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  • Dr. Rodney Ford M.D.
    Dr. Rodney Ford M.D.

    Gluten Causes Brain Disease! By Prof. Rodney Ford M.B., B.S., M.D., F.R.A.C.P.


    This article appeared in the Autumn 2006 edition of Celiac.coms Scott-Free Newsletter.

    Celiac.com 12/11/2006 - Yes, thats what I think. Gluten-sensitivity is a disease of your brain and nerves.

    The gluten puzzle
    I have come to this conclusion after studying the effects of gluten on my patients for over a decade. I am a pediatric gastroenterologist and allergist. I run a busy clinic for children and their parents. I have been increasingly concerned by the large numbers of my patients who are affected by gluten. I was perplexed by their wide-ranging symptoms. The puzzle was to explain how gluten could cause so much ill health to so many people in so many different ways, including celiac disease.

    Faulty brain control
    Eureka! The solution came when deep in discussion with my friend and colleague, Ron Harper, Professor of Neurobiology, UCLA. We were both struggling with the concept of multiple symptoms that needed to be explained. The answer appeared absurdly simple: disturbed "brain control". It suddenly seemed obvious—gluten could disturb the neural pathways of the body. Gluten was gradually damaging the brain and the nerves of susceptible people. It was the brain that was the common pathway for the manifestations of all of the gluten symptoms. So I set out to research what the world medical literature had to say.

    Is gluten a neurotoxin?
    I felt excited. I reviewed my patients in this new light—I began looking for a brain-grain connection. I began to see gluten as a neurotoxin—this could provide a universal model of gluten-sensitivity. This toxicity might act through inflammatory mechanisms or cross-reactivity with neurons. I began accumulating the evidence for my proposal that gluten-sensitivity is a brain and nerve disease.

    "Full Of It!"
    The concept of "Full of it" developed from the stories from my patients. I wrote my hypothesis down in a book now called Full of it! It refers to our diets being full of gluten; to the world being full of gluten-sensitive people; to the medical practitioners who are so skeptical of adverse reactions to gluten; to the enthusiasm of people who are feeling vibrant again on a gluten-free diet; and to those who are brimming with hope that the problem of gluten has now been recognized.

    Food allergy skeptics
    As a junior doctor I decided to formally research the food allergy phenomenon. I was awarded a research post and carried out the first comprehensive food allergy studies in New Zealand. I triumphantly demonstrated that food allergy was both a real entity and that it was common. But, to my disappointment, my colleagues were reluctant to believe me or my data. They professed a "disbelief" in food allergy. This surprised me as I had the research data.

    My next step was to conduct four more years of investigation of food allergy in Australia (at the Royal Childrens Hospital, Melbourne). This was a bigger and more elaborate study. My Doctoral Thesis (1982) based on this work is called: Food hypersensitivity in children: diagnostic approaches to milk and egg hypersensitivity. Since then I have continued my investigations into food allergy—but still today (25 years later) medical skepticism abounds. This "disbelief" is held despite the vast body of research describing food allergy. There seems to be an underlying unwillingness for doctors to consider food allergy as a possibility. Unfortunately, this also applies to gluten reactions.

    The shocking truth
    The shocking truth about gluten is that gluten foods are causing tremendous damage—but currently this is going mostly unrecognized. Unfortunately, gluten grains have become our staple diet. The quantity of gluten in our food supply has been steadily increasing. Yet worse, official Health Policies endorse gluten grains as the foundation of our food pyramid.

    Medics turn a blind eye
    Gluten is sapping the energy and wellbeing of countless millions. To date, the medical profession has turned a blind eye to glutens wider problems whilst focusing all of their attention on the narrow problem of celiac disease.

    A typical story
    I received emails like this every day:

    "Dr Ford, I have emailed you a number of times regarding our two children.

    I thought I should let you know that since going gluten free for the last three months, at last our son and daughter have put on some weight.

    If I had kept them on a normal gluten diet (which they recommended at the hospital) we would be still be having the headaches and sore tummies as well as the bad moods which our son would have. People just thought he was a naughty child, but now he is so different - we can talk to him without getting into any fights.

