

    Dr. Perlmutter- I have experimented with diet to help overcome sudden anxiety and panic that I have been dealing with for the past 5 years (never was the slight bit anxious before). It seems to come on very randomly and has been a difficult burden to bear. What are you thoughts on gluten and its relation to anxiety/panic disorders.

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  • cpdeepak

    Dr. Perlmutter, I have been diagnosed with IBS. Will a gluten-free diet help?

    • David Perlmutter

      Absolutely possible, but many things could be in play.

  • Brian

    Dr. Perlmutter, can basal ganglia inflammation be caused by gluten? Could PANS be caused by gluten causing brain inflammation?

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