Masters of Health Magazine June 2019 - Page 89

excellent example. Gluten is one common factor that can create so many illnesses and diseases it would be hard to count them all.

The reasons are many. They include our lack of genetic adaptation to grasses, and particularly gluten in our diet.

Wheat was introduced into Europe during the middle ages, and 30 percent of those of European descent carry the gene for celiac disease (HLA DQ2 or HLA DQ8), which increases susceptibility to health problems from eating gluten. Keep in mind that American strains of wheat have a much higher gluten content (which is needed to make light fluffy Wonder bread).

A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. These include many neurological diseases including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage).

Besides making the brain inflamed, gluten can be broken down in the gut into odd little proteins that are almost like psychedelic drugs (opium-like peptides called gluteomorphins). These change brain function and behavior.

Gluten also contains significant amounts of glutamate, a molecule that accelerates, activates, excites, and damages brain cells through a special brain receptor or docking station called the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor. Overactivation of this receptor by glutamate is implicated in many psychiatric disorders. Glutamate is called an excitotoxin (a substance which over-excites and kills or damages brain cells).

So gluten can cause brain dysfunction by 3 different mechanisms—inflammation, odd morphine or psychedelic proteins, and as an excitotoxin.

So gluten, we see, can be the single cause behind many different “diseases.” These diseases are not treatable with better medication, but simply by 100 percent elimination of gluten from the diet.

One cause, many diseases …

One disease caused by multiple factors, or one factor that causes multiple diseases? How could this happen? It completely upsets our current thinking. And it should!

But the reason this is true is simpler than you might think.

We are all unique, biochemically and genetically, and have different responses to the same insults. In one person gluten may cause arthritis, in another, it can cause depression. Depression may be caused by gluten in one person; in another, it may be caused by B12 deficiency.

The beauty of Functional Medicine, and the science of nutrigenomics, is that they take these factors into account to help create health for each individual.

Medicine has been looking in the wrong place for answers. Finally, science has provided a gateway to a different way of thinking about mental illness and brain disorders.

We need to get out of the “name it, blame it, and tame it” game —the myth of diagnosis—and start thinking about how the body works, how to personalize our approach, and how to not suppress symptoms but to restore normal function.

Wishing you health and happiness,

Mark Hyman, MD