Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brain Health: The Gluten (Dis)Connection

Can symptoms called "mental illness" in some people be cured just by going gluten-free?

Research (below) suggests the answer to that is, "Yes."
(NOTE: In our personal experience we had to also eliminate casein [dairy] in order to be recoverED.)

A group of Scandanavian researchers even suggests that partial or complete symptom alleviation in a subset of patients labeled “schizophrenic” can be achieved with the simple solution of withdrawal from gluten. [1]

(Here is an audio about some severe intermittent psychosis or hallucinations.)

We've known for years that there is a strong connection between brain malfunction and “the gut.”

Many of us have children with abdominal complaints which doctors shrug off as just being part of the child’s “emotional problems.” Forget about the fact that the child may have no “emotional” problems, but rather, severe psychiatric symptoms that have nothing to do with an “emotional” etiology.

Perhaps those doctors have their assumptions backwards. Some of these children’s problems in the brain may be caused by the problems in the gut.

In research dating back decades, time and again, gluten has been implicated in a subset of cases that had been labeled “mental illness,” including cases of autism and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

Is this another example in which a medical problem is being lumped under the label “mental illness” and therefore not being treated in a medically appropriate manner?

Instead of being told that some of our children may need to be off gluten, we are told they just need mood stabilizers and antipsychotics, or higher doses of them. Hmmm… let me weigh the pros and cons of that one… (Just kidding, I think this one is a "no-brainer").

An article in the December '08 Public Health Alert newsletter titled "NeuroImmunology: From Leaky Gut to Leaky Brain"[2] focuses on the research of Dr. Aristo Vojdani associating the effects of gluten sensitivity, our immune system, inflammation, and the brain. Dr. Vojdani is a research scientist and immunologist in the field of NeuroImmunology.

...the connections between the digestive system, the immune system, and the nervous systems of the body are often overlooked.
...Elaborate interactions exist in the body between the immune system and the nervous system, and these interactions have powerful effects on our overall health.
It goes on to mention how those pesky pro-inflammatory cytokines get involved and disrupt cellular communication.

Unfortunately in the United States, once the illness is labeled “mental,” apparently only giving psychotropics and/or psychotherapy are considered "mainstream" treatments. Treating actual physical problems such as needing to eliminate gluten from the diet is apparently still considered “alternative,” or “complementary.”

We shouldn't be so quick to label the symptoms "schizophrenia," "bipolar," "ADHD," "Autism," "Schizoaffective," etc. until AFTER biomedical testing and/or treatments are implemented. (Then maybe the treatments won't be “alternative.” They will simply be considered the proper treatment for the actual problem.)

Let's really change our thinking and classification of what we are calling any of the above-mentioned labels. Should we really call psychosis that's cleared up with a gluten-free diet the same "schizophrenia" as the schizophrenia caused by a mitocchondrial DNA mutation, or other types? Some people argue for classifying various schizophrenias with various new medical subtypes. I argue, why call it schizophrenia at all?

It is a decade into the 21st century. Isn't it time to bring psychiatry out of the dark ages and on par with medical science--time to put decades-old research into practice?

Other research shows that even some cases that are diagnosed as "autism" may be neurodevelopmental problems caused by sensitivity to gluten [3] .
Quote:   It is recommended that all children with neurodevelopmental problems be assessed for nutritional deficiency and malabsorption syndromes.
So does the child actually have to undergo an invasive intestinal biopsy to know whether he/she can benefit from a gluten-free diet? No. Although a positive biopsy is required for the actual diagnosis of Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity can be determined in less invasive manners, such as antibody testing via blood or stool. This can be combined with DNA testing to give a better picture of the familial pattern of sensitivity inheritance. Either ask your doctor for some testing your medical insurance will pay for, and/or have some testing done at some private labs (some are listed here)

Take note, however, as we and many other parents have found, sometimes our children have a veritable “perfect storm” of biological conditions, and the gluten-connection may be only one of many. And to complicate matters, other food sensitivities and metabolic problems (with B vitamins, tryptophan, having anemia, etc.) can be connected to the gluten problem even after being on a gluten-free diet. [4]

And nutritionist Melissa Diane Smith reported in the January 2009 edition of Better Nutrition magazine (available for free at many health/whole food stores) about gluten sensitivity:[5]

...Last year, Alessio Fasano, MD, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, published research on gluten sensitivity. He recently said that there is "no question" that gluten sensitivity affects considerably more people than celiac disease does and that 60 to 70 percent of the patients who come to the Center for Celiac Research appear to have gluten sensitivity.
...Human beings aren't alone in having nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Rhesus monkeys, which are genetically similar to human beings, have it too. One study found that many captive rhesus monkeys that were fed a food with gluten had symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, depression, and skin rashes and blistering. Nearly all of those had elevated IgA and/or IgG antigliadin antibodies, which are indicators of gluten sensitivity. Only a few tested positive for celiac disease. When the animals were fed gluten-free food, their antibody levels normalized and symptoms disappeared.
Celiac, Gluten, and non-gluten enteropathy resource site:
The Gluten File

Author Interview on the Food Sensitivity Journal:

Related Reading
Other articles and studies about gluten and schizophrenia:

[1] Kalaydjian, Eaton, Cascella, Fasano The gluten connection: the association between schizophrenia and celiac disease ACTA PSYCHIATRICA SCANDINAVICA Vol. 113 Issue 2 Feb 2006

[2] Forsgren NeuroImmunology: From Leaky Gut to Leaky Brain Public Health Alert Vol 3 Issue 12 Dec. 2008

[3] Genuis SJ, Bouchard TP Celiac Disease Presenting as Autism Journal of Child Neurology June 2009

[4] Kowlessar OD, Lorraine J, Haeffner, Benson GD. “Abnormal Tryptophan Metabolism in Patients with Adult Celiac Disease, with Evidence for Deficiency of Vitamin B6Journal of Clinical Investigation Vol. 43, No. 5, 1964

[5] Smith, Melissa Diane Better Nutrition magazine January 2009

[Other 1]: Ludvigsson JF, Osby U, Ekbom A, Montgomery SM. Coeliac disease and risk of schizophrenia and other psychosis: a general population cohort study. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2007 Feb;42(2):179-85.

[Other 2]: Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets: a case report and review of the literature. Kraft BD, Westman EC. Conclusion: While more research is needed to confirm the association between gluten intake and schizophrenia and whether dietary change can ameliorate schizophrenic symptoms, health care providers could consider screening patients with schizophrenia for celiac disease and/or augment the medical regimen with a gluten-free or low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet.

Click HERE for related books and DVDs on Nutrition in Amazon Store.

Property of
Last Updated:
20 April 2012

1 comment:

Gluten FREE foods ROCK said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.