Wednesday, March 07, 2012

MSG, Gluten and Nervous System Diseases

Gluten Intolerance Can Cause Neurological Disease
Ataxia (unsteadiness of gait or balance is highly associated with gluten intolerance – more so gluten sensitivity than celiac disease.

Some patients suffering from ataxia call themselves clumsy or accident prone as there are likely to fall into things, trip, etc. Unfortunately ataxia can get so severe that a patient’s life is greatly inhibited as they are no longer able to drive and may feel afraid to be alone.

Gluten is the most common cause of something called cerebellar ataxia. (The cerebellum, a part of the brain, helps modulate voluntary movements so that they become more accurate, smooth, and require less conscious effort to perform. A good example of this is learning to ride a bicycle. Initially you have to consciously balance, and think hard to coordinate the movements of your arms and legs, etc. Yet as you practice more and more you can eventually ride the bike without thinking about it – that is your cerebellum at work.)

50% of Gluten Intolerant Patients Have Nervous System Problems
Neurological complications are found in many patients with gluten intolerance  - 30-50% to be precise. The critical step is to try to diagnose patients, early on, who are having their nervous systems affected by gluten because it has been found that gluten-free diets sometimes cannot stop neurodegeneration (degeneration of the nervous system) that has progressed too far.

Over the years I have noticed that many of my gluten intolerant patients are also MSG intolerant. Let’s look at why that might be and how it can affect the nervous system.

Substance called “Free Glutamate” Can Act Like MSG
Insidiously enough, many companies tout their products as being free of added MSG but that doesn’t mean that they are also devoid of free glutamate. Glutamate, an amino acid, is typically found in high protein foods. When bound it isn’t a problem but prolonged cooking or processing liberates or “frees” the glutamate and that is when problems arise for some individuals. The presence of free glutamate is not found on any labels but suffice to say that most fast food institutions and many highly processed foods (especially those high in protein) have either added MSG or free glutamate present.

If you know that your body responds poorly to MSG or you have any type of neurological complaint, I would recommend that you become familiar with these foods and consider eliminating them from your diet. Remember, free glutamate does not tend to be present in what I consider fresh, healthy food. A little internet search will give you more specifics on these types of foods.

We use ‘gluten’ to refer to the protein structure found in the grains wheat, rye, barley. Factually we should be using the word ‘gliadin’ as only wheat contains true ‘gluten’. Don’t worry about it, but for this post I wanted to make the distinction for a reason. And that is to explain that gliadin is broken down, upon digestion, into the amino acids proline and glutamine. Glutamine in turn breaks down into glutamate (both are amino acids) and the highest rate of this breakdown occurs in the small intestine. So there is a cascade from gliadin to glutamine to glutamate as digestion occurs.

How Gluten and Glutamate are Related
Interestingly, gluten and glutamate share a common thread in the area of creating neurological complaints. Could the ingestion of foods with high glutamate, though gluten-free, explain the onset of neurological symptoms due to a high free glutamate? It does give one something to think about... It certainly has been the case in this some of my patients.

Let’s put this all together to understand just how gluten can create neurological problems and how glutamate might be adding kerosene to the fire.

Excitotoxicity  - the Killer of Cells
First a definition: Excitotoxicity - a process whereby excess glutamate accumulates outside cells, resulting in damage and eventual death of cells in the nervous system.

Excitotoxicity can Cause Stroke, Autism,  Alzheimer’s and Seizures
So as you can see, glutamate can kill cells of the nervous system if not removed efficiently. Excitotoxicity is associated with such disorders as stroke, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and seizures due to the fact that glutamate can result in severely decreased blood flow to the brain.

Inflammation Creates Excitotoxicity – A Bad Outcome
The bottom line is that a lot of glutamate is produced in the brain when it’s “excited”. It is “excited” when it’s inflamed and gluten is a major source of inflammation in those who are intolerant– see how it all comes full circle?

Gluten Can Inflame the Brain
We know that gluten can cause systemic (throughout the body) effects upon the immune system, even though it enters the body through the gut. It has also been well established that gut irritation can activate immune cells in the brain that initiate immunoexcitotoxicity (a process whereby the brain is subject to excitotoxic damage).

The more Brain Inflammation Occurs, the More Damaging It Is
The brain’s immune cells can secrete a number of inflammatory substances, but even worse, once it’s occurred the first time, the next irritation that occurs causes the immune cells to pour out excitotoxins, creating neurological symptoms.

Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer Share a Common Root Cause
There are 3 excitotoxic amino acids that are poured out, one of which is our friend glutamate. These amino acids suppress the transport system that allows glutamate to be removed efficiently from the brain. Buildup thus occurs, increasing excitotoxicity and unstable substances (called free radicals) that will react with most tissues of the body creating destruction in their wake. Free radicals are known to cause many disease conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, to name but a few.

