What’s with that gluten-free business?
According to “Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar; your brain’s silent killers,” a 2013 book written by Dr. David Perlmutter, a Naples, Florida neurologist, brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADHD, epilepsy, anxiety and chronic headaches thrive after a lifetime of gluten ingestion. Although only 1 and 133 Americans have little choice but to remove gluten from their diet because they suffer from gluten intolerance altogether, Perlmutter says that everyone should reconsider its consumption.
Just like other neurological problems such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, celiac disease (otherwise known as a gluten intolerance) is of the autoimmune variety which disservices the body by severe inflammation and degeneration. Unfortunately for us, gluten addiction has tormented the human race for at least 40 years according to Perlmutter.
So, what is this villainous composite that fluffs wheat products and traumatizes those plagued with celiac disease after it has been sneakily and artificially inserted into ketchup, soy sauce, imitation meat and ice cream? Gluten is a mixture of water-insoluble proteins, namely gliadin and glutenin. A versatile adhesive gluten is – without its elastic network of molecules, flour would fail to rise and products like bread, cereal, cake, French fries, candies – candy?! – would fail to exist as we know it (although it should be noted, many of these products can and are made gluten-free). Moreover, this “modern poison,” as Perlmutter deems it, “is the culprit of one function harmful to our noggin: spiking our blood sugar.
“Most grain foods, whether we’re talking about quinoa, amaranth, the very popular grains of the day,” Perlmutter told The Atlantic in an interview last winter, “the reality is they still are associated with a carbohydrate surge. They have a fairly high glycemic index, meaning that after 90 to 120 minutes, your blood sugar is going to go up, and that is detrimental to the brain.”
The problem with blood sugar surges, aside from unnatural appetite fluctuation, is that subjecting your body to repeated glucose spikes damages your nerve cells. This is because nerve cells don’t have an insulin gate and without an exit, glucose builds up inside the cell damaging the cell’s powerhouse, the mitochondria. In addition, glucose build up triggers the release of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine) which subsequently overload the brain in waves of pleasure also known as the “sugar high.” Unfortunately, this euphoria is ephemeral and pretty soon appetite is left aching for more as the cells run out of neurotransmitters to release. Crash.
Oh, and if you thought this bad news couldn’t get worse, think again. Those complex carbs we’ve all been told to replace our white-bread-simple-sugars with are actually theoretically worse for your brain. Their glycemic index – which indicates how high blood sugar rises and how long the spike will last – is much higher than simple sugars. That means doubly detrimental effects on your body. Whole wheat, I’m not so sure about your hardy, nutty (gummy?) goodness anymore.
According to Perlmutter, we should tweak our diet to resemble something more like the Paleo diet: 75 percent fat, 20 perfect protein and 5 percent carbs. The seemingly high percentage of fat is accounted for by the intake of “good fats” including olive oil, avocado, (wild) fish, (organic) nuts and vegetables. The carb-wiggle room, he says, is about enough for one serving of fruit.
Gluten-containing products you never knew contained gluten: beer, gravies, imitation meat or seafood, matzo, salad dressings, play dough, certain cosmetics
Instead of gluten, eat: nuts and seeds, quinoa, rice, flax, buckwheat, beans (fruits and vegetables, obviously)
Would you ever go gluten-free to protect your brain?