Can bread be the reason you’re feeling anxious and depressed? Do you know someone who has seizures but doesn’t know the underlying cause? Based on recent research, it’s quite possible that gluten is the problem. Gluten is often linked to digestive symptoms, however, there is also research that suggests gluten is related to brain functioning and mental health.
Here’s what a research review of 162 studies shows regarding the relationship between gluten and neurological and/or psychiatric symptoms (Jackson et al., 2012):
36 articles for seizure disorder
20 articles for movement dysfunction such as ataxia and cerebellar degeneration
26 articles for neuropathy, which causes weakness, numbness and pain related to nerve damage
20 articles for schizophrenia
14 articles for depression
12 articles for migraine
Up to 10 articles each for anxiety disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, myopathy, white matter lesions
There may be a variety of reasons why a person is experiencing any of the neurological or psychiatric issues listed, however, it’s worth talking with your doctor if you suspect gluten might be part of the problem.
To read more about the relationship between gluten and the above listed diagnoses, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641836/
I remember my first experience with numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, along with other weird symptoms – a rash around my elbows (yes, just the elbows), stomach pain and breathing problems. After weeks of having symptoms, I began to wonder what was really going on. I saw my doctor, who suggested vitamin supplements and said we’d observe how that went. Kinda sorta saw a minor improvement, which made some sense, but ultimately, I still had frequent symptoms. Check out this article on neurological symptoms and vitamin deficiency to find out more about that:
So anyway, she then referred me to a neurologist who cleared me of all things terrifying. I was very grateful but I still didn’t have answers. With time, I began to learn the connection between gluten sensitivity and its symptoms. I started experimenting. I went off of gluten. Felt amazing. Then, drowning in the sea of denial and bread withdrawal, I told myself my health improvement had nothing to do with gluten and I’d be fine if I ate it. Terrible idea. So I went back off. And on, and off. I did the tango with gluten a few more times before I regretfully came to terms with it. So eventually and very reluctantly – I decided to give up gluten. Bread versus being symptom-free of weird, scary sensations, I decided giving up bread, and pizza, and ugh, cookies was definitely worth it. Painful, but worth it.
I also later realized that although I had to make some food and financial sacrifices, there are a lot of gluten-free options now available. The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) and Other Interventions by Barrie Silberberg is an excellent resource for people looking to switch to gluten-free eating (and casein-free, if you prefer). Despite the title, it is not only for those suffering with autism or ADHD. It’s a great resource for multiple reasons, really, because she also details how gluten and casein affect developmental and overall general health.
Gluten-free diets are sometimes thought to be a fad. Friends have disgustedly asked me, “Ew, you do that? Why?” Believe me, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity. Other people eliminate gluten because they figure if it bothers other people, it can’t be good for them. Until recently however, no one was really sure why it causes adverse effects.
People who have Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity/intolerance may have reactions from stomach discomfort to neurological symptoms, like tingling and numbness. In a book titled, Misdiagnosed by Jody Berger, she shares how she was misdiagnosed as having multiple sclerosis, but after doing some lengthy research and seeking other sources such as Ayurvedic doctors, she finally discovered she had a gluten intolerance.
There’s increasing research that neurological symptoms of gluten insensitivity and intolerance do actually mimic multiple sclerosis and other neurological diagnoses. Further, there might also be a link between gluten and cognitive decline. Check out this article that details how gluten affects the brain: http://thepaleodiet.com/gluten-brain/ There are some interesting MRI scans that show atrophy in a particular part of the brain that’s thought to be caused by gluten consumption.
By the way, the dish I made in the pic is all gluten-free – noodles by Ronzoni and gluten-free corn meal for the breaded salmon.
It’s always better to know what we can do versus what we can’t. Hearing what we can’t do makes us want to do it more, in fact. The paleo diet, named after the paleolithic era, is formulated around eating foods that were found through hunting and gathering. Therefore, farming, which only came along a little over 300 years ago isn’t actually completely natural, according to paleo followers. I have to say though, I personally have no problem with farms who follow ethical practices. Organic? Free range? I’m down. Then again, I love food so I’m going to try not to narrow down my options whenever possible.
Anyway, there are many options to choose from within the paleo diet, so you won’t feel terribly restricted in what you eat. Full disclosure: Do I follow the paleo diet strictly? Ummm, sort of. I don’t prescribe to any one diet. Instead, I incorporate ideas about eating based on what I know to be healthy or harmful, research, and my body’s reaction to various foods. So far, the principles of the paleo diet I’ve applied have gone very well.
Why paleo? Find out more… http://thepaleodiet.com/paleo-diet-faq/
Let me know how it’s going with your attempts and success at a paleo diet.