Grains contain opiates. Not figuratively, but quite literally. These opiates are not too different from morphine or heroin. Yes, wheat and grains, cleverly disguised as a multigrain loaf of bread to make sandwiches or a hot, steamy plate of macaroni and cheese for the kids are mind-altering drugs. You and your kids are not oxycodone addicts, but when you consume wheat and grains, the results are not all that different.

How can this be?

When you consume the gliadin protein of wheat and the closely related proteins of other grains (secalin in rye, hordein in barley, zein in corn) they break down into smaller 4- or 5- amino-acid-long peptides. These peptides penetrate your brain and bind themselves to opiate receptors.

organicEven selecting organic isn’t safe. Tweet this!

 This is true even if they are organic, traditional or heirloom, or sprouted. This is because grains contain toxic components naturally, only made worse by recent genetic manipulations.

In people with conditions such as bipolar illness and schizophrenia, they yield effects such as impulsive behavior and paranoia; in children with attention deficit disorder and autism, they cause behavioral outbursts and shorten attention spans; in people, prone to bulimia and binge eating disorder, they cause 24-hour-a-day food obsessions. In those prone to depression, they cause dark moods and even suicidal thoughts.

In people without these conditions, grains only serve to trigger appetite in an irresistible, never-satisfied way. Most of us take in 400 calories (or more) per day from this appetite-increasing effect, sometimes as much as 1,000 or more calories per day. Some people even develop incapacitating and addictive relationships with food due to exposure to gliadin-derived opiates, often resulting food in obsessions in people prone to eating disorders.

Lack of Concentration, inability to focus, impaired learning, impaired decision-making ability, and sleepiness are exceptionally common after consuming wheat, rye, and barley. Gliadin-derived opiates are the most likely culprits behind these effects, given their known ability to affect the mind. It’s also likely that the blood sugar fluctuations caused by all grains contribute. This is especially true of the low blood sugar episodes experienced by those individuals dealing with hypoglycemia.   

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autistic spectrum disorder. While these disorders are unrelated, they share a similar response to gliadin-derived opiates. Children and adults with these conditions experience behavioral outbursts, such as temper tantrums or emotional “storms” without reason, and they have an impaired capacity to sustain attention.

adhdKids with these conditions already have an impaired ability to learn and pay attention for more than a few seconds or minutes; grain-derived opiates just make it worse. A recent analysis demonstrated that kids with autism lack the markers for celiac disease (such as transglutaminase antibody), but they do have increased levels of antibodies to gliadin, especially if gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea are present.

Paranoid schizophrenia. The worsening of paranoia, auditory hallucinations (hearing voices and receiving warnings or commands), and social disengagement were among the first observations made when researchers started studying the effects of wheat consumption on brain health, attributable to the gliadin protein– derived opiates. This effect may be confined to schizophrenics who express an autoimmune response to the gliadin protein, the group most likely to improve with wheat, rye, and barley avoidance.

Bipolar illness. We know that people with bipolar illness express higher levels of antibodies in response to the gliadin protein, similar to the phenomenon observed in schizophrenics. Gliadin-derived opiate peptides likely also play a role in generating the distortions in judgment and reality experienced with this condition.

Depression. If there is predisposition for depression, grains— especially wheat, rye, barley, and corn— can magnify or unmask that tendency.

depressedDepression due to the gliadin- and prolamin protein– derived opiates can be mild, resulting in a pervasive feeling of unhappiness and lack of interest, or it can be incapacitating and life threatening, complete with obsessive thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Both wheat and corn are also responsible for reductions in brain serotonin, which regulates mood. Tweet this!

Obsessive-compulsive disorder. A person who has obsessive-compulsive disorder helplessly gives in to the impulse to obsessively and compulsively perform some action or engage in some thought— behaviors that have been associated with wheat consumption. It might be compulsive hand washing, or housecleaning, or checking and rechecking (and rechecking and rechecking) figures in a ledger. Being locked into such behavioral loops can be debilitating for the sufferer. These rituals can dominate their thoughts and behaviors, as well as sabotage success at school and work.

A world of research still needs to be performed to explore these mind-altering phenomena that develop in people who follow the standard advice to consume more grains. MRI, PET, and other brain-imaging modalities may reveal why and how schizophrenics tend to suffer more auditory hallucinations with grain consumption or why kids with autistic spectrum disorder experience impaired attention span. Notably, while some of these effects are associated with an immune response against one or more grain proteins, many are not.

There is hope. If you know that grains can worsen or cause deterioration in mental conditions, it also means that you know how to undo or lessen the severity of all of these effects.

Isn’t it time to kick the grain habit once and for all?Tweet this!


Yours in grainless health,

Dr. William Davis