This “harmless” food can destroy your brain
April 26th, 2016 by NHI
This “harmless” food can destroy your brain
Unknown to most people and most doctors, there’s a common food that can destroy your brain and make you suffer dementia as devastating as Alzheimer’s. Chances are, you eat this food every day and if you started losing your memory and personality you’d never even suspect this food was to blame.
The everyday food so potentially dangerous: Bread.
Do you ever give any thought to the fact that what you eat at every meal can have serious, unexpected consequences for the health of your brain? You should. Something as seemingly harmless as a piece of bread can knock out pieces of your memory. Or destroy it entirely.
Consider the case of a 58-year-old who thought he was suffering Alzheimer’s. He began forgetting conversations minutes after they ended. (Didn’t just forget the subjects of those conversations, forgot he’d ever had them.) Hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes on his car. Unknowingly told stories to friends a few moments after he’d just told them the same stories. Couldn’t even remember where the silverware was kept in a house where he’d lived for twenty years.
And just when he thought he might soon be institutionalized, he heard about a study at the Mayo Clinic that showed some people can suffer from Alzheimer’s-like symptoms linked to gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. Of course, in the American diet wheat is by far the most common of these three grains.
Seeing a ray of hope, he decided to try a gluten-free diet. He figured he had nothing to lose. His doctor couldn’t offer him any help. According to the doctor, his type of early-onset dementia was incurable.
So he gave up bread and other foods like beer, cake, pizza and pretzels that contain gluten.
The result? Within two weeks, with that single change of diet, his brain began to mend. His memory began a steady return. His friends and family immediately noticed the difference. The angry, forgetful, confused man had recovered the use of his brain.
Gluten is the conglomeration of proteins that give dough its gooey texture. But in susceptible people, gluten irritates the immune system, leading immune cells to attack the body. These immune cells can damage and destroy nerves and brain cells.
No one knows for sure how many people suffer these consequences. Medical researchers have only begun to get a handle on how many of us are intolerant to the gluten we eat.
The most important facts about gluten include:
1. No one can digest gluten. You may tolerate gluten, but it passes through your body without being assimilated and it has no health benefits.
2. The best estimate is that 1 percent of Americans suffer from the most serious form of gluten intolerance, known as celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that can destroy the digestive tract, nerves and brain.1 Celiac disease is extremely serious. Some experts speculate that mild gluten intolerance is actually a moderate form of celiac disease.
3. Anywhere from 6 to 20 percent of Americans (and maybe more) suffer what is currently termed “gluten sensitivity.” These people haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease but suffer health problems from an immune reaction to gluten.2 By far the majority of these people don’t know they’re sick because their systems can’t handle gluten. They just suffer from a mystery illness their doctors can’t diagnose.
4. Research indicates that you can develop celiac disease or gluten sensitivity at any age. You can be OK with gluten today but wake up with celiac disease tomorrow. As you age, your chances of celiac disease grow.
Gluten’s harm to your brain can be devastating. This problem has not received a great deal of attention in the media, but the studies that have looked into this form of brain destruction are disturbing.3
For example, when Mayo Clinic researchers investigated 13 people with celiac disease who were developing dementia and other serious cognitive deficits at a relatively young age, their findings clearly pointed toward gluten as the culprit.
These eight women and five men were all plagued by amnesia, confusion and personality changes. In several cases, when researchers put them on a gluten-free diet, their memory loss ceased or was reversed.
Unique Mental Condition
According to Joseph Murray, M.D., the Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who took part in this study, “There has been a fair amount written before about celiac disease and neurological issues like peripheral neuropathy (nerve problems causing numbness or pain) or balance problems, but this degree of brain problem — the cognitive decline we’ve found here — has not been recognized before. I was not expecting there would be so many celiac disease patients with cognitive decline.”
Dr. Murray points out that an autoimmune reaction to gluten:
- Leads to nutrient deficiencies. When the immune system attacks the intestines, it destroys the villi, the part of the intestinal wall that absorbs nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin B12 and folate.
- Causes an increase in inflammatory cytokines. These immune cells increase inflammation that damage brain tissue.
- Sets off a direct immune attack on brain cells and nerves.
Experts estimate that about one in ten people with celiac have brain and neurological problems, although the research on this issue is still sketchy. Along with wiping your memory clean, the attack on nerve cells can cause neuropathies — pain and tingling in the hands, feet and other parts of the body. Sometimes these problems are irreversible. In other cases, going on a gluten-free diet may alleviate the discomfort.4
Dr. Murray points out that until now, if you had cognitive impairment and were developing dementia, it was generally considered incurable. “This is key that we may have discovered a reversible form of cognitive impairment,” he says.
And William Hu, M.D., Ph.D., who also took part in the Mayo study says, “For patients who come in with atypical forms of dementia, we need to consider checking for celiac disease.”
So, if you’re having trouble with your memory, trying a gluten-free diet (no foods containing wheat, barley or rye) may help. If gluten is the root of your brain problem, going gluten-free may start improving your brain power within a couple of weeks. It did for the 58 year old whose doctor told him there was no hope.