    I congratulate you for all your efforts on bringing gluten intolerance to the media and medical profession. More children and their families may find long awaited help. We have had to put up with this for seven years! At long last there is light at the end of the tunnel. Kind regards, Sue and Garry."

    Can gluten damage your brain?
    I believe that gluten was actually causing these two children to be sick. That is the explanation for their "naughty" behavior, their moods and their headaches.

    I postulate that gluten can damage your brain. I have come to this conclusion by the abundant circumstantial evidence from my observations of my patients who are gluten-sensitive. I have pondered the next questions: "Why do they have such an array of symptoms from gluten?" "Why do they recover so quickly when gluten is removed?" And "Why do they deteriorate so rapidly when only tiny amounts of gluten are eaten?" The concept of a brain/nerve disease can explain everything.

    The brain/nerve hypothesis
    "The symptoms from gluten occur through its action on the nervous system".

    I propose that gluten-sensitivity is a brain condition. Each and every organ in your body has some form of brain/nerve control. I propose that gluten can injure the delicate nervous networks that control your guts functions. A malfunction will subsequently lead to all of the gut symptoms that have so well been described. In addition, gluten can also directly affect brain function, which leads to the primary neurological symptoms that are so commonly seen with gluten-sensitivity.

    What is new?
    There are a number of new ideas that I put forward. These are based on circumstantial evidence. They produce a unifying theory of the symptoms that are attributed to gluten toxicity.

    • A brain disease
      I consider that gluten-sensitivity is mostly a neurological problem. A major contribution to this debate is the realization that the brain has a central role in the expression of the symptoms that have, until now, been attributed to the local toxicity of gluten in the gut.
    • A nerve disease
      I propose that gluten-sensitivity is a nerve disease. There is a gigantic network of nerves that controls every function that your gut is programmed to do. There are as many nerve cells in your gut as there are in your head! (about 25 billion nerve cells). I call it your tummy brain (or gut brain). Your tummy brain can be directly damaged by gluten reactions. This is the cause of so many sore tummies and bowel troubles.
    • A wide spectrum of neurological manifestations
      For decades, there have been reports of unexplained brain and nerve symptoms which are associated with celiac disease. Although these associations have been described, there has been no universal mechanism proposed. However, if gluten is seen as a neurotoxin, then the explanation has been found.
    • A very common disease
      Reactions to gluten have recently been documented to be extremely common. About one-in-ten people (as ascertained by blood donor studies) have high levels of gluten antibodies in their blood. My clinical studies have arrived at this same high number of gluten-sensitive people. Others have data to show that it is even more prevalent.

    Am I full if it?
    You might ask, "Is he full of it?" Yes, I am full of excitement and hope for the future. So many people can now be helped, if only this information can be widely distributed. I am full of ideas and full of enthusiasm. I hope that you are full of hope for your healthy and vibrant future.

    Tariq's story:

    "Dear Rodney,


    Thank you for your care and support of my family in regard to our allergies, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease that exists within that framework.


    My son Tariq, who is nearly 12 years old, has been a patient of yours over a number of years for his multiple food allergies. Tariq also suffers from dyslexia. Over the last several years Tariq has been becoming increasingly tired, lacking in energy and motivation, struggling with school work and constantly scratching due to his eczema and rashes covering all of his body.

    During this time, even though he has attended soccer training up to four times a week he somehow gained a lot of weight. Tariq was constantly grumpy and had low mood levels.


    Two months ago you diagnosed Tariq with gluten-sensitivity (his tTG 4; IgG-gliadin 86; IgA-gliadin 9).

    Tariq was extremely reluctant to go on a gluten free diet. But as the rest of the family had gone gluten-free—so he was forced also to become gluten-free.

    The changes that a gluten-free diet has evoked in Tariq have been astounding. His energy levels have increased, his skin has vastly improved, he has lost a lot of his excess weight (even though his appetite has increased) and he has shown improvement in his dyslexia.

    Tariq is not as grumpy as he was and his mood levels have improved. Tariq is now vigilant about gluten and can see the differences it has made to his life and the quality of it.

    Also, the other soccer parents have noticed a vast improvement in Tariqs energy levels and speed. His teacher has also noticed a big difference.

