Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

The grain trials

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The problem with most grains is the same as with milk – ‘opioid-like’ proteins. In wheat, rye and barley, these exist in the gliadin fraction of gluten and are called gliadomorphins. Oats do not contain gluten. People on a gluten-free diet often complain of problems with oats and attribute this to the fact that oats can be contaminated with gluten from wheat processing in the factory. Despite the paranoia, the amount of cross-contamination that occurs is negligible, and gluten-free oats can be bought widely. People still tend to cling to the gluten myth because oats are a point of controversy for coeliacs, as some appear to tolerate them well, whilst others experience a return of their symptoms – such as upset stomach and weight loss.

Oats contain an gluten-related, opioid-like protein called avenin. To complicate matters, from what I can gather (which isn’t much), avenin, like gluten, also has lectin-like activity. How gluten-like the proteins are in different strains of oats seems to vary considerably, which might explain some of the contradictory results scientists return when studying coeliac disease. If you are intolerant of oats, it might be worth trying a few different brands and varieties (remembering to take breaks between reactions) to see if you tolerate some oats better than others.

While I’ve been house renovating, I’ve done a series of on-off grain trials over the last few months.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve known I have a problem with bread. I was always fed sandwiches for my school lunches, and I often felt sick trying to eat them. I know that bread makes my stomach feel funny when I eat it – sort of like it is plugging my stomach up. It bloats me immensely and makes my belly stick out within minutes of eating it. For some time now attributing other people’s big bellies to bread eating has been an in-joke between my partner and I. I also read a celeb gossip/fashion rag called Grazia that amuses me sometimes. I think one of the editors there must be a low-carber, familiar with the effects of bread on the belly. Frequently photographs of movie stars who are suffering a bit of bloat will be accompanied by the question, “Is she pregnant, or has she just eaten a bread roll?”

Wholegrain bread has the worst effect. A dense piece of wholegrain bread is like a depth charge. From there on it is downhill… very slowly. Bread constipates me completely. Eat bread: no poo for a few days. It doesn’t matter if it is high fibre bread or low fibre bread, both are equally bad. Fruit sometimes helps to remedy this situation but the results can be variable and often results in upset stomach. This is because the balance of fructose to glucose in fruit promotes diarrhoea (particularly in children, hence lots of babies with very nasty nappies).

It doesn’t matter if the bread is sourdough, homemade slow risen, or commercial bread, they all constipate. I’d say sourdough constipates and bloats a little bit less, but even when I didn’t know about amines, long ferments didn’t solve the problem. One thing I will say though is I tried eating a lot of homemade sourdough bread last summer, and if I stuck to only one slice a day, I actually managed to lose a measly half a pound a week on a strict calorie controlled, moderate (40-70g) carbohydrate diet that also included pears. This is the first and only time I have ever lost weight whilst eating wheat.

Slightly less constipating and bloating than bread is wheat per se – in the form of breakfast cereal, flour, or wheatgerm which I eat as a porridge with milk. These are still constipating and bloating, but I seem to have a better tolerance for them. When I was younger I had to avoid bread like the plague, but I could still handle pasta and some breakfast cereals – though I preferred Rice Krispies and Cornflakes and had to be very careful with Bran Flakes and Weetabix. Annoyingly, from what I can gather, baker’s yeast has both opioid-like and lectin-like activity of its own. I am pretty sure this effect is not a propionate effect, since I make my own bread or eat organic bread.

What happens with me is that if I go from eating no grains to eating grains, I tend to get an upset stomach for 1-2 days. Then I’ll switch from that to constipation. The weird thing about the constipation is that it doesn’t really back up my system. I think I have some very efficient starch-digesting bacteria in my gut that extract every last calorie out of what I eat. I can not go for a week and know I am not particularly backed up, it just melts away out of my colon and turns into fat instead.

As soon as I stop eating the grains I get an upset stomach again, then my bowels normalise. The only time I have normal movements is when I am failsafe, grain and milk free. Food chemicals tend to upset my stomach rather than constipate. Prior to the diet, the overall effect was a kind of mild IBS; constipated most days, diarrhoea sometimes.

Eggs have absolutely no ill effect on my digestion whatsoever. I’m half inclined to think that people who say eggs constipate them are probably comparing a Bran Flakes breakfast to an eggs breakfast. If someone can testify to having done a properly controlled experiment (Bran Flakes versus Bran Flakes plus eggs) I’ll believe them.

I had completely normal BMs for the honeymoon year I had when I started low-carbing. I attribute this to not eating grains or milk, and to the way I think my methylation cycle was behaving during this low-carb, calorie deficient period.

Something I noticed a long time ago is that methylcobalamin somehow counteracts the effects of bloat/weight gain from bread. Apparently people who are trying to detox from opiates use it. So I suspect it has some anti-opiate effect. This may be another reason why my reactions to bread and dairy lessened when I went on the failsafe diet. Having come close to normalising my methylation cycle, I had a higher tolerance of these opioid-like peptides.

