I have to admit, Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain, The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar, sat by my bed waiting for me to open it for some months. I’m really not a fan of the no-grain, high fat diet, sometimes called paleo diet, formerly called Atkin’s low carb diet. I adhere to the science that shows that the greater the diversity of plants in my diet, the more optimal my health will be. I’m not about to cut out a whole group of plants that have provided vitamin and mineral-rich caloric fuel for millions of years in every culture around the world including rice, corn, quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat and oats.

Having said that, I totally acknowledge the destructiveness of gluten for those who have developed a sensitivity to it and for those who have celiac disease. After reading Grain Brain at last, I am grateful to Dr. Perlmutter for creating awareness about the effects of gluten sensitivity on the brain. The majority of doctors have no training in identifying the brain’s symptoms of gluten intolerance and thus children and adults alike go undiagnosed and are treated with drugs instead of advised to make simple dietary changes. Let me tell you a story that happened right under my nose without me realizing what was staring me in the face. It reveals the insidious way gluten disturbs the brain and plays havoc with people’s emotions.

A dear friend of mine suffered from anxiety, depression and even entertained suicide thoughts for many years. Although I tried to help her with all the best herbal anti-depressants and nutritional supplements and her doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medications, nothing banished her dark moods permanently. Until she went gluten free. Then it was like a miracle. The anxiety that she always experienced in the pit of her stomach disappeared. Her depression and frequent thoughts that life wasn’t worth living vanished. She even met the love of her life and is sustaining a happy relationship! How could gluten cause all these problems with her mood and emotions?

Dr. Perlmutter says, “The idea that gluten can change our biochemistry down to our brain’s pleasure and addiction center is remarkable.” He gives a number of examples from his practice of patients who, just like my friend, made amazing recoveries after they followed his advice and went gluten free. From young children who have ADHD or involuntary muscle disorders to women with depression, he details how gluten provokes inflammation, which sets off a chain of reactions from our gut to our brains.

Our "second brain"

Here’s what I learned about gluten and the brain after my friend’s depression disappeared. Our gut is called the “second brain”, a term coined by Dr. Michael Gershon in his book, The Second Brain, because he discovered that the 100+ million neurons that line our gut actually send the majority of signals to our brain rather than the other way around. Our gut uses over 30 neurotransmitters that we more often associate with the brain including serotonin that is commonly thought of as the happiness neurotransmitter. Listen to this fact: over 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut!

Depression and gluten

If you suffer from anxiety or depression like the 25% of women in their 40’s and 50’s who take antidepressant drugs, adopting a gluten-free diet for at least 3 months would be the best way to test the possibility of gluten being the cause of your mood disorder. Eliminating sugar and bad fats, including fried and polyunsaturated fats like canola, corn, peanut, sunflower and safflower oil, are other primary causes of inflammation that can harm your health. Caring for your intestinal health by eating soluble fiber that feeds your beneficial gut flora is vital to caring for your immune system and your “second brain”.

Starting your day with the best brain fuel

Here’s why starting your day with a cup of Teeccino helps support brain health. If you are gluten sensitive, drinking our certified gluten-free Dandelion flavors will help you avoid both gluten and caffeine. Caffeine restricts the blood flow to the brain by up to 20%. Needless to say, restricted blood flow doesn’t support healthy neurons. Coffee also has been associated with cross reactivity with gluten and thus gluten-sensitive individuals should avoid it. Teeccino also provides inulin which feeds the beneficial micro-flora in your gut. Your probiotics depend on you consuming inulin which is found in the highest quantity of any plants in chicory and dandelion roots!

So what to eat with your cup of Teeccino? I created TeeChia Sustained Energy Cereal to be certified gluten free especially because I knew how healing its fiber and nutrients can be for compromised digestive health. The soluble fiber and the nutrients in TeeChia, including its high content of omega-3 essential fatty acids that are probably the top brain food you can eat, support both healthy brains and healthy digestive tracts. TeeChia’s combination of fats, protein and unrefined carbohydrates are exactly the fuel the brain – and your body – needs for optimal performance and lasting energy.

