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coworker says that gluten is addictive in the same manner as an opiate and in fact hits the same receptors is this true?

A coworker says he isn't celiac but is sensitive to gluten.  He also claims that it is an addiction and in fact gluten hits the same receptors in the brain as opioids. In fact not wanting to just give up gluten is a sign that your addicted.  This all of course sounds like nonsense to me. I couldn't find any unbiased answer via Google as far as the opioid/gluten link. Though celiac is only 1% of the population, he claims that 1 in 8 actually are sensitive but just don't know it. 

Related Topics: Brain, Addiction

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405 Answers
10,723 Helpful Votes

First off, whenever someone makes strong claims like that, always ask them for the research they use to support those claims.  Because what happens is a complicated scientific manner gets translated into simple terms and a lot of the key information is lost.  It's like a bad game of telephone.

There is a theory called the "Opioid excess theory" that certain people do not fully breakdown proteins such as gluten or casein and they remain as peptides that have an opioid-like effect.  It has been hypothesized that long-term exposure to opiate peptides can affect the brain.  It is thought that these peptides bind to opioid receptors in the brain which is similar to morphine-like substances. This is why gluten free diets are sometimes recommended for children with autism or attention deficit disorder.  Unfortunately, there is not clear evidence that this diet works for every child suffering with such problems, although there is quite a bit of antidotal evidence.

I don't know of any research showing this occurs with gluten insensitive individuals.  This is more of a theory focused on children with behavioral issues that may be applicable for teh general population but that is a big may. We need more research! 

Always check with your healthcare provider before making chagnes in your diet such as giving up gluten.

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