Gluten makes up 80% of the protein in wheat, rye, and barley grains. Gluten sabotages the gut, reducing its surface area and impairing digestion. Gluten is directly toxic to intestinal cells by inhibiting cell proliferation, increasing cellular oxidation products, and changing membrane structure. In the body, gluten changes the structure of the intestine by reducing height of villi, decreasing depth of crypts, and decreasing enterocyte surfaces.

As all toxins do, gluten inspires an immune response. This immune response is intended to clear the gluten from the intestine and preventing a build-up of toxins, however, in the process it inflames the intestine.

A little known, but important point to remember: wheat triggers gut inflammation in nearly everyone.

This reaction varies from 1) observable gut inflammation in ~83% of the population, to 2) anti-wheat-gluten antibodies developing locally in the intestine (~30% of the population), to 3) developing systemic antibodies to wheat gluten (~11% of the population), and finally 4) developing celiac disease where systemic antibodies attack human cells in the intestine, thyroid, pancreas, and elsewhere (~4% of the population).

After reading this information in “Perfect Health Diet” by Jaminet and Jaminet (2010), I came to terms with the reality that consuming wheat and other grains isn’t an option for me because of my history of digestive disorders – unless they are in sprouted form (which neutralizes the gluten).

Up until February, 2012 I was a pasta junkie for the better part of my life. Pasta was quick to make, filling, and gave me the calories I needed for extended periods of exercise or work. I ate pasta probably 3-4 times per week. I call myself a pasta junkie because wheat is a source of opiates.  When I first read this, I was skeptical – it seemed exaggerated and a little out there; I struggled with taking the information seriously.

Then I quit eating pasta cold turkey.

Nausea, muscle tension in my TMJ, lightheadness, fatigue. I had wheat withdrawal for 2 weeks.

Wheat-derived opioids? Those are real. If you don’t believe me, try Googling “wheat withdrawl” and see what comes up. Many people experience this short-term setback for the long-term benefit of eliminating wheat from their diets.  Like celiacs or others with leaky gut, I craved the food that made me predisposed to illness: wheat.

Uncovering my mild narcotic addiction to wheat was surprising, but even more so was the subsequent and dramatic relief from “brain fog” that I couldn’t put my finger on and seemed to be getting worse with time. The mental clarity I experienced – and continue to experience – from quitting wheat is priceless. I learned through direct experience brain fog is an indicator of inflammation – usually and almost always in the gut. Eliminate gut inflammation and you will be surprised at how many other ailments clear up on their own.

Do I miss pasta? Not anymore – especially when I have discovered far more satisfying replacements, like spaghetti squash in this fabulous Bolognese sauce recipe!!!