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Pizza Almost Destroyed This Young Man’s Brain

The emergency room doctor was puzzled.

Why was a 20-year-old college student having trouble keeping his balance in the shower when he shampooed his hair?

Her immediate advice to her patient: Don’t close your eyes in the shower when you lather your hair.

But then further tests showed the cause of his problem. . .

The young man’s brain was being destroyed by cookies, cake, bread and pizza.

Especially pizza.

The college student had only arrived from China at Ohio State University six months before showing up in the E.R. Prior to coming to school in the US, his diet in Asia had mostly consisted of fish and vegetables.

Then, in Columbus, Ohio, he discovered pizza. And couldn’t get enough of it.

Wheat the Brain-Wrecker

But, as it turned out, he had celiac disease – an autoimmune response to the gluten contained in foods made from wheat, barley or rye. Back in Asia, while consuming his Chinese diet, he had been eating virtually no gluten. Unfortunately for him, however, there’s plenty of gluten in pizza crust.

The college student’s celiac-related problems went beyond losing his balance when his eyes were closed. He also had burning and tingling sensations in his feet. A growing weakness and fatigue were also making his life difficult.1

According to researchers, the nerve problems that afflicted him, as well as mental difficulties like brain fog, plague many folks with celiac if they eat foods that contain gluten.

That’s a serious problem among the million or more Americans with celiac disease: More than four out of five people with this disorder are undiagnosed and don’t know they have it.

The Brain Fog Epidemic

The news gets worse: Alarmingly, researchers have found, even if you don’t have celiac, consuming gluten in your snacks and meals can still fog your brain.

“Patients coming to our center have long described ‘brain fog,’ and it appears that gluten can cause cognitive effects in some individuals with and without celiac disease,” says Peter Green, MD, who directs the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

Dr. Green and his colleagues recently performed a study analyzing how celiac disease affects the chances of developing dementia.2 While they found that having celiac disease doesn’t increase the risk of succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease, it does boost the chances of vascular dementia, the second most common cause of memory loss and dementia in the US. In many Asian countries, experts believe that vascular dementia is even more prevalent than Alzheimer’s.3

Once vascular dementia starts it can destroy memory and brain power much more quickly than does Alzheimer’s.

Let the Sun Come Out and Burn Off the Fog

Researchers have not yet identified the exact physiological mechanism in the body that allows gluten to cause brain and nerve problems.

But the evidence is clear: Even if you don’t have celiac disease and you don’t develop the digestive problems and immune system changes that people with celiac disease often get, gluten can still mess your mind and damage your nerves.

If you suffer from brain fog or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – much less Alzheimer’s – it’s worth going gluten-free for a few months to see if your condition improves. I would recommend this, absolutely. You might find it’s like the sun came out and burned off the fog in your brain.

A study in England looked at how brain fog, nerve damage and other neurological difficulties arise both in people with celiac and people who are merely sensitive to gluten. The results show that a gluten-free diet can improve or eliminate these disturbing symptoms in both groups.4

A relatively simple blood test can often show whether or not you have celiac disease. When it comes to everyday gluten sensitivity, I find the blood tests are not definitive. So if your mental focus wavers, or you’re getting strange, unexplained pains and sensations in your hands or feet, by all means get the tests, but even if they turn up negative, I recommend you go gluten-free anyway and see if that helps.


  1. http://www.dispatch.com/
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
  3. http://www.alz.org/cincinnati/documents/Vascular.pdf
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854981/