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Numerous studies in respected journals have shown CNS involvement with minimal or no GI symptoms or signs. I will list a few here:
A. Neurology. Feb. 2001;56:385–388. Gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times exclusively a neurological disease, affecting not only the brain and nervous system directly but also cognitive and psychiatric illness
B. Neurology. Feb. 2001;56:385–388. 10 participants who had headaches, gait abnormalities, and elevated antigliadin antibodies demonstrated complete resolution of symptoms in 7 patients on a gluten-free diet, and 6 out of 10 had no intestinal complaints.
C. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1997;62:770–775. Our findings imply that the immune response triggered by sensitivity to gluten may find expression in organs other than the gut and the central and peripheral immune system are particularly susceptible.
D. Pediatrics. 2001;108. Gluten sensitivity should be considered as a state of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals. The brain seems to be particularly vulnerable.
E. Pediatrics. 2001. Kleslich et al. found that gluten exposure in a sensitive individual essentially shut down blood flow to the frontal and prefrontal cortex (a process called cerebral frontal/prefrontal hypoperfusion). This is the part of the brain that allows us to focus, to manage emotional states, to plan and organize, to consider the consequences of our actions, and to exercise our short-term memory. Over time, this can result in the generation of actual brain lesions, which in turn result in chronically impaired neurological functioning. This hypoperfusion is additionally powerfully associated with cognitive impairment and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
F. BMJ. 1999. Feighery: Gastrointestinal symptoms are absent in many patients and there may be neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Here also are unconventional sources of gluten that most people would not think of, for those people who can't sniff a molecule of gluten without triggering a reaction somewhere in their bodies:
- Artificial food colorings
- Food emulsifiers
- Food Stabilizers
- Malt extract, flavor, or syrup
- Soy sauce
- Modified food starch
- Envelope glue
Finally, some people completely eliminate gluten and there is no change. One large possibility here is cross-reactivity with antigens from other foods that are similar enough to gliadin that they will still initiate sensitivity reactions. Cyrex Labs has an Array 4 that evaluates proteins from other foods that have the ability to cross-react with the gliadin antibodies. You run the risk of false negatives if you haven't eaten the food in 2 weeks. Here is Cyrex's list of cross-reactive foods: cow's milk, casein, whey, oats, sesame, corn, chocolate, yeast, coffee, buckwheat, sorghum, millet, hemp, amaranth, quinoa, tapioca, teff, soy, rice, potato, egg.
Door #3: Stress/Earthing
What is stress? Stress is really unmanaged emotions or emotional reactions to everyday aspects of our lives. Stress is one of the words that people use, but what they are really expressing is anger or fear or some other type of emotion. This is extremely important, because emotions are the primary drivers of our physiological processes. What then happens at a cellular level, whether in the liver or stomach or lymphatic system, is primarily a response to the emotions that we feel. Just getting a better handle on being able to self-regulate can lead a person back into internal bodily coherence.
Continued stress in our lives is also a very common cause of leaky gut, which, as we already know, is also a cause of leaky brain
Fortunately, our brains are plastic and we can retrain or rewire them to change the neural circuitry so we won't have unmanaged emotional reactions to daily events. Over time patients can learn what a coherent state feels like. They then also learn to feel when they're slipping into a dysfunctional state and can then take the appropriate steps to shift back into the coherent state.
So, what does chronic stress and the ensuing elevated cortisol lead to in the brain?
A. hippocampal cell destruction, which leads to memory issues and also release of cortisol at inappropriate times as the hippocampus determines the rhythm of cortisol release
B. increased peripheral inflammatory cytokines, which further break down the BBB and stimulate those pesky glial cells to produce inflammatory cytokines in the brain and consequently stimulate inflammation in the brain and all the side effects from this brain inflammation
C. inhibition of the peripheral conversion of T4 into T3 and type II hypothyroidism or an inhibition of the peripheral conversion of T4 to T3 and subclinical hypothyroidism, which will have many downstream effects on the brain
These are pretty scary consequences of chronic stress and the resulting cortisol elevation: decreased memory, increased brain inflammation, and inhibition of peripheral conversion of T4 to T3! So, to be truly preventive medicine practitioners, we must head off chronic stress at the pass, so to speak. Simply put: identify the causes of our patients' chronic stress and have them deal effectively with these root causes of chronic stress.
Some Easy and Effective Methods to Reduce Your Patients' Stress
A. Relaxation biofeedback products: The emWave Program from HeartMath (www.heartmath.org) gives a rich graphical interface that displays on your computer and induces a state of synchronization between your heart, brain, and autonomic nervous system. The Stress Eraser is a handheld biofeedback unit that monitors heart-rate variability (www.StressEraser.com).
B. Leg Elevation: Lie supine with your legs elevated (on a chair or a bed) for 15 minutes in silence with your eyes closed. This technique shifts blood from the extremities to the abdomen which turns on parasympathetic nervous system and turns off the sympathetic nervous system.
C. Limbic or Feather Breathing: A handout for patients is given on p. 45. This is a type of breathing that very quickly engages the parasympathetic nervous system and can reverse stressful thinking and stressful situations in their lives.
D. Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP): A simple NLP exercise can begin to build new neurological circuits in patients' brains so that they can learn to react in a positive rather than a negative way. See"Handouts" below.
E. Earthing is another powerful antistress tool. The theory is that when you walk barefoot on the earth, it allows for the transfer of free electrons from the earth into your body, via the soles of your feet. It mediates inflammation in your body by improving the zeta potential – the pulse capacity of your red blood cells.
