I’ve had celiac disease test taken a few years ago and it didn’t show signs of the particular disease, but it did show some chronic inflammation in the gut. After studying this subject for quite a while and reading several studies (science and clinical) I have come to a conclusion that I’m most likely sensitive to gluten and even my son’s Tourette’s Syndrome might be a consequence of my gluten sensitivity as an expectant mother (1).
As I went further in my studies of Tourette’s syndrome, I found out that the medical literature is filled with studies that show a correlation between a previous streptococcal infection and Tourette’s syndrome. Hence my son had had a severe throat infection that led to a worsening cyclic fever when he was under two years old (he had a fever every other week), he went through a surgical operation to get his tonsils removed. We found out that there had been a severe inflammation of his tonsils for a while up to the point that the tonsils were all covered with scar tissue. He was given strong antibiotics intravenously during the hospitalisation and orally afterwards. That’s when it all seems to have gone wrong in his tiny intestines.
With his susceptibility in his DNA to gain Tourette’s since my possible gluten sensitivity, in addition to severe inflammation and a strong dose of antibiotics, he was on his way to developing a syndrome called Tourette’s. At least that’s how I have “connected the dots” later on. Tourette’s include both motor and phonic tics as well as comorbid conditions (co-occurring diagnoses other than Tourette’s) such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).
Natural cure for gut – and disorder
As I then realised the possible original cause of the syndrome: the chaotic disorder in the gut because of the antibiotics and the inflammation and the developing allergies or sensitivities for things like gluten (as his mother), the whole big picture started to become clear.
Regarding to Dr. David Perlmutters book “Grain Brain”, the best possible cure for my son was not necessarily the drugs he had been taken (Risperdal) since he was 7 years old, but a change in his diet: more good fats such as Alpha-lipoic acid, coconut oil, Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), probiotics, resveratrol, turmeric and vitamin-D. In addition gluten-free diet, low carbohydrate and sugar intake but instead good fibre rich carbohydrates from vegetables and a lot of good fats in the diet to maintain energy, healthy heart, gut and brain functions and stabilised insulin levels.
I’m happy to say that since my son has been on a gluten free diet, since the early summer 2016, we were able to quit the medication (Risperdal) in autumn and we are doing just fine. My son has also gluten-free meals at school. It wasn’t easy, though because we had to find a private physician to get the medical certificate to school before they would order special diet. And it’s not always easy for an 11-year-old or us as parents to maintain a certain diet but I’m glad it happened at this point and not when he’s a teenager. At least we as parents are still in control of what he eats at this point in his life.
Read more about gluten sensitivity and brain disorders in “Grain Brain” or “Brain Maker” by Dr David Perlmutter, MD or “Wheat Belly” by Dr Willian Davis. You can buy the books here.
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Gluten and brain disorders
It’s interesting how many things have an impact on our intestinal bacteria such as environmental toxins, GMO’s, sugars, sugar substitutes, additives, stress and food processing. If we go even further, whether or not you get a good start for your gut’s bacteria, starts already in the mother’s womb. Also, the bacteria in the mother’s birth canal plays a huge role as we know nowadays. There’s nothing you can really do with these issues (unless you’re an expectant mother) but what you can do, is to decide what to eat from now on. One of the biggest problems in our diet seems to be gluten. That simple choice might also define the future of your brain health.
Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. Therefore it’s also in Bulgur, Couscous, Farina, Kamut Matzo, Semolina, Spelt and Triticale. Gluten is claimed to be the most inflammatory ingredient of the modern era. Since the massive hybridising, crossbreed, genetic bioengineering and food processing have created strains of grains that contain up to 40 times the gluten, we seem to have “poison” in our food.
A small percentage of the population are highly sensitive to gluten and suffer from celiac disease. Many of us might suffer from gluten sensitivity and the rest of the people might think that they are doing just fine. But it has been claimed that gluten actually causes a negative reaction in all of us. Gluten sensitivity, whether or not celiac, does increase the production of inflammatory cytokines in the body which plays a big role when talking about brain health since the brain is especially vulnerable to inflammation. It’s hard to tell if the brain suffers from inflammation. You can’t really feel it. It might occur as chronic fatigue, forgetfulness, headaches or before long depression, dementia or some other neurological disorder. Any of these might be a sign of inflammation in the brain. Since studies show that in some people gluten might show symptoms only in the brain, how can we know if a chronic migraine is not a cause of gluten? We all have our own genetic make-up, stress factors, immune system status as well as different lifestyles and eating habits. The damage gluten can cause each person is on a wide spectrum. Dr William Davis notes that “It’s unlikely that wheat is the original reason for ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, but it seems to worsen the symptoms.” The results are still not clear.
“The way that you behave might be dictated by your micro biome.” – Dr. Alessio Fasano
What gluten can do to your brain?
Even though gluten might not be the original cause for a neurological disorder, now that we know how important the gut bacteria is for a well-functioning brain, it’s quite natural that gluten is also harmful to the brain. Leaving gluten out from your diet also improves brain functioning dramatically.
Gluten is a combination of two protein groups: glutenins and gliadins. You might be allergic to either of these proteins or one of the twelve smaller units of gliadin. Reaction to any of these might cause inflammation. These proteins are sticky and therefore interfere with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. This leads to poorly absorbed food and makes the body’s immune defence go off attacking the small intestine wall. Some people sense this as stomachache or intestinal problems but many people don’t feel any reaction in the gut. This doesn’t mean gluten is not harming some other part of the body such as the brain.
Dr David Perlmutter explains how the leading scientist at Harvard University, for example, have found that 100% of people have some degree of gluten sensitivity and when they consume gluten it induces inflammation – the cornerstone of everything you don’t want, including brain disorders such as ADHD or Alzheimer’s.
Whether or not a person has the intestine problems, it’s interesting that same kind of an immune system attack develops in the other parts of the body as well, such as in nervous system. This means more inflammation/cytokines that are very destructive for the brain. The studies show that the brain can show symptoms on its own! So we know that gluten can cause leaky gut but there’s also evidence that gluten can cause leaky blood-brain barrier which acts as a gatekeeper, protecting the brain from various toxic elements. With that said, the neurological disorders might be a cause of gluten or at least gluten seems to worsen the symptoms. Gluten sensitivity can actually affect any body organ. Because of the immune reaction, the body can’t produce antioxidants (glutathione) and this might paralyse the whole immune system hence the free radicals and the toxins of the long-term inflammation (oxidation) can damage the DNA.
How to fix your brain?
Detoxification genes are needed for this reaction to clean the body from the toxins. That means antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, E, turmeric, omega-3 (DHA) that will deliver one electron missing from the free radical and decrease the snowball effect. Antioxidants can also be boosts by long-term exercise and good sleep. This is important not only because deprivation of these two contributes to oxidative stress, but also because of melatonin, the hormone best-known for governing the sleep-wake cycle, is a powerful antioxidant.
“Various dietary components including long chain ω-3 fatty acids, plant flavonoids, and carotenoids have been demonstrated to modulate oxidative stress, gene expression and production of inflammatory mediators. Therefore their adoption could preserve intestinal barrier integrity, play a protective role against toxicity of gliadin peptides and have a role in nutritional therapy of celiac disease.” (2)
Dr Perlmutter appears on a morning news show to discuss brain health and nutrition for children.
Gluten free recipes.