Carolyn has once again been doing some digging for us after she discovered what she thought was gluten withdrawal was actually a reaction to spinach of all things. In March (I know, I know; I’ve been busy!), she sent the following message to me:
I was wondering if anyone has had a gluten like reaction to spinach? I have been suffering semi mild reactions on and off for a while and have finally pin pointed it to spinach….Perhaps this is widely known in the TGF world and i have missed the info on it due to lack of concentration, fatigue etc from eating the green stuff!!
Well, no, that was a new one on me. I put down my forkful of spinach.
So, why would spinach be an issue? Well, I have written about the effect of the morphine/opiate like effects of gluten and casein before. Here’s a reminder for you on gluten withdrawal:
Gluten contains an opoid-like substance called gliadorphin. Much like casomorphin in dairy, the gliadorphin binds to opiate receptors in the brain and can affect behaviour and cognitive function by mimicking the action of opiates like heroin and morphine. This has most often been seen in autism and, in this regard, the Feingold Association advises:
“If necessary, casein and gluten items can be replaced very slowly, a tablespoon per day, for example. Remember that this is an addiction condition, and the child may have serious withdrawal symptoms, including behavioural deterioration, if changes are made too quickly.” That may not be bad advice for all gluten-sensitives.”
Well, Carolyn has weedled out that spinach has a morphine-like issue all of its own. She sent me a link to a report which included this quote:
Spinach…contains opioid-like peptides in the form of rubiscolin. Individuals who are sensitive to the opioid-like peptides in gluten and casein are also sensitive to spinach in the same way.
Rubiscolins are a newly discovered group of opioid peptides apparently and there are others suspected including egg, oats and rice as well as one produced by certain bacteria and moulds in the body. The report goes on to explain how these morphine-like protein fractions can affect us:
Opioid-like peptides act on endorphin receptors throughout the body and can cause problems such as aches and pains, headaches, lowered pain threshold, digestive problems (usually but not limited to constipation), nausea, abnormal hunger, motivational problems, mental/behavioural problems, brain fog, irritability, weight problems, cravings, and histamine release.
What appears to happen is that gluten and casein have the strongest effects in individuals who have naturally low levels of endorphins or who are ‘resistant’ to endorphins due to endorphin receptor polymorphisms. They act as natural analgesics and provide a mild sense of relief and demotivation in the short term, but during withdrawal cause increased pain, anxiety, and negative symptoms.
In other words, if you feel you are suffering withdrawal symptoms as described above, try dropping the spinach too. We will have to find out more about this endorphin resistance. That’s a new one on me, too.
Of course, we have to also realise that the reason we get the reactions is that the protein fragments have found their way through a barrier and docked at a receptor site. As Mark Sisson says in his interesting piece Is Wheat Addictive?:
It may be addictive, but not to everyone. If your gut is permeable enough to allow passage of opioid peptides into your blood, I could see it causing problems. If your gut is healthy and intact, maybe it’s not such an issue.
So, back we are to the hyper-permeability of barriers yet again and to the solution of the problem being to stop the stuff getting access in the first place! Barrier Plan. Simples. Not actually, but you know what I mean!
Well done, Carolyn, aka Sherlock 2.