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Achy? Neurotic? Etc.? When Wheat-Free Isn't Enough

Everyone loves a good mystery, but in real life, we all love a good solution even more. The book Why Isn't my Brain Working? by Datis Kharrazian is the latter. Even if your brain is working (and I think mine works pretty well), it's worth reading for the insights into the gut-brain connection, cross-reactivity of foods, and what you can do if you get glutened.

In my younger days, I read self-help books and went to counseling to be happier. It didn't help much--all they talked about was attitude. Relying on attitude to solve a biological problem is like trying to smile your way out of an infection of H. pylori. I guess I was lucky that I didn't go in for drugs and didn't think doctors could help me. Good thing. I now know my problem was largely hypoglycemia.

The management of [certain patients with poor blood sugar control] is so fundamentally basic and easy....[Yet] It is not uncommon for [them] to be put on psychotropic drugs, sleep medications, or labeled as having bipolar disorder. (Kindle location 1356)

Dr. Kharrazian gave the patient in question a diet and herbs to stabilize her blood sugar. Indeed, a low-carb, wheat-free diet blew away all the mental techniques for me. He hammers home the importance of eating a low-carb diet.

Another mystery the book solved: why, years ago, a test for H. pylori showed I was making only two antibodies instead of the usual three. My doctor, in his fifties, I think, said he'd never seen such a result. Speaking of tests for antibodies related to foods, the author says,

When all the results are below the reference range it can mean your immune system is suppressed and not able to produce enough antibodies for a positive test result...[One] cause is the person's immune system is simply fatigued and under functioning. (Kindle location 3060)

At the time, I was eating a lot of wheat and dairy, a lot of carbohydrate, and working out hard six days a week. Later on, my doctor also diagnosed iron deficiency anemia, which he suspected from my pallid complexion.

Why bring up dairy? A few months ago, I decided to give it up totally (except for a bit of butter) because it gave me acne. Lately, the niggling pain in my right knee is gone, I almost never have a nosebleed, and my anxiety around others is gone. I also gave up instant coffee a few months ago, since it also gave me acne and tore up my stomach. Dr. Kharrazian says that dairy proteins and some brands of instant coffee are cross-reactive with gluten, meaning "the immune system mistakes one protein for another." (Most of the other cross-reactive foods are things that paleo people and low-carbers don't eat except as a cheat. Potatoes are one.) If you're sensitive to gluten, you may be sensitive to dairy also.

The immune system can also mistake protein structures in the nervous system for gluten.

Second, many people with gluten sensitivity have silent celiac disease, meaning their symptoms are not intestinal. Instead, they experience reactions to gluten in the brain, thyroid, joints, skin, or other tissues...Finally, the most common area of non-intestinal manifestation of gluten sensitivity is the brain and nervous system. (Kindle location 2572)

Gluten sensitivity has been shown to be a significant trigger in psychiatric disorders, movement disorders, sensory ganglionapathy, ataxia, general neurological impairment, neuromyelitis, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, myoclonus, apraxia, myopathy, neuromuscular disease, multiple systems atrophy, cerebellar disease, migraines, hearing loss, cognitive impairment, dementia, restless leg syndrome, and disorders in virtually almost every part of the nervous system evaluated. (Kindle location 2641)

If you've had a negative test for celiac, wheat might still be bad news for you. A traditional celiac test is limited to one or two parts of the gluten protein; there are at least ten different things in wheat you can be sensitive to. (Kindle location 2882)

The book has several recommendations for supplements and diet to help heal a variety of problems generally chalked up to age or laziness or craziness.

Why Isn't My Brain Working has other chapters on inflammation, stress, circulation, hormones, autoimmunity, and therapies. (Dr. Kharrazian also wrote a book called Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?)

I'm not planning to change my diet or routine--but this book would have been a godsend to me long ago.


Anonymous said…
Yup, I'll definitely buy it when I've finished my current book. Thanks for the recommendation Lori.
Lori Miller said…
You're welcome. Maybe even Ozzy Osbourne (whom the book mentions) will see some improvement now that he's on Atkins.
tess said…
:-) coincidentally, i started reading the book yesterday, myself! i LOVE it so far. sad thing is, while he was discussing symptoms of trouble in the various parts of the brain, i realized i've experienced an appalling number of them....
Lori Miller said…
The part about temporal lobe dysfunction sounded like me when I was a kid. Here's to brain plasticity!
Anonymous said…
There is a new book upcoming, that I discovered by accident:


It's on my list.

See also:
Lori Miller said…
Thanks for the recommendation, JayG. I hadn't seen Grain Brain.

What's most surprising is that so many MDs from the mainstream are recommending the book (see when the author seems to be saying what Dr. Michael Eades has said for over 20 years: there are just bad carbs and worse carbs. Wouldn't it be funny if the potaleo* people needed to catch up with mainstream medicine down the road?

*potato + paleo
Anonymous said…
Yes, the list of regular MDs touting his book is amazing. I found the book by total accident.

I'm not really with Eades on carbs. I eat fruit and honey (in tiny amounts). But grains - nope. White sugar, ditto. If I could pass a law, I'd make them controlled substances.

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