Addictions – Gluten

Published 12/15/2013. Last updated 1/4/2014.

There are many addictions besides drugs like tobacco, alcohol and narcotics. They all involve the gut-brain axis. For example, there’s wheat addiction.
Substances produced during the digestion of wheat, called polypeptides, are able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier separating the bloodstream from the brain. Once inside the brain, wheat polypeptides bind to the brain’s morphine receptors, the very same ones used by opiate drugs.
In a World Health Organization study of 32 wheat-consuming schizophrenics with active auditory hallucinations, the opiate-antagonist naloxone was found to reduce their hallucinations, alerting researchers to the mind-altering effects of wheat.
And, in case you need further evidence of the addictive quality of wheat: It has been shown in laboratory animals that administrating the opiate-blocking drug naloxone also blocks gluten-derived exorphins from binding to the opiate receptors in the brain.
Furthermore, in two separate studies, opiate-blocking drugs administered to non-opiate using, non-psychotic, wheat-eating humans with uncontrollable appetite have been shown to reduce both calorie intake and cravings – and the effect seems specific to wheat-containing products.

Ever crave bread or cookies when you feel anxious or upset and nothing else will do? And then, after feeding your addiction, you feel better but need to keep dosing yourself at regular intervals. You are addicted. During the many years I consumed wheat, I’d often find myself feeling sleepy and foggy brained after meals – which always contained bread or a wheat-based dessert. Back then I had no idea I was addicted to gluten and was nodding off after consuming it. And I certainly craved and baked cakes, cookies, breads – anything containing wheat. They were my comfort foods and my family was addicted right along with me.

Wheat is clearly a food with potent central nervous system effects. It can alter mood, induce pleasurable effects similar to those of alcohol and narcotics – and as I well know, there’s a withdrawal syndrome when it’s withdrawn. (Davis, 2011)
I’ll also point out that the gluten in wheat products produces considerable inflammation in the body. Dr Kelly Brogan’s excellent article This Is Your Gut (and Brain) on Wheat lays out a clear explanation of what happens in the body when it is fed wheat. (Brogan, 2013)