My reactions to wheat are more or less the same as milk, except much less subtle:

  • Cravings for more wheat, especially bread (must have it every day, any excuse to consume more)
  • Increased snacking between meals especially in the few hours after eating wheat, especially bread
  • Some drowsiness
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased fatigue
  • Increased social withdrawal
  • Slight increased irritability
  • Increased tendency to get headaches, especially sinus/neck/shoulder
  • Bloating
  • Constipates completely, sometimes upset stomach first
  • Weight gain over a period of days (unlike milk which takes weeks)
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Slower brain

I get slightly different symptoms with oats:

  • Irritability a couple of hours after eating, does not repeat if I eat every day
  • Stimulant effect, some wakefulness and insomnia at night, does not repeat if I eat every day
  • Cravings for more oats (must have them every day, any excuse to consume more)
  • Increased satiety, feel full, don’t have to eat for hours
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased fatigue
  • Increased social withdrawal
  • Increased tendency to get headaches, especially sinus/neck/shoulder
  • Only slight bloating
  • Upset stomach, followed by constipation
  • Weight loss during the first 2-3 days, does not continue
  • Further weight loss is inhibited

I suspect oats have a relatively small opioid effect, but also contain some sort of stimulant. Oats contain a polyphenol, avenanthramide that has bioactive, allegedly ‘heart healthy’ effects separate from the temporary cholesterol-lowering effects of oats. This polyphenol does not appear to be particularly reactive – it is large and clunky and does not have many O and OH groups sticking out from it, therefore should not be able to bind to as many sites.

Whereas these are my results from eating sushi rice:

  • Slight increased irritability after eating, does not repeat after first day
  • Stimulant effect, more wakefulness and insomnia at night, does not repeat if I eat every day
  • Zero cravings for more (no desire to eat rice ever)
  • Weight loss during the first 2-3 days, does not continue unless forced
  • No inhibition of further weight loss

I suspect that rice contains some sort of stimulant. I know that on occasions in the past when I have eaten black rice or red rice, the stuff has kept me up all night and even made me throw up, like red wine does. I wonder whether this is related to rice tannins (tannins are polyphenols and also found in red wine). Theoretically white rice should have a very low tannin content, so it’s something I can’t really explain.

So why after all this, do I not give up grains and milk permanently?

Apart from the fact that there would be very little left in my diet if I did, wheatgerm has positive effects on me as well as negative ones. It’s the richest source of betaine (trimethylglycine, TMG) in the human diet, and if you want to achieve an appropriate dose, you need to eat about 1.5 oz of wheatgerm every day, enough to make a bowl of cereal. This will also provide you with about 160mcg of natural form folate. In addition, methylcobalamin is the most abundant form of B12 in milk, and milk is the only real source of methylcobalamin in the human diet.

I tolerate vitamin forms of folic acid, TMG and methylcobalamin very badly. A dose of TMG of half the quantity of that found in a serving of wheatgerm gives me insomnia. An RDA dose of methylcobalamin does the same, and sends me on a manic high. Most forms of folic acid also send me on a manic high. The high lasts for about a week before I crash and burn in an aminey hell or have some sort of rebound reaction of the worst kind. I spent a lot of time before I was on failsafe supplementing with methylcobalamin because it made me feel better in the short term – it has some very positive effects and has pretty much cleared up my dermatitis completely on a couple of occasions. It also has some very negative side effects in the longer term – nerve tingling, trapped nerve sensations, dependency (feel awful in morning until I have taken it), insomnia, hypnic jerks, and I can’t think of one occasion that I have taken it for more than a month without coming down with a nasty cold and crashing – this is why I advise against taking methylation supplements randomly without knowing your genetic makeup.

For some unknown reason milk and wheat don’t have this effect. Perhaps due to racemers in supplements, perhaps due to the forms of vitamins hiding in foods that you can’t get in supplements. 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5MTHF) – the only version of folic acid people with MTHFR mutations can use, and they can’t recycle it once it has been used. 5MTHF is the predominant form of folate found in foods, but it is not found in regular supplements. The only 5MTHF supplement on the market is a patented version called Folapro, which is very difficult to source in Europe. Because liver and beans/pulses are too aminey for me, wheatgerm is the only real source of 5MTHF I have. Beans/pulses tend to make me feel better for a couple of days, then feel worse as the amines build up. Ideally I ought to rotate them.

In the periods of going off and on different grains and milk, I’ve realised that I actually seem to have a higher tolerance of food chemicals when I eat wheatgerm porridge, an effect I also associate with eggs, which are the only real source of choline in the human diet. I couldn’t eat wheatgerm every day though as I would be fat as a pig if I did.


Written by alienrobotgirl

28 August, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Opioids

2 Responses

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  1. So, if you try and keep things in rotation, and say don’t eat dairy everyday, how do you find enough to eat? One day it would be of great help if you could describe a week of your failsafe diet and why you do this. 🙂


    29 August, 2007 at 6:53 pm

  2. I think *try* is the word with the most emphasis here. I’m usually on dairy/gluten grains for a week or two, off them again for a week or two… Yeah, good idea though, I’ll post it today!

    Alien Robot Girl

    30 August, 2007 at 12:55 pm

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