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Did you know that by eating the proteins gluten and casein found in wheat and dairy you may be exposing yourself to opiates that can actually get you high? Opiates are powerful painkilling drugs such as heroin, morphine and Vicodin. Sounds incredible, right? Keep reading to learn the science behind this phenomenon. You’ll also learn how to tell whether you might be one of the people who has this reaction to gluten and casein.

The science behind getting high on bread

Some people have an impaired ability to digest gluten and casein completely. Ordinarily, dietary gluten and casein are broken down through a series of chemical reactions in the digestive tract. One intermediate step in those series of chemical transformations are two peptides known as gluteomorphins and casomorphins. As the names imply, these are morphine-like compounds.

In people with this impaired digestive ability, the chemical reaction is broken that should convert these intermediate substances into the next product down the line. As a result, gluteomorphins and casomorphins accumulate and are absorbed into the blood stream and cross the blood brain barrier to affect the brain much like other opiate drugs like heroin and morphine. The result? We feel mellow, content, and suddenly everything just seems ok.

Are you a person who craves the classic combination of bread and cheese, especially during times of stress or after a bad day? Do you turn to foods like grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas and pizza when you’ve had a bad day, perhaps washing it all down with a beer or two? Beer, of course, is another source of gluten in addition to another powerful numbing drug, alcohol.

If the prospect of giving up bread and dairy seems impossible, that might be a sign you’re getting high on bread. If you love these foods with such a burning passion you can’t imagine life without them, this may be a sign that these foods are comforting you in a pretty significant biochemical way. Without knowing it you may be dosing yourself with powerful gluteomorphins and casomorphins.

The causes of impaired digestion

How does digestion become so impaired? One common contributor to weak digestion is inadequate stomach acid. Very strong stomach acid is necessary to cleave proteins like gluten and casein for proper digestion. In addition, many digestive cascades necessary to digest and absorb proteins rely on adequately strong stomach acid to be set into motion. Strong stomach acid is very important.

How do you know if your stomach acid is strong enough? Heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux can all indicate weak stomach acid. Paradoxically, weak stomach acid actually leads to heartburn. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the top of the stomach prevents acid from seeping up into the esophagus, which is what causes heartburn. When stomach acid is weak, the pyloric sphincter loosens and allows acid to seep into the esophagus, resulting in symptoms of acid reflux.

In summary

If you are a person who loves bread and cheese and you either suffer from heartburn or use a medication to control heartburn, including over the counter drugs, you may be getting high on bread. For guidance to understand what to do from here, contact MoodFood Clinic for personalized recommendations to help stabilize your mood.

We can work with you to identify what specific digestive issues may be contributing to your symptoms of depression and anxiety. And most importantly, we’ll devise a plan of action to get you back to health that is both effective and doable for you in your life.

Source: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD

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