Gluten, which is the "sticky" component to bread, pizza, donuts, and pastry, has the ability to cause decreased nutrient absorption, leaky gut, increased fat storage, increased visceral fat, increased blood sugar, diabetes, mental fog, joint pain, acid reflux, autoimmune diseases, rashes and skin disorders, lowered energy, reduced sleep, food obsessions, asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer…. The list goes on.
For our unstoppable brainiacs, we are very interested in optimizing brain function. Gluten does the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
How does gluten affect cognition, mood, motivation, and brain health? Well, there are several modes of action.
Firstly, the gliadin protein in gluten causes inflammation of the intestinal wall. This reduces the body's ability to properly absorb nutrients, which our brains desperately need to function properly and allow us to be calm and happy.
Secondly, the gliadin in gluten causes gut permeability (leaky gut) and brain permeability (leaky brain). This situation allows the wrong things to get into the bloodstream and into our precious brain tissues, and can be quite devastating depending on severity. Inflammation always follows this permeability. This is where mental fog comes in, decreased memory, lowered focus, and the sleeping problems. Many studies show that inflammation in the brain causes learning and memory deficits.
Not ideal for our struggling little people that already have enough to deal with in this world.
Thirdly, gluten encourages bad bacteria to proliferate and get into the blood stream via the leaky junctions. Some of these bacteria have a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) coating, which decreases the production of Brain Derived Neurofactor (BDNF). This chemical, which is produced by beneficial bacteria, plays a crucial role in neuroplasticity and learning. It also protects the brain from mental decline. LPS is also a major player in depression, which is affecting our children at a younger and younger age. Could gluten be a contributing factor?
These factors are all in addition to the fact that many children have an intolerance or a hidden allergy to wheat and gluten containing grasses. It is the second most intolerant food for all children (milk is number one).
You may be thinking that wheat has been consumed by humans for hundreds of years. And why is it all of the sudden demonized? To discuss gluten, we have to discuss what it was 50 years ago, versus what it is today.
With all the genetic modifications to wheat, gluten has taken on a whole new identity. Wheat no longer genetically resembles its ancestor wheat. Dr. William Davis, MD, in his book Wheat Belly, discuses in detail, the transformation of this grass over the years, and calls this transformed grass Frankengrain. In a nutshell, agriculture, in it’s infinite greed, has modified the wheat to grow faster, shorter, with larger seed heads, more gluten, greater yield, and to be more resist to the onslaught of pests, pesticides, and herbicides.
It is difficult to stop the agricultural industry because there is no testing or approvals required before these changes are made to our food, and it makes them more money. There is not even a requirement to disclose what has already been done to our food. So, geneticists, not medical doctors, or people that know anything about our health, have found any way possible to line their pockets by messing with the very thing that makes us what we are…..our food.
We are seeing more mental issues and health issues than ever before because gluten and sugar are in so many processed foods. Society now buys more processed foods than ever, and in many cases, consume it daily in every meal, chronically exposing themselves to it.
It's a vicious cycle. When people constantly eat gluten they become hungrier because the body is searching for nutrients. They, unfortunately, crave more gluten instead of nutrient rich food because the gliadin attaches to opiate receptors in the brain making it enjoyable and very hard to “quit”. It is like a drug! wAnd, hen wheat is taken away, our bodies go through withdrawal, similar but less severe, than taking away an opioid drug.
In addition to that, wheat has the ability to increase blood sugar more than pure sugar, ice cream, or even a snickers bar! An increase in blood sugar contributes to inflammation, the brain and body enemy. It also contributes to the growth of deep abdominal visceral fat, the hardest fat to lose. Could this explain why so many children are overweight and have behaviour and learning difficulties?
The list of health effects from wheat seems endless.
So, knowing all this makes you want to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon, right? Well, gluten-free is not enough. We cannot go to the gluten-free section of our grocery store and buy a loaf of gluten-free bread, gluten-free muffins, and corn chips, and expect great things. Sure, some symptoms may subside. Your child's thinking may get clearer and behaviour may improve, but gluten-free products are often made of ingredients that still spike blood sugar and encourage fat storage. There is a good reason farmers give their livestock corn and soy, which are the main ingredients that replace wheat in gluten-free products. It is to fatten them up for increased profits! Don’t fall into this trap. We need to be gluten-free for optimal brain and body health, but we also need to be “gluten-free” free.
Instead, choose breads made from organic nut flours, or beans, or use a lettuce wrap. Nut flour breads are really simple to make. Once your child gets through the wheat withdrawal and feels terrific, you won’t really “need” the bread. He/She will be less hungry, have fewer cravings, and will enjoy the tastes of healthy nutrient dense food better than the food on their nutrient deplete wheat diet.
Each day, offer low processed foods, high in vegetables, nutrients, good fats, good quality proteins, and your child be well on his or her way to being a brainiac.
Watch their behaviour, their happiness, their cognition, and their overall health transform!
Watch them become....