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  • Jefferson Adams

    Can Going Gluten-Free Boost Brain Power?

    Jefferson Adams
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    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Can going gluten-free boost your brain power? Dr. David Perlmutter, neurologist, and author of Grain Brain, published by Little Brown and Company, thinks there's a good reason why we may want to go gluten-free a try. Dr. Perlmutter gives three basic reasons for people to avoid gluten in their diets:

    Photo: CC--alles_schlumpf1. Avoiding Gluten Reduces Brain Degredation
    While the majority of individuals suffering from gluten sensitivity experience intestinal discomfort, Perlmutter says an increasing number are experiencing neurological challenges including difficulty staying on task, poor memory function, brain fog and severe headaches that result from inflammation; a common reaction to gluten in those with a sensitivity to the protein. "The brain responds really badly to inflammation," says Perlmutter.



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    Another reason for the loss of cognitive function is that some of our brain proteins look similar to gliadin, a protein found in gluten-containing foods, says Perlmutter.

    Anti-gliadin antibodies produced by individuals with gluten sensitivity can't tell the difference between these two proteins and eat up the brain proteins that are required for normal cognitive function.

    Going gluten-free likely won't make you any smarter, but Perlmutter says it may help protect your cognitive function from weakening.

    2. Avoiding Gluten Strengthens the Immune system
    Perlmutter says gluten stimulates the cells of the intestine to secrete a protein called zonulin, which regulates the absorbency of the intestine.

    The increased production of zonulin erodes the walls of the intestine, allowing various proteins to leave the gut and enter our blood stream.

    This poses many challenges to the immune system, weakening our ability to fight off diseases. According to Perlmutter, avoiding gluten, strengthens the immune system.

    A healthy immune system is essential for optimal brain function.

    3. Avoiding Gluten Improves Brain Fueling
    According to Perlmutter, a healthy brain needs generous amounts of healthy fats. Because our brains are 70 percent fat, food loaded with carbs and sugar rob them of the fuel they need to function well.

    In place of gluten and carb-laden breakfast food such as a bagel and orange juice, Perlmutter recommends a high-fat breakfast rich in omega 3 fatty acids that protect the brain, including eggs, nuts, seeds or avocado.

    The verdict is out as to whether or not people without gluten sensitivity experience the same cognitive decline as those with gluten sensitivity, However, Perlmutter urges anyone experiencing poor cognitive function, chronic headaches or inflammatory illnesses, including joint or abdominal pain, to avoid gluten for few months and see if there is any positive change.

    What do you think? Has going gluten-free helped improve your brain function, along with your other celiac symptoms? Share your comments below.

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    gluten-free has drastically changed my life to the better. Periods of going completely grain free has resulted in a remarkable difference in improved brain clarity, muscle mobility, joint stiffness, reducing yeast over growth and inflammation. Eating only vegetable carbs (along with meat, no sugar other than occasional fruit) has taken me a step further, completely reversing non-diagnostic painful inflammation while being compliant to the diet. There is another angle to grains and that is the brain chemistry of grain addiction. We what we eat. Thanks for the article! Now onto reading this book...

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    I don't know it going gluten-free has improved my brain. I think maybe. But everything else with me is doing great. I am no longer lactose and citrus intolerant so that's good.

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    My mother suffered Alzheimer's for 11 years and she died 3 years ago. I have been reading for the past 5 years about nutrition to determine WHY she had this disease. This is a very long story but I firmly believe she began with nutritional deficiencies because of lactose and gluten intolerance. She was never diagnosed. My sister has been suffering with join pain for the past 3 years. After going to several doctors she was told she had fibromyalgia and the doc prescribed Lyrica. I told her to go gluten free for just one month. She could see the results after a month. Six months after eating a gluten free diet her pain is gone and she says she will never eat gluten again. She went back to the doctor and he said he does not believe in it but if it worked for her to continue her gluten free diet.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,500 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.


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