We are always hearing we need to eat gluten-free products. Did you ever wonder why? Since gluten is the most common protein molecule found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt, it is a sticky, protein that binds itself to the small intestinal wall where it often causes digestive and immune system disorders. The most common condition associated with a gluten sensitivity is celiac disease. This is where the small intestinal villi are flattened. However, the immune reaction that takes place with gluten sensitivity often affects many different tissues. When this happens, it is termed as non-celiac, gluten sensitivity or (NCGS), which is an epidemic that is a major factor in inflammatory disorders of the brain and nervous system.
Recent studies have found the association between gluten sensitivity and disorders in every part of the neurological system including the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves . Gluten has been found to be a significant trigger in psychiatric disorders, movement disorders, sensory ganglionapathy, ataxia, neuromyelitis, multiple sclerosis, cerebellar disease, cognitive impairment, dementia, restless leg syndrome, migraines, apraxia, neuropathy, myoclonus, hearing loss and virtually every other known neurological disorder.
For many individuals, their immune system gets so overworked from gluten sensitivity and other environmental challenges such as toxins, parasites, vitamin D3 deficiencies and trauma they can experience severe immune reactions lasting months after one provoked exposure. Consuming gluten can cause an inflammatory assault that could last 2-3 months afterwards. This is why it is so critical to be as strict as possible when avoiding gluten and other inflammatory irritants.
The complexity of gluten sensitivity
Gluten is made up of glutenin and a protein called gliadin, which can be broken down into alpha, omega and gamma gliadins. Since most lab tests only look at alpha gliadin anti-bodies, this is only a very small component of the total molecule. Often times, the lab comes back negative; however, the individual is reacting to some of the other components of the gluten molecule.
Glutenin gives wheat dough strength and elasticity and is very commonly used in the baking process. Many people have severe reactions to this molecule, but it never shows up on the basic gliadin anti-body testing.
The food processing industry very often deamidates the gladin molecule to make it water soluble. Deamidated gliadin has been shown to trigger severe immune responses in many individuals. This never tests out for gliadin anti-bodies.
Gluten based opioids
When our body metabolizes gluten, it creates opoids in the form of gluteomorphin. One can have a blood test to see if the body produces antibodies to gluteomorphin and the building block prodynorphin. When someone has an opioid sensitivity going on, gluten free can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that are similar to coming off of opioid drugs such as heroin and include symptoms such as depression, crazy mood swings, nausea and vomiting, as well as abnormal bowel activity, which can often last from several days to weeks.
Cross-reactivity immunology & nervous system dysfunction
Immune cross-reactivity happens when the immune system mistakes one protein for another. The gluten protein is similar to protein structures in the nervous system and the thyroid tissue. When the body creates anti-bodies for gluten, it may also produce anti-bodies to the body’s own nervous tissue or thyroid. This cross-reactive effect leads to damage of the brain, thyroid and other neurological tissue when the individual consumes anything with even the slightest bit of gluten.
The most common area of cross-reactivity is through a family of proteins located on neurons called synapsin. These proteins help to regulate neurotransmitter release. This is most common in the cerebellum which can cause problems with vertigo, motor control, balance and anxiety.