Gluten = Proteins From Cereal Grains
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Topics from the book
Gluten Problems and Solutions
by Stephen Gislason MD

 Some Topics from the book

Dr. Gislason's Preface
What is Gluten?
What is Celiac Disease?
Diseases Related to Celiac Disease
Gluten Allergy
Digestive Tract Permeability
Gluten-Free Diet Revision
Celiac Diagnosis
Gluten and the Brain
Gluten and Lung Disease
Gluten and Liver Disease
Gluten and Kidney Disease
Dermatitis Herpetiformis
Celiac Disease & Cancer



Gluten and the Brain

We believe that food allergy is a common cause of mental illness. Allergy to proteins from cows milk, hens eggs and wheat are the three most common problems. One idea is that antibodies generated by gluten proteins can attack the brain. This immune mistake is generally known as molecular mimicry. A second idea is that gluten proteins or peptides generated from them during digestion can act directly on the brain. A third idea is that your brain is affected by immune responses in other parts of your body. All immune activity sends signals to the brain to change behavior and to recruit a range of defensive responses.

Disturbances to brain function vary from routine effects such as sleepiness, fogginess, and brief episodes of confusion to symptoms of major mental or neurological illness. For example, people with celiac disease suffer for many years before the diagnosis is made. They often state that they never feel well. Most of these patients will report episodes of fatigue with cognitive dysfunction; difficulty concentrating, mental "fogginess", recent memory dropouts. They complain of mood liability and are often tearful and irritable. They return to normal when they no longer eat problem foods.

We have recognized that Gluten-related diseases involve the absorption of complete proteins such as gliadin or its peptide-fragments. Anti-protein antibodies circulate in the blood and form immune-complexes, combining antibody with food protein. Immune complexes provoke the release of mediators which may cause multiple disturbances in all body systems and tissue damage. These circulating problems influence brain function in a variety of undesirable ways.

A family history of "psychiatric problems" is more common in patients with celiac disease. Schizophrenia has been associated with gluten intolerance. The diagnosis, schizophrenia, describes a variety of differing individuals who belong to complex group of brain-disordered people often with a chronic or relapsing disease that leads to dementia. The schizophrenic process distorts sensing, feeling, remembering, deciding, and acting. It is unlikely that schizophrenia is a single disease with a single cause. The milder, but similar brain dysfunctions observed  with gluten allergy suggests that food allergy may play a role in schizophrenia, with gluten proteins as a set of triggering antigens. Many years ago, Dohan  advocated a gluten-schizophrenia link.  He stated:

" Many diseases are caused by genetically-deficient utilization of specific food substances. Perhaps the best studied example is phenyketonuria... far more common disorders, for example, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease, are strongly suspected of being due to genetically defective utilization of certain food constituents. " Similarly, considerable evidence indicates that the major cause of schizophrenia is the inborn inability to process certain digestion products of some food proteins, especially cereal grain glutens..."

Among Dr. Dohan's interesting ideas was a "Gluten tolerance test". Such a test has not yet been developed, but is the sort of evaluation method that NP advocates in general. A gluten tolerance test could be initiated with routine evaluations before and after ingestion of grain foods. More sophisticated versions would measure gluten proteins and derived peptides in the blood, and would track the path of these molecules into organs, especially the brain. Finally the impact of these molecules would be evaluated by monitoring the function of the target organ in real time. I have been eager to do real-time monitoring of brain activity in gluten-sensitive patients. These patients report changes in their energy, mood, cognitive abilities and emotions which no researcher to date has documented objectively. The problem of adverse brain effects of molecules derived from food is a major under-recognized phenomenon of nutrition and molecular pathophysiology. Research in the next 10-20 years will, I am convinced, reveal a great deal about the extent, mechanisms, and importance of this consequence of eating problematic foods to our mental status.

Recommendations: The Alpha Nutrition Program is gluten-free and is recommended as the diet revision strategy for anyone with diagnosed celiac disease, or any person with symptoms suggestive of gluten allergy.

Some Examples of Gluten caused Brain Disease

Gluten-Free Diet in Patients with Gluten Sensitivity and Cerebellar Ataxia

Sponsored by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Study Details:  In many patients with cerebellar ataxia, the etiology is unknown. Sensitivity to gluten (wheat protein) has been suggested as a cause for cerebellar ataxia even in the absence of malabsorption symptoms or intestinal pathology. However, the prevalence of gluten sensitivity in patients presenting with cerebellar ataxia is unknown and the effect of gluten-free diet on gluten sensitivity-associated cerebellar ataxia has not been systematically studied.  The aim of this project is: 1) To identify gluten sensitive cerebellar ataxia patients attending the Human Motor Control Clinic at the NIH using tests for celiac disease antibodies as a screening method. 2) To conduct open-label controlled clinical trial to assess the efficacy of gluten-free diet in the patients identified using a detailed cerebellar ataxia scale as an objective clinical measure.

