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[The following is the full transcript of this video blog. Please note that this video, like all of Dr. Chiu's blog videos, features Dr. Chiu speaking extemporaneously– he is unscripted for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!]
Hey, my friends, I'm Dr. Titus Chu, and this is The Modern Brain.
In this video, you'll learn exactly why gluten is so damaging to your brain.
All of you watching have probably heard about gluten by now. In the grocery store, you've seen gluten-free bread, gluten-free products, and gluten-free substitutes. At restaurants, you've seen gluten-free menus and gluten-free alternatives.
It's probably nothing new to you, but either way, I'm going to break it down for you just a bit.
Gluten is a protein that's found in high concentrations in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.
Gluten is what gives grains and things such as bread that gooey goodness that helps to puff up bread and make pizza crusts delicious. It also makes cakes, cookies, and muffins into the wonderful things in life they are, right?
Well, unfortunately, the same quality that allows gluten to give grains this “yumminess” is also what is really damaging to our brains and bodies.
Watch out for Gliadin!
Gluten itself is made up of other components.
One of them that's really important to our conversation today is what's known as gliadin. Gliadin is one of the building blocks of gluten.
When you eat gluten, and if you have a sensitivity to it or the gliadin in it, your immune system triggers an inflammatory reaction to attack the protein.
In doing so, there can be a lot of collateral damage. Depending on your genetic predispositions, you can have damage to your gut, your heart, your thyroid, and you can also have damage to your brain.
Targetting the Prefrontal Cortex
The fascinating thing is the nasty reaction from gluten can specifically target a very, very important region of your nervous system that we call the prefrontal cortex.
In a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, Italian researchers found that people who had gluten sensitivity and celiac disease had decreased circulation to frontal regions of their brain.
Decreased circulation is what we call hypoperfusion.
Remember what I said earlier? The problem with gluten is if your immune system sees it, it can attack it by launching an inflammatory reaction.
The way it works is like this: gluten and gliadin are made up of a series amino acids which make up proteins. You can think of the amino acid sequence like a name tag.
When your immune system sees that particular name tag, it can actually tag it and then launch an inflammatory response against it.
Now the problem is if the effects were just specific to the gluten, GREAT! because then it will just neutralize it.
But what ends up happening, like I said before, is you can have collateral damage to your gut, heart, skin, thyroid, and more importantly for our conversation, to your prefrontal cortex.
Standard blood testing typically only looks at two markers: anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody as well as endomysial antibody. Heightened levels of both antibodies usually mean you celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
What's wrong with these conventional lab tests is they only look at two markers. With just two, there's a bunch that can be missing.
There are lab tests out there that can measure up to 32 different types of reactions to gluten. There are up to 32 different protein sequences that your immune system could actually look at and attack.
And so the conventional lab tests, they miss a lot of gluten sensitivity.
The second point I want to make is: even if you don't have digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and even if you don't have celiac disease which is an autoimmune disease against your gut, you can still have an inflammatory reaction against gluten.
What you can be experiencing is called extra-intestinal symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
Your immune system might not be launching an attack against your gut but it can be very well damaging your brain.
I know, these all sound overwhelming, don't they?
I felt the same way too when I learned about this stuff.
I used to struggle with brain fog and brain fatigue. I was also really irritable, easily triggered, and had a quick temper. And I thought that was just who I was. I thought that was just my personality.
But guess what? After I ran some lab tests and identified that I had gluten sensitivity, I removed gluten from my diet 100%.
Oh. My. Goodness!
So many of those symptoms that I struggled with - brain fog, fatigue and irritability - and even some of the darker symptoms like paranoia when it got really bad, they just started to melt away.
And I know if you're struggling with those symptoms the same is possible for you.
My name is Dr. Titus Chiu, thanks so much for watching.
This has been The Modern Brain.