    Thanks again.

    Regards, Rosemary"

    Are you affected?
    The shocking truth is that gluten can damage your brain and that so many people are being encouraged to eat gluten-foods that might be steadily eroding their health and energy. If you have any lingering doubt about your own health, then I suggest that you check out the possibility of gluten-sensitivity.

    If you have any comments or questions we would love to hear from you.

    Dr Rodney Ford is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Allergist and Nutrition Consultant. He has been Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago. He runs a busy Childrens Gastroenterology and Allergy Clinic in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has written over a hundred scientific papers including book chapters and books. www.doctorgluten.com

    This includes a series of five books on gluten: why it can make you ill and how to go gluten-free.

    • Are You Gluten-Sensitive? Your Questions Answered
    • Going Gluten-Free: How to Get Started
    • The Gluten-Free lunch book
    • The book for the Sick, Tired and Grumpy (Gluten-Free kids)
    • Full of it! The shocking truth about gluten (The brain-grain connection - ISBN 978-0-473-10407-8)

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    Guest JJ Diambrini-Palazzi

    Posted

    Hmm... the Roman 'bread and circuses' come to mind... Did the Romans see the connection and get their populace fat, dumb, and happy with gluten? Makes me wonder...

    I think you're spot on!

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    Here's my struggle: why, if a person who knows smoking is bad, do they keep doing it? Why, if a person knows drugs are bad, do they not stay off them? So, knowing gluten makes me sick, mostly mentally, why can I not stay completely gluten-free? Ugh!

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    A few years ago I read an excellent book called "Dangerous Grains" which touches on this subject. It certainly clued me into my gluten sensitivity when I was experiencing such extreme brain fog that I couldn't even carry on a conversation because I couldn't remember what a person had just said to me, or the topic of discussion! The book also pointed out that all grains have proteins similar to gluten, even the supposed gluten-free ones. For a time, my body and mind were reacting to all grains and I had to go completely grain-free for a time because I was experiencing the same symptoms as I did prior to my initial gluten detox. Consequently, grains play a very minor role in my diet. For me, a "treat" is a gluten-free baked item or gluten-free musli. My ability to use my brain is too important to me, and I'm too young to be experiencing brain impairment like this.

    I went off of gluten, but not other grains, 2 months ago. My brain is the clearest it's ever been. I really thought that I was getting dementia for years. I am elated to feel a clear head and know that I am not getting Alzheimer's. It feels way better than a big cookie could ever taste! I'll never go back to gluten. I wish other people were more believing... so many illnesses could be healed.

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    Guest Reply to Jessica

    Posted

    Thank you for your opinions. Everyone is entitled to one. You repeatedly say "I believe, postulate, or propose" Where is the research to back this up? I find it strange that there are no opposing opinions posted...will this be posted or just thrown out? You can find a connection in anything if you want to look hard enough. I refuse to believe that the wheat made by God for man to eat is causing all these problems.

    God did not make wheat for man to eat! Wheat was originally a weed that "Man" cultivated to eat. Otherwise we would be able to walk into a field of wheat and just start gnawing on the stalks, in "God's form". As with most "Man-made" foods, wheat is not meant to be consumed by the human body. Food should be eaten in it's natural (unprocessed) state as it was meant to be eaten... or so-called "God-made form". Don't let your beliefs cloud basic logic. If wheat truly was made by God for humans to consume, there would NOT be so many people unable to consume it. Perhaps wheat is Devil's food. Do you have any research to dispute that, Jessica? There's an opposing opinion for you!

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    Here's my struggle: why, if a person who knows smoking is bad, do they keep doing it? Why, if a person knows drugs are bad, do they not stay off them? So, knowing gluten makes me sick, mostly mentally, why can I not stay completely gluten-free? Ugh!

    I hear you on this one. I think the problem is that a) gluten foods are everywhere, B) gluten foods are addictive, c) the new food labelling in Canada lists "wheat" as a contained allergen, but not gluten, which makes eating any processed foods risky business (even when you think you're an avid label reader!) I recently had a run-in with a chocolate bar in my attempt to eat like my friends at a social outing, and paid the price with brain fog and the usual gluten symptoms even from that tiny amount.

