The Gist on Gluten


The New England Journal of Medicine has listed 55 diseases that can be linked to gluten, ranging from gastrointestinal, to hormone, to brain dysfunction (4) (7).  Why after so many years of domesticating and consuming grains, is it the latest 'trend' to forgo this category of sustenance? The story of how a class of food long revered as "the staff of life" can quickly become touted as toxic to a mass population, is complex and controversial and requires insight into a myriad of contributing factors. The following is a brief overview; for a more detailed synopsis please click here


Contributing Factors:

Agriculture and Evolution: (2),(8)

*We adopted grains approximately 8,000 years ago, but the human genome adapts to a new food source over approximately 40,000-50,000 years. 

*We have hybridized our grains to produce higher yields and have a much higher gluten content.

*Our ancestors also soaked, sprouted, leavened, and fermented their grains to further improve their digestibility, which neutralized grains 'anti-nutrients' that cause malabsorption and inflammation in the body.

Genetics and Bio-individuality: (2)

*Current research suggests that approximately 60% of the population actually has a genetic predisposition for prompting an immune response to a gluten exposure. 

*Research is also demonstrating the wide array of ill-effects gluten has on the human body despite presence of these gluten related genes, and because we are all bio-individually unique, an exposure will affect us all in many different ways. 

Standard American Diet:

*Processed grain foods have become a larger and larger percentage of our daily standard diet. The increased consumption of this lower nutrient-per-calorie food source thus takes away from other more vital food groups.

*For the majority of humanity's existence we have thrived and evolved on eating from nature.  Processed foods with extended shelf lives and enhanced flavors engineered to have the most addictive potential, enticed us to further move away from our natural source of nutrients.  The result of this hyper-exposure of  inflammatory foods and toxins leads to the perfect storm for the body to develop a cornucopia of bodily dysfunctions, very often stemming from Leaky Gut.  

 Gluten and the Brain

Despite common misconception, gluten sensitivity can affect any organ in the body, without having any intestinal discomfort or irritability (3).  The same triggers that impede blood brain barrier activity, impede intestinal permeability; whether you have an immunological response to gluten or not, it triggers the release of zonulin which compromises the barrier of the gut and brain (6).  Additionally gluten affects the opiate receptors in our brain just like a drug, causing a highly addictive effect (5)!  This could be why we fear going gluten free and even sometimes experience withdrawal symptoms, as these morphine-like compounds are no longer being consumed and hitting the reward centers of our brain. 

Grain Brain headaches MRI.jpg


Unfortunately most, if not all, available testing is expensive and inconclusive of truly identifying gluten sensitivity.  Therefore, the cheapest and most effective way to test whether you have gluten sensitivity is to completely cut it out of your diet for a 2-4 week period.  This means removing ALL traces of gluten from your diet 100%, no exceptions, no hidden sources, such that is found in many sauces, dressings, vitamins, etc.  After this time frame, try some gluten and note how your body and mind feel after the exposure.  If gluten sensitivity, leaky gut, or autoimmunity is determined, it would be ideal to work closely with a physician who has received the necessary training and has the required skill to help patients with healing the gut; you can find a list of qualified doctors here.

Regardless of whether you've adopted a gluten free lifestyle out of necessity or choice, you are taking the steps to be the best version of you by placing your health and vitality as a priority, so congratulations.  Transitioning to a gluten free lifestyle can initially feel daunting, however the list of gluten free foods is much longer than the list of gluten containing foods.  Amazingly the gluten free food market has been expanding exponentially, however don't fall into the trap of consuming gluten free yet unhealthy products.  World Bread Company makes it easy and delicious to enjoy your favorite foods, without sacrificing your health.  Endulge with World Bread Company!


References and Links for Further Information:

1) Alessio Fassano, MD.,

2) Daniel Auer, MD, Understanding Gluten and the Effects of Grain Based Diets,

3) David Perlmutter, MD, Grain Brain (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), 45-67.

4) Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Celiac sprue. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 17;346(3):180-8. Review.

5) Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia, (UK: Medinform Publishing, 2004), 53-54.

6) Nora Gedgaudas, Bulletproof podcast, 20:30. look for it in writing

7) Tom O'brien, MD.

8) Villoldo

  Additional Recommended Books and Sites to Look into:

For a listing of common places gluten is found click here!

Dr. Tom O'brien's website is filled with great information, resources, and references. 

The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates

Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis

Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano

Dr. Alessio Fasano of Boston's Center for Celiac Research and Treatments has written extensively on gluten sensitivity and how it can even mimic other disorders. Visit his website and access his publications here

Dr. David Perlmutter is a renowned neurologist whose expertise includes gluten issues, brain health & nutrition, and preventing neurodegenerative disorders. Visit his website here Search 'gluten' for articles in relation to. 

Dr. Rodney Ford, New Zealand, regarding gluten research.