As bad as gaining unwanted fat weight and free radical formation are, recent studies have shown that consumption of grains can cause damage to the nervous system through a mechanism of immune reactions and excitotoxicity.
In fact, immune reactions caused by grains can lead to crippling neurological conditions, including:
• Memory loss
• Ataxia (loss of balance)
• Peripheral neuropathy
• Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
• Depression and anxiety
This type of immune reaction can also worsen the effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Evidence has linked the immune reaction to a substance in many grains called gluten. This “gluten sensitivity” is also associated with some very common health problems, including:
• Migraine headaches
• Esophageal reflux
• Abdominal cramping
• Muscle spasms
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Ulcerative colitis
Most doctors, even specialists in gastroenterology, overlook gluten sensitivity in their patients for decades, even a lifetime — an oversight that can lead to ruined lives.
When I was in medical school, about 40 years ago, I was taught about a disorder called celiac disease, which students were told was “extremely rare.”
As it was explained to us, celiac disease was a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, occurring mainly in the small intestine, in which people could not tolerate gluten, a component of wheat and some other grains.
For people with celiac disease, eating grains that contained gluten resulted in damage to cells lining the intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients from digested food. The most common symptoms of this disease included diarrhea alternating with constipation, abdominal cramping, muscle wasting, irritability, and sleep disturbances — almost all of which are related directly to the gastrointestinal tract.
Because it affected the intestinal cells, severe cases of the disease could cause impaired absorption of fats and proteins, and less so of carbohydrates. Victims of this disorder — called malabsorption — were also unable to absorb many vitamins and minerals that are critical for health.
Severe vitamin deficiencies can lead to health problems such as anemia, osteopenia and osteoporosis, and unhealthy skin. New evidence has demonstrated that gluten sensitivity (also called gluten intolerance) is much more common than was first thought. In fact, it may affect as much as 30 to 40 percent of the population.
We have also learned that gluten intolerance is a multisystem disease affecting a great number of systems in the body, along with the GI tract. For example, it affects fat metabolism, is associated with diabetes, can trigger autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and thyroid autoimmune disorders), and can affect the brain, including higher functions such as memory, learning, attention, and behavior.
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