By the way, we also know that the immune cells of the brain are activated by not only gluten and glutamate but by chronic infections and toxins, including pesticides and herbicides.

What is the Take Away? 
Let’s review:
  • We know that chronic inflammation is a bad thing and we want to prevent it.
  • We know that when sensitive to gluten a body can become inflamed in many areas, especially the gut and the nervous system. 
  • We know that we want to prevent neurological diseases such as stroke, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and seizures and that they may very well be initiated by a negative reaction to gluten, one of its breakdown products glutamate, and foods high in free glutamate.
  • And lastly we also know that we want to avoid excitotoxicity as it literally spells a death sentence for the cells of the nervous system and brain.

What Can You Do?
First it must be determined if the individual suffers from gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. This can be difficult in some people who yet have no symptoms, as neurological problems may take years to develop although the damage is slowly and relentlessly occurring.

Blood tests that measure AGA, tTG, EMA and dAGA are all available. Cyrex Labs has a nice test that is more sensitive than those previously used and it’s the one we use here at HealthNOW. Our major goal is early diagnosis – we want to discover the problem before too much damage has occurred.

It must also be determined if glutamate containing foods are problematic. Many people who are sensitive to MSG know it, but unfortunately they are unaware of the free glutamate in food, so they chalk up feeling badly to some other source.

We must encourage protection of the nervous system and reduce stress on the brain’s immune cells.

How? Nutrients found in cranberries and many other brilliantly colored fruits and vegetables have potent antioxidant activity which may help fight heart disease and cancer in addition to protecting the nervous system. DHA is a powerful anti-inflammatory for the brain that not only inhibits immune activation of brain cells, but it improves blood flow to the brain and blocks excitotoxicity – all very good things!

Lastly we must remove any additional sources of inflammation to the body. Possible culprits are other foods causing problems, infectious agents, heavy metals and other toxins.

It sounds difficult but we must strive to “clean up” our body’s internal environment. We can’t swim in a sea of toxins and expect to be healthy. The body can only tolerate so much.

Neurological diseases are terrible but the good news is that they may be largely preventable.

I hope you find this information useful and please share this data with someone who has some of these symptoms or suspects they may be suffering from gluten intolerance.

If you would like to improve your health please call me for a free health analysis. I’m here to help!
HealthNOW is a destination clinic and we see patients from all over the country as well as internationally, so you don’t need to live locally to receive assistance.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: "Gluten Intolerance: What you don't know may be killing you!"

Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page.

13 comments:

1leone said...

Would problem with MSG also apply to products with naturally occurring MSG (such as parmesan cheese) or just the synthetic form?

1leone said...

Would problem with MSG also apply to products with naturally occurring MSG (such as parmesan cheese) or just the synthetic form?

The HealthNOW Doctors said...

Yes parmesan cheese would also be a problem. Aged, high protein items, as I mentioned, can have a high amount of free glutamate.

I hope this helps.
Best,
Dr Vikki

monte said...

when is it late to reverse gluten nervous
problems

The HealthNOW Doctors said...

@Monte: That's a difficult question to answer. It depends on what type of nervous system issue you are discussing. I've seen patients suffering from depression for over 3 decades have it reversed with a gluten free diet. And then there are cases of Alzheimer's where, depending on how much damage has been done, reversal may not be possible.

Feel free to write back with more details so that I can help you.

Best,
Dr Vikki

mrmonte said...

i ws put on foradil as i am asmathic ,then i had tremer on my right hand,when removed tremer stoped but i sometimes feel a pain in my arm,i started glutin free diet and lost the weight that i have been strugling to lose for some time,actually i am eating more,i did an MIR but its ok,now i will do test for parkinsons,i am terrified,will it be to late at this stage

mrmonte

Advocate said...

This was unreal to me. I am posting here to tell a bit. I have been in agony in one form or another since 1993--FMS diagnosis. I tried to alter my diet with little help from docs. None really.I outed MSG--so I thought. Naturally occurring or not, it will be an issue I believe. After 3 years and feeling I would die by last year, I was wheelchair bound and barely functioning. I outed wheat after reading a book, "Figuring Out Fibromyalgia", by Dr. Genevra Liptan, M.D. who struggled herself. I was shocked. All of these years outing MSG to be eating wheat that lead to similar pain. To the person afraid (mrmonte) and anyone looking: I was 92 pounds, couldn't hold down foods, spasms all of the time, couldn't walk to the bathroom or sometimes roll. I am not fully well, but elimination of wheat and dairy are the most important. Anything eaten a lot or that causes aversion should be avoided also. Dairy, wheat, etc. By the way, my illnesses: FMS (fibro), Sjogren's syndrome, possible lyme disease, Cocksackie virus, a form of yellow fever, partial expression celiac disease, secondary adrenal insufficiency (pituitary is messed up). Pain meds made this worse. I am coming off the meds--2/3 off the Vicodin. Many other meds going. Chinese meds with explanation (Classical Chinese Medicine): I went to Dr. Heiner Fruehauf and Dr. Chris Metro. They found what no others could. Hai Shan Clinic is the clinic name in Corbett, OR. They can refer you, but Classical Pearls is what they use along with a machine to diagnose and pulse diagnosis. Nothing like what I experienced. All my docs (M.D.'s) agree with alternative medicine. I am better. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