Numerous studies have documented the significance of the earth's electrical rhythms for optimal biological function. Normal rhythms in the body establish a stable reference point for repair, recovery, and rejuvenation of our bodies. Clearly, internal biochemical chaos is the result of our disconnection with the earth. Our biological rhythms need to be continually calibrated by the pulse of the earth that governs the circadian rhythms of not only our bodies but also of all life on this planet.
Our feet have been referred to as a kind of radar-sonic base that provides little-known but vital functions to extract energy from the earth, similar to plant roots' extracting moisture from the ground for nourishment. Our ground-to-foot vibrations are an important energizing power helping to serve the body's life forces. We draw electrical energy through our feet in the form of free electrons fluctuating at many frequencies which continually reset our biological clock and provide the body with electrical energy.
Earth qi is absorbed, without our thinking about it, when we walk barefoot. This may explain why it's so relaxing to walk without shoes and why yoga and qi gong are often practiced without footwear. A central focus in Chinese practices involves "growing a root" and has to do with opening up communication between the bottoms of the feet and the earth. This process occurs thru the YongQuan point, or Kidney 1.
Remember, don't go a day without your "Vitamin E for Earth"!
In my next article, I will write further on these causes of mental illness: increased/decreased reuptake of neurotransmitters at the synaptic cleft, toxic metal overload, and hypothyroidism. This article is my interpretation and, as such, is open, hopefully, to hot debate because this is the only way that we do not fulfill the prophecy that "science progresses one funeral at a time." Hopefully, you all read this and go, "Yeah, baby that's great there, but that needs work there," and contact me through my e-mail or talk with colleagues and friends and modify and improve my ideas. It's all about dialogue – nothing more, nothing less – to keep extending the envelope to unheard-of heights!
1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your spine straight and your feet flat on the floor.
2. Place both hands on your belly. Imagine filling your abdomen with air, rather than your lungs. Inhale deeply, then exhale. Your hands should rise and fall. Only your belly should be moving during inhalation and exhalation.
3. Draw your attention inward. Listen to the sounds around you or notice the sensation of air passing through your nostrils. Begin to slow your breathing down. You want to try to slow it down to 3–4 breaths/minute.
4. Try to achieve an inhalation that lasts 5 seconds ("one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, and one thousand five").
5. After the inhalation, hold your breath for 2 seconds.
6. Exhale for double your inhalation, here for 10 seconds.
7. Continue for 10–20 minutes.
Breath of Life
1. Imagine two circles on the ground, Circle 1 and Circle 2.
2. Step into Circle 1 and imagine a situation where you would like to alter your reaction. See what you see, hear what you hear, and feel the sensations associated with this situation.
3. Step out of Circle 1 and shake off any sensations attached to that context (small hops or spinning around or shaking your arms will help here).
4. Step into Circle 2 and do the following breathing cycle for 10 cycles while you visualize what you want your new situation to look like.
a. Breathe in for 5 seconds.
b. Hold for 2 seconds.
c. Breathe out for 10 seconds.
d. Repeat the above cycle 10 times.
5. Without hesitation, step back into Circle 1 and into the original imagined situation, then take a moment to sense how the pictures, sounds and internal sensations have changed. You will have an effect of "bridging" or connecting your optimized physiology to future situations involving this feeling. This will allow new circuits to be wired in your brain so that your reaction to these situations will now be altered in a positive way.
I would like to thank the following people/companies for the information I obtained from them:
Thomas Alexander, MD, lecture given at Walter Crinnion's "Advanced Topics in Environmental Medicine" seminar in Tempe, Arizona, March 15–16, 2014.
Cyrex Labs, for the wealth of information on its website and in its various arrays.
Majid Ali, MD, for the use of his Limbic Breathing and Breath of Life exercises.
Bruce Ames, PhD, for coining and explaining the term triage theory.
Andrew Heyman, MD, for his brilliant article in the July 2012 Townsend Letter.
Wade Boyle, ND, for his insight into the true naturopathic medical way.
Greg McDonald, ND, for use of his Modified Elimination Diet.
Eric Gordon, MD, for letting me read his article on Lyme's disease that he will hopefully send to the Townsend Letter so other practitioners can really begin to understand what it means to truly individualistically to treat patients with complex chronic diseases.
My mother, for teaching me to take no prisoners in life!
Jim Cross graduated with a degree in biology from the University of California at Davis in 1975 and with a secondary teaching credential in life science from California State University, Sacramento, in 1976. Wanting to initially see more of the world and expand his knowledge of different regions and their people, he traveled and worked in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Taiwan, and Alaska. Having been helped by a naturopath, he became part of the first-year class at Pacific College of Naturopathic Medicine in little Monte Rio on the Russian River in Sonoma County, California. After PCNM folded, he finished his naturopathic studies at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, in 1984. He later earned his LAc at San Francisco College of Acupuncture in 1989. He has practiced acupuncture and naturopathy in the tiny Northern Sierra town of Quincy since 1990. He has also taught anatomy and physiology at tiny Feather River College in Quincy since moving there. He and his family are extremely lucky to live in a beautiful area where there are more trees than people and that also allows him to practice the hydrotherapy that he learned in naturopathic school from Wade Boyle, ND, by jumping in the local creek one or two times each week all winter. He also wishes that his mother had lived to see him become a doctor, because she was an RN and his first medical teacher. As a child, whenever he was sick, he was made to fast on ginger ale until his symptoms abated. She also taught him, being the good German that she was, to alternate hot and cold in injuries that he incurred playing basketball in high school and college. His true passion is to open an in-patient medical facility in the Sierra Nevada for people with chronic disease.
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