Eliminating Gluten From Your Diet: Effects on the Brain

Intestinal dysbiosis could be the cause of increased gluten sensitivity in some people. However, the evidence isn't entirely conclusive. Find out more in this article!
Eliminating Gluten From Your Diet: Effects on the Brain

Last update: 11 September, 2021

Some current trends in nutrition are in favor of eliminating gluten from your diet, arguing that it may be harmful to the brain. Some have suggested that this protein may be responsible for increasing inflammation.

Therefore, this could not only damage the brain, but also other organs. Moreover, if the statement is true, this protein could predispose the body to certain mental health-related disorders.

But what does research say about this? Is it true that gluten compromises brain health? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and also review some relevant research on the subject!

Gluten and inflammation

There’s a health issue called non-celiac gluten sensitivity that may link gluten consumption with increased inflammation and gastrointestinal problems. However, there’s much controversy about this.

The pathophysiology of the disease hasn’t been specifically identified yet. An article published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology relates the intake of this protein with the appearance of headaches and fatigue.

Despite this, there’s no solid evidence to recommend eliminating this protein from the diet in a systematic way. The answer to the doubts about consuming gluten could be hidden in a certain microbiota profile, more prone to generate discomfort after consuming it.

A woman and some bread
To date, there’s insufficient evidence to advise patients who aren’t gluten intolerant to eliminate gluten from their diet.

Gluten and brain health

Other scientific articles, one of them published in 2018, enunciate the ability of gluten to induce certain diseases that affect mental health. As in the previous case, the pathophysiology by which this occurs isn’t clear.

There’s insufficient evidence to link gluten intake with an increased risk of brain diseases. However, there’s evidence that suggests that consuming this protein may increase the likelihood of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

The model put forward to support this theory is based on the existence of intestinal dysbiosis. This condition increases the permeability of the gut barrier, increasing the absorption of beta-amyloids, which can later pass into the craniocerebral fluid.

The accumulation of these substances is directly related to the appearance of neurodegenerative and mental diseases.

A varied diet: the best option

Despite these assumptions, there’s no certainty that gluten is a harmful substance for all individuals. For this reason, its restriction is only recommended in the case of recurrent gastrointestinal discomfort after ingestion.

If the doctor doesn’t advise against consuming gluten, eliminating it from your diet can lead to the development of an intolerance in the medium term. This is because the body stops producing the enzymes it needs for its degradation in an attempt to save energy.

For most people, doctors recommend a varied diet. However, if the amounts of carbohydrates that the person currently consumes are high, doctors suggest that they reduce their consumption.

When it comes to including carbohydrate foods in the diet, it’s best to prioritize tubers. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals.

The gluten-containing grains in the diet should preferably be whole grains. This way, the fiber of the product is used, which benefits the intestinal flora, reducing the risk of dysbiosis.

For most people, moderate consumption of gluten isn’t a problem. On the contrary, eliminating it from the diet can be harmful.

Gluten, the protein that causes uncertainty

As we’ve already mentioned, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to affirm that gluten is harmful to health. Unless you have an allergy, intolerance or celiac disease, eliminating gluten from your diet isn’t a good idea. However, it may be beneficial to reduce your gluten intake.

The latest scientific articles suggest a certain inflammatory capacity of this protein, which may be greater if there are previous issues at the microbiota level. Its impact on brain health isn’t entirely clear either, and may depend on the bacteria that inhabit the intestine and intestinal permeability.

For all these reasons, the best recommendation is caution. Prioritizing tubers and gluten-free grains such as rice can be an effective strategy. In addition, when it comes to including foods with this protein in your diet, it’s best to resort to whole-grain varieties.

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  • Losurdo G., Principi M., Lannone A., Amoruso A., et al., Extra intestinal manifestataions of non celiac gluten sensitivity: an expanding paradigm. World J Gastroenterol, 2018. 24: 1521-1530.
  • Brietzke E., Cerqueira RO., Mansur RB., McIntyre R., Gluten related illnesses and severe mental disorders: a comprehensive review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev, 2018. 84: 368-375.