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    Guest Elizabeth Jeffries

    Posted

    I was diagnosed with Hypothyroid disease at age 12 and Systemic Lupus at age 15. I have suffered for years and years with illness and dyslexia and all kinds of problems from ulcers to chronic fatigue, to weight gain to anorexia and the list goes on. I now am told I have adrenal gland exhaustion and a brain disorder that doesn't allow my body to absorb folic acid. I am so very tired of being sick and tired and in pain.

     

    I just barely began a gluten free diet this week for me and my family. I have 4 children ages 5, 4, 3 and 1. the 3 older boys are diagnosed with autism, SPD, ADHD and major anxiety problems. I also have a husband with severe ADHD and anxiety. We are a mess to say the very least.

     

    I am hopeful that a gluten-free diet will help us all. We are looking and searching for someone to use us as a research project. I am an extremely proactive mother who does whatever it takes to keep my family functioning. Someone needs to document this process of changing your life by going gluten-free. If we had the money we would mount cameras in our home and share with others what a special needs family is really like. I have become painfully aware that people just don't understand what our day is really like.

     

    Forget all these other ridiculous reality shows and let's show people what we parents are really going through! Feel free to contact us with any info on gluten and its link to these previously described problems.

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    Gluten is a neurotoxin. Makes perfect sense to me, considering barley in beer makes you intoxicated. And only the sugars from the starch of barley are used to make the beer. I don't see how the sale of beer or any wheat product is legal. All it does is damage internal and external organs such as the liver, small intestines, the brain and your skin.

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    A few years ago I read an excellent book called "Dangerous Grains" which touches on this subject. It certainly clued me into my gluten sensitivity when I was experiencing such extreme brain fog that I couldn't even carry on a conversation because I couldn't remember what a person had just said to me, or the topic of discussion! The book also pointed out that all grains have proteins similar to gluten, even the supposed gluten-free ones. For a time, my body and mind were reacting to all grains and I had to go completely grain-free for a time because I was experiencing the same symptoms as I did prior to my initial gluten detox. Consequently, grains play a very minor role in my diet. For me, a "treat" is a gluten-free baked item or gluten-free musli. My ability to use my brain is too important to me, and I'm too young to be experiencing brain impairment like this.

    You have just in enlightened me. I have been gluten free for 2 and half years now. It is a struggle every day to stay this way. I can do fine for a while. And then I start hurting all over clear to the bone. I can hardly make it up the stairs at times. Among other problems. But, I have been thinking that there must be something else that is affecting me besides the gluten. I think it is the other grains. I would have rice and corn products. I will cut the other grains out of my diet and see what happens.

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    Guest hypersensitive

    Posted

    I found this article because I searched for "gluten is a neurotoxin"--I didn't stumble on the article and then decide it was right--it just really feels like a neurotoxin! After years and years of stomach pain, intestinal pain, bloating and headaches, I finally realized it was gluten when my husband got a pizza maker (nuff said.) Since I went gluten free, if I do ingest even tiny quantities of gluten (soy sauce in a marinade for example), I get sharp stomach pains and a nearly immediate intense migraine right between the eyes - no matter how small the quantity of gluten I have ingested. I told a friend, "I feel the way a bug looks when you spray raid on it - maybe gluten is a neurotoxin!" I am allergic to nothing - no weeds, no foods--nothing! ($1500 worth of testing proved that!) Yet a tiny amount of gluten creates intense pain between my eyes every single time--it's a migraine headache without the silvery streaks--and it lasts for hours. This does not feel like my body trying to process "large protein molecules" it feels like my nerves convulsing in the presence of a toxin. Just thought you'd like to know!

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  • About Me

    Dr. Rodney Ford is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. He was Professor of Pediatrics at the Christchurch School of Medicine. He runs the Children's Gastroenterology and Allergy Clinic in New Zealand. He has written a series of 7 books on gluten (www.DrRodneyFord.com). His main theory is that symptoms from gluten reactions arise from brain and nerve damage. His latest book is "The Gluten Syndrome" which encapsulates current ideas and concepts of gluten and the harm that it does.

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