Have you ever felt relentlessly tired, day after day, week after week? I certainly have, from my teens all the way until 41. I thought that was normal, that everyone felt that way unless you were manic or strange. The fatigue always worse after eating a meal, especially after eating something like a sandwich or a bagel. The tiredness affected my social life and my performance at work. If I sat still for more than a few moments, I would start yawning away and had a hard time controlling those yawns. I know it didn’t make my boss happy to see what he thought was my lack of interest in what he was talking to me about at the time. I also had a hard time focusing on what was being said in meetings, in a lecture and in conversation simply because I was so tired.
Of course, that all stopped when I eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet. I didn’t know that gluten and casein (milk protein) are partially digested into opioid-like compounds1. At the time, eating wheat made me feel like I had taken a strong sedative and I simply couldn’t stay awake. I felt very guilty as a mother with young children in that after I ate lunch, I would often have to take a light nap while my toddler watched TV. I didn’t want to do this, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open, even if I got 8 hours of sleep the night before. I would try going out and getting active, but even that didn’t help much and the fatigue and “fog” remained overwhelming.
So after eliminating gluten from my diet, my energy didn’t so much increase as the fatigue went away. I can now sit for long periods of time in a darkened room without yawning and listen to conversation without appearing to be bored, particularly when I’m not.
As a side note, the above referenced paper had some interesting citations, like this abstract from Dohan FC and Grasberger JC. Relapsed Schizophrenics: Earlier Discharge from the Hospital After Cereal-Free, Milk-Free Diet. Am. J. Psychiatry 1973,
“Routinely treated schizophrenics, who on admission were randomly assigned to a diet free of cereal grains and milk while on the locked ward, were discharged from the hospital about twice as rapidly as control patients assigned to a high-cereal diet. Wheat gluten secretly added to the cereal-free diet abolished this effect. These and previous findings suggest that cereal grains may be pathogenic for those hereditarily predisposed to schizophrenia just as they are for celiac disease, a disorder that may be genetically related.”
This is what worked for me and I’ve come across other people who have suffered similar symptoms and found relief through eliminating gluten from their diet. If you think you could benefit from a gluten-free diet, give it try, but do some research of your own first. There are a lot of informative books out there, and of course, you should always check with a doctor first to make sure there isn’t another reason for your fatigue.
1. Zioudrou C, Streaty RA, Klee WA. Opioid Peptides Derived from Food Proteins. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 1978;245(7): 2446-2449
Photo by riesma pawestri
Very interesting article! I wonder how much of the rise in wheat and dairy allergies are linked to the use of pesticides, genetic engineering, and hormones?
I think this article explains much of it. It’s not so much GMO, since that only started recently, but the cross-breeding and mutagenic manipulation used to create high-gluten and industrial-ready strains of wheat.
My wife also struggled with fatigue and found a cure in the “Nutrition Almanac” by Nutrition Search, Inc. (McGraw Hill paperback, 1970something). She discovered that a therapeutic daily dose of vitamin A did the fix. This was actually an ancillary benefit of a cure for acne that she originally was researching. Now she has great skin and is not paralyzed with drowsiness.
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