Gluten Intolerance is All in Your Head (i.e., Brain)

by Patrick Nemechek, D.O. on January 17, 2016

Blog GlutenFor many of us, gluten intolerance is “all in our head”.  The key to the problem is silent Autonomic Nervous System dysfunction in our brain.  

Gluten is a protein molecule found in wheat, barley, and rye.  Gluten gives dough elasticity, helping it rise and often gives food a chewy texture. 

Some individuals become sick eating gluten because they have developed an autoimmune disorder in the small intestine called celiac disease that is fueled by gluten in their diet.

Other people notice that cutting gluten out of their diet makes them feel better even though medical tests show they do not have celiac disease.  These people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

People blame gluten sensitivity on a condition called leaky gut; medically this is known as increased intestinal permeability.  Gluten is capable of passing through the space between intestinal cells called tight junctions.

When patients with gluten sensitivity eat gluten it leaks through the tight junctions across the gut and triggers an inflammatory reaction.  This causes a host of intestinal and systemic symptoms (cramping, achiness, joint pain, rashes, and fatigue).  But this is not the complete picture.

Studies are now showing that gluten leaks across the gut of all individuals whether or not they have symptoms.  It is just that some people do not develop inflammation to gluten.  So the reality is that we all have leaky gut but not all of us develop inflammation.  The difference lies in the way our immune system reacts to the gluten.

Mechanically, our brain controls our digestion through the Autonomic Nervous System.  The Autonomics control our digestive tract, nutrient storage, bladder control, and gastrointestinal motility.

Interestingly, we are also learning that the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the Autonomic Nervous System regulate the immune system as well as the permeability of the tight junctions of the intestinal tract.

In my experience, many patients feel better when they restrict gluten from their diet.  But their real problem is not the gluten causing inflammation; it is the underlying Autonomic damage they have suffered from silent (emotional) or physically traumatic concussions that causes the inflammation.   

And after a few months of treatment designed to restore Autonomic function, my patients not only feel much better in a variety of ways but their gluten intolerance is also gone.  In other words they can enjoy bread, pasta, and beer again.

Symptoms from gluten in your diet are indicative of possible underlying Autonomic damage that is usually repairable.  The answer to fixing gluten intolerance might just be “in your head” where you Autonomics are.

© Copyright 2016.  Dr. Patrick M. and Jean R. Nemechek.  All rights reserved.


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