3 ways gluten damages the brain and nervous system

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Many people think they don’t need to go gluten-free because eating wheat doesn’t give them gut problems. However, the area of the body most often damaged by gluten isn’t the gut but the brain and nervous system. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, brain fog, memory loss, fatigue, or other brain-based disorders, it’s worth ruling out whether a gluten sensitivity is attacking your brain and causing symptoms.

Studies have linked gluten sensitivity with numerous brain-based and psychiatric disorders, including movement disorders (such as tics and dystonias), neuromyelitis, multiple sclerosis, vertigo (dizziness), neuropathy, neuromuscular disease, migraines, hearing loss, dementia, restless leg syndrome, schizophrenia, and other disorders in almost every part of the nervous system studied.

Three ways gluten sensitivity can damage the brain and nervous system

Gluten sensitivity can damage the brain and nervous system in at least three ways.

Cross-reactivity. Perhaps the most destructive is through cross-reactivity. This happens when the immune system mistakes nerve cells for gluten because both have similar structures. This means if you are gluten intolerant, every time you eat it the immune system attacks both gluten and brain tissue, depending on the site of the attack. This develops into an autoimmune condition.

Transglutaminase 6 reactivity. In another scenario, gluten triggers an immune response to transglutaminase, an enzyme that both binds proteins in the body but also helps digest wheat. Transglutaminase-6 (TG6) is found throughout the central nervous system. Sometimes a gluten sensitivity involves reacting to transglutaminase in the digestive tract. This can trigger an attack against TG6 in the brain and nervous system. Transglutaminase is also used as a glue in processed meats (such as chicken nuggets), and people who react to transglutaminase may also react to this form of it.

Leaky blood-brain barrier. The third way gluten can damage the brain is by breaking down the protective layer around the brain called the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier acts as a gatekeeper allowing necessary compounds in and out of the brain while keeping out harmful things. The inflammation from a gluten sensitivity can break down this barrier so that harmful substances can enter the environment of the brain and trigger inflammation and damage to brain tissue. This is called a leaky blood-brain barrier.

How to stop gluten from damaging your brain

One of the best ways to know whether gluten is causing attacks against your brain is to go strictly gluten-free for at least six months. Due to the months-long inflammatory nature of gluten, it does not work if you eat a little bit of gluten now and then. You must be very strict.

You can also test for gluten sensitivity, but keep in mind standard doctors’ tests only test for one portion of gluten — alpha gliadin. Research shows people react to at least 12 different portions of gluten. In order to thoroughly screen for a gluten sensitivity, you must order your test through Cyrex Labs.

Lastly, some people who react to gluten also react to other foods just as badly. The most common secondary food is dairy. Sometimes it’s an issue of the immune system mistaking certain foods for gluten (dairy and other grains are common culprits). Sometimes it’s a sensitivity of its own. If you tested positive for gluten sensitivity or don’t feel better on a gluten-free diet, you may want to consider the more thorough approach of the autoimmune diet.

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, or other brain-based symptoms, ask my office how we can help you.

The surprising culprit behind fatty liver is not fat

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If you struggle with excess weight or high blood sugar, your blood tests show may also show fatty liver (high liver enzymes). Although fatty liver has no overt symptoms, a liver filled with fat hinders detoxification, promotes inflammation, may increase gallstones  and increases heart attack risk. So a fatty liver means eat less fat, right? Wrong, the culprit in fatty liver isn’t too much fat but rather too many sugars and carbohydrates.

Too many carbs are the main culprits behind the excess belly fat that is a sure sign of fatty liver. This is because sugar signals the liver to produce more fat.

This process is heightened when the liver must process fructose  particularly high-fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and other junk foods.

From fatty liver to fatty liver disease

While some fat in the liver is normal, if it exceeds 5 to 10 percent of total weight of the organ, it is considered fatty liver and the first stage of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If fatty liver progresses unchecked, it can lead all the way to cirrhosis.

(Alcohol abuse can also cause fatty liver disease and the majority of alcoholics have a fatty liver.)

NAFLD is the most common liver disorder in the west, affecting as many as one third of Americans. It primarily afflicts those who overweight and middle-aged, but NAFLD is increasingly affecting children and teens due to their over consumption of sodas, sweets, and high-carb foods. High cholesterol and diabetes are typically found with NAFLD too.

How to reverse fatty liver and regain liver health

The good news is you can reverse fatty liver before it’s too late. Even though the liver may not initially complain with symptoms, it’s important to take liver health seriously to prevent serious long-term complications. Steps to reverse fatty liver include:

Adopt a lower-carb, sugar-free diet. High blood sugar leads to fatty liver. To start reversing it you need to bring blood sugar down to healthy levels with a whole foods diet abundant in fibrous vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins while low in foods that spike blood sugar. Most people will begin to lose excess fat on this way of eating as well, further unburdening the liver.

Exercise daily. Exercise helps lower high blood sugar, detoxify the body, and shed excess fat, all of which will help reverse fatty liver.

Avoid alcohol and unnecessary medications. Alcohol is very hard on the liver, as are many medications. Avoid both as much as possible while working to reverse fatty liver.

Lower inflammation. The liver actually plays an important role in inflammation and lowering overall inflammation will likewise ease its burdens. The most important ways to do this are by removing foods from your diet that promote inflammation (gluten and dairy are the most common) and minimizing exposure to toxins and chemicals.

Take natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Certain nutritional compounds really shine when it comes to lowering inflammation. These include high doses of emulsified turmeric and resveratrol, absorbable forms of glutathione, vitamin D, and many other compounds. Ask my office for more advice.

Support liver detoxification pathways. If your liver cells are clogged with fat it may have trouble with everday detoxification duties. The liver responds wonderfully to herbs and compounds that support detoxification, such as milk thistle or n-acetyl-cysteine.

Ask my office for more ways to reverse fatty liver and support liver health.