This was unreal to me. I am posting here to tell a bit. I have been in agony in one form or another since 1993--FMS diagnosis. I tried to alter my diet with little help from docs. None really.I outed MSG--so I thought. Naturally occurring or not, it will be an issue I believe. After 3 years and feeling I would die by last year, I was wheelchair bound and barely functioning. I outed wheat after reading a book, "Figuring Out Fibromyalgia", by Dr. Genevra Liptan, M.D. who struggled herself. I was shocked. All of these years outing MSG to be eating wheat that lead to similar pain. To the person afraid (mrmonte) and anyone looking: I was 92 pounds, couldn't hold down foods, spasms all of the time, couldn't walk to the bathroom or sometimes roll. I am not fully well, but elimination of wheat and dairy are the most important. Anything eaten a lot or that causes aversion should be avoided also. Dairy, wheat, etc. By the way, my illnesses: FMS (fibro), Sjogren's syndrome, possible lyme disease, Cocksackie virus, a form of yellow fever, partial expression celiac disease, secondary adrenal insufficiency (pituitary is messed up). Pain meds made this worse. I am coming off the meds--2/3 off the Vicodin. Many other meds going. Chinese meds with explanation (Classical Chinese Medicine): I went to Dr. Heiner Fruehauf and Dr. Chris Metro. They found what no others could. Hai Shan Clinic is the clinic name in Corbett, OR. They can refer you, but Classical Pearls is what they use along with a machine to diagnose and pulse diagnosis. Nothing like what I experienced. All my docs (M.D.'s) agree with alternative medicine. I am better. Hope this helps.

Kathy Kendall, MS, RD, LD said...

I assume that L-Glutamine, an amino acid supplement often used to help heal pts. after surgery and also is used to help heal the gut, is able to convert over to glutamate. Therefore one should be very careful with L-glutamine! I have been told it only converts to glutamate if pt is anaerobic, i.e. high CO2 levels.

Any thoughts on this. L-Glutamine can be so healing. Hate to stop using it with my patients!

The HealthNOW Doctors said...

Hello Kathy,

We use L-glutamine as well and haven't seen negative effects. We don't see a conversion problem.

So continue utilizing it with your patients as you see fit.

Thanks for writing,
Dr Vikki

Greekgirl said...

I went on a healthy diet 4 months ago - juicig, mostly raw diet fruits/vegetables, no dairy, no gluten(i have been gluten free for a year.) I have hx of endometriosis, postpartum thyroiditis, unable to lose weight from that. After being on the diet i felt amazing, no brain fog, losing weight finally, and NO endometriosis symptoms which were horrible before. After a couple months i started eating some "regular" foods again (processed)occasionally with no problem. I had some chips someone made that had brewers yeast in them and didnt feel good, but nothing major. A month later i started a protein supplement that had brewers yeast and had a bad reaction. Then i had nutritional yeast and thought i ws gonna die. Well ever since that i cant eat things i didnt react to just days before eating yeast - coconut milk icecream, mayonaisse, and now balsalmic vinegar. As time goes by im getting more and more sensitive to glutamate. I cant have ANYTHING even a little bit processed, brown rice syrup, no parm cheese either. I get muscle twitching, heart palpitations, chest burns, panic, cant speak what i mean to say and mild slurred speech, also affects motor function. What is happening to me? Is this bad? Body overreacting or finally kicking in? do i need to see a doctor, or just avoid eating out, or eating anything i dont make myself for the rest of my life? I like eating healthy and having no disease symptoms, but im almost wishing i never went on a diet. I never felt like this before the diet and I'd rather not live paranoid and isolated for the rest of my life. (Im ok w avoiding MSG, but everything even a little processed? I hate the attacks i get and they last for 2-3 days.
Sorry for long explanation, any help appreciated. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I too suffer from similar symptoms Greekgirl. I've avoided msg as much as possible for many years, but went completely gluten free for four months. Moved in with people that aren't gluten free and it's been a constant downward spiral of worsening syptoms. I still eat gluten free, but that doesn't mean there isn't cross contamantion. And my syptoms seem to have worsened over time.
Is it normal to see an increase in sensitivity after going without?

The HealthNOW Doctors said...

@Anonymous - Yes, it is not only common but completely expected that the immune system, once it has not seen gluten for a while, will react more aggressively when it is reintroduced or accidentally ingested.

This is why it is so dangerous to reintroduce gluten when someone is know to have celiac or gluten sensitivity. The reaction can be very severe.