Neurological diseases associated with celiac disease

Hagen_EM; Gjerde_IO; Vedeler_C; Hovdenak_N

Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen, 2000 00, 120: 4, 439-42  J. Neurol Sci 1982 Jan;53(1):9-22

Abstract: During the period from May 1997 to October 1998, eight patients with coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis and neurological disorders were admitted to the Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Bergen. The most frequent conditions were polyneuropathy (seven patients) and spinocerebellar ataxia (three patients). Other conditions were lower motor neuron disease, myelopathy, epilepsy and encephalopathy. The patients used various degrees of gluten-free diet at the time of admission. It remains unclear whether there is a shared common pathogenetic mechanism or the neurological disorder is a complication to the coeliac disease. Both vitamin depletion and immunological mechanisms may cause neurological disorder. Neurological manifestations may occur before the gastrointestinal symptoms. With reference to our patients and available literature we discuss prevalence, clinical picture, pathogenesis, treatment and prognosis. Neurologists, gastroenterologists and general practitioners should be aware that coeliac disease can cause neurological diseases, especially polyneuropathy, cerebellar ataxia and encephalopathy.

Degeneration of the central nervous system associated with celiac disease.

Kinney HC, Burger PC, Hurwitz BJ, Hijmans JC, Grant JP. Eur Neurol 1999;42(3):132-5

The following report describes a 57-year-old man with celiac disease who developed a progressive and fatal neurologic disorder despite intensive medical and nutritional care. The clinical and pathological CNS findings in this patient are compared with those of 9 previously reported patients with well documented celiac disease in whom a progressive CNS disorder was carefully studied both pre-and postmortem. An entity of CNS degeneration associated with celiac disease appears to emerge from the study of these 10 cases. This disorder affects predominantly the cerebellum, deep gray masses, certain brain stem nuclei, and spinal cord; its cause and pathogenesis are unknown.

Coeliac disease presenting with neurological disorders.

Luostarinen L, Pirttila T, Collin P.  Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol 2000 Dec;26(6):493-6
It is well known that coeliac disease may be associated with various neurological manifestations. We have had a high index of suspicion of coeliac disease during recent years in our neurological clinic. As a result 10 (7%) out of 144 of our new coeliac patients were detected because of neurological symptoms. The most common neurological manifestations were neuropathy, memory impairment and cerebellar ataxia. In these patient groups screening for coeliac disease with serological antibody tests helps to find patients who may suffer from this disease.

The neurology and neuropathology of coeliac disease.  Wills AJ.

A number of neurological syndromes have been described in association with coeliac disease. These include disorders of the central nervous system encompassing epilepsy, myoclonus, ataxia, internuclear opthalmoplegia, multifocal leukoencephalopathy and dementia. Most of these associated conditions show a poor response to gluten restriction. Peripheral neuropathies, of axonal and demyelinating types, have also been reported and may respond to elimination of gluten from the diet. The mechanism underlying these processes remains obscure but may be immunological or related to trace vitamin deficiencies. Controversially, it has also been claimed that occult coeliac disease accounts for a substantial proportion of patients with neurological dysfunction of unknown cause. Some authorities recommend that cryptogenic ataxias and neuropathies should be routinely screened for the presence of gluten-sensitivity but this remains contentious and has not been universally accepted. This review will attempt to review the clinical and pathological findings in this condition and speculate on pathogenesis and directions for future research.

Gluten Free: The exclusion of wheat, rye, barley are the initial steps when gluten allergy is suspected. Gluten elimination should be part of a more comprehensive diet revision plan, preferably in the form outlined in the Alpha Nutrition Program. The Program is gluten-free and is recommended as the best diet revision strategy for anyone with diagnosed celiac disease, or any person with symptoms suggestive of gluten allergy. Learn more about the Alpha Nutrition Program
Gluten free recipes are found in the book, Cooking and Recipes.

A good way to start your recovery is to Order a Gluten Rescue Starter Pack which includes 2 books and Alpha ENF. If you are not ready for the starter pack, order books separately.

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