The majority of gluten-sensitive people can eat non-gluten containing grains like rice, corn, millet and buckwheat. Oats must be certified gluten free because gluten contamination can occur all along the path an oat travels from field to mill. Quinoa and amaranth aren’t grains at all but they are seeds which can be eaten in place of grains. There are some gluten-sensitive people who feel that they do better avoiding all grains including amaranth and quinoa. If you think that is true for you, please share your experience below. I’ve considered making TeeChia without any oats, but I can’t understand some people’s objection to amaranth and quinoa that have no relation to the grass family, which is the plant family that all grains belong to. So if you’ve actually tested this on yourself and experienced aggravated symptoms from these two seeds, I’d like to hear your story!

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  1. I am so pleased you finally got around to reading Dr. Perlmutter's wonderful book. Instead of looking at the situation as, "some people have developed a sensitivity to gluten", I would submit that it is the other way around. Nobody's body is happy about gluten. Some people's bodies are just better able to tolerate it than others *for the moment*. Even if you have no overt problem with gluten, it still may be doing a lot of internal damage that may catch up with you somewhere along the road of life.
    I'm so sorry for the emotional pain your friend had to go through before she figured out the connection. For me it is epilepsy. That is how my gluten sensitivity manifests itself (no GI problems at all). There is a huge overlap between people who suffer from depression and people with other neurological disorders such as seizures, migraines, and fibromyalgia. Many of these people have been told for decades that it is "all in their heads" when, as Dr. Perlmutter shows, the problem may be in their gut.
    For some more fascinating information about the gut-brain connection, I would invite you to the website of Dr. John Symes (dogtorj.com). He is a veterinary doctor who advocates a diet for his pet patients that restricts the intake of the neurological exitotoxins glutamate and aspartamate. He is having some amazing success with both pets and their humans who have tried it too.
    You asked for reasons to not have quinoa and amaranth etc as part of a diet. The biggest sources of glutamate in the modern diet are gluten grains, corn, soy (and other beans), and cow dairy products (goat milk isn't a problem). But coming in a close second tier are all the nuts and seeds. These would be a fine part of the diet in moderation once someone's neurological health has been regained. For someone like me who has had seizures for 30 years, that day may or may not ever come.
    Also, for people eating a restricted carb diet in order to induce ketosis (lots of info about ketosis to be found by googling John's Hopkins + the Modified Atkins Diet) things such as quinoa and amaranth are a waste of space on the plate that could be occupied by something more nutrient dense such as meat or vegetables.
    But I wish do you would stop perpetuating the myth/misunderstanding that a paleo diet is somehow imbalanced or lacking. What could possibly be wrong with a plate with a piece of wild caught salmon and a pile of veggies on it? Would it be more "balanced" with the addition of something starchy? Nutritionally, no it wouldn't. It's all about nutrient density. Nutrients per calorie of food.
    If one has no need to lose weight and has all the nutritional bases covered and still wishes to add something starchy, paleo says go right ahead, have a sweet potato or other root starch, or some of your seeds could come in here. But for those of us that have to take anti-epileptic drugs which are known to interfere with the uptake of nutrients, pseudo grains and other starches add nothing of value. So, for me, the question isn't, "Why not eat quinoa?", but rather, "Why?"
    BTW, a ketogenic paleo diet has allowed me to cut back on the medication I take by half while maintaining full seizure control and losing 65 lbs that I didn't need in the process. Plus going from a bone scan that said a scary osteopenia at 45 to having the bone density of a teenager again.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I'm so happy you've found such relief with this kind of diet. I also wanted to suggest that you might look into neurofeedback. It was first proven to be effective for epileptic siezures. I've seen amazing transformations with neurofeedback. You might enjoy reading, Symphony of The Brain, by Jim Robbins, which has a great overview of how the science has developed. There are many different types of neurofeedback, so you'll have to see what is available in your area. I'm loving synchronous alpha training myself!


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