I’ve never been a heavy drinker but I have occasionally enjoyed a glass or two of wine or a bottle of dark beer on a hot day. But as I grew older I found that my response to alcoholic drinks intensified – and not for the better. My sensations under the influence began to take on off-kilter, off-balance shadings. The woozy effects of alcohol lapsed into a disturbing fatigue that made me sag. Give me two glasses of wine and I was hemmed in by weariness. At the same time, I was besieged by the sense that every move and thought was encased in a thick, other-world ether. On any given night, if I was foolish enough to indulge in a third glass of wine, I’d be lucky if I could muster the strength to crawl into bed.
When I gave up bread and other gluten foods (wheat, barley, cookies, pizza, etc.), I never considered what effect it would have on my relationship to alcohol. At a party, a few months ago, about a year after going gluten free, I sipped a glass of wine, finished it and waited for the inevitable energy slump. And waited. Virtually nothing happened. I felt, perhaps, the slightest buzz, but my usual droop had apparently taken the night off. I carefully sipped another glass of wine. And just about the same nothing occurred. It wasn’t that the alcohol had no effect at all. But the mental and physical slump that I was accustomed to refused to manifest itself.
I discussed the change in my alcohol response with my wife who is an herbalist (phyllisdlight.com/). Our conclusion: my liver was doing a more effective and efficient job of processing alcohol. Gluten, which I knew had been affecting my brain (brain problems) and nerves (nerve destruction) had also been compromising my liver function.
Sure enough, when I researched gluten’s effect on the liver, I found plenty of studies showing that for people with gluten sensitivity, or people with celiac, gluten can inflict serious liver damage. Research in Norway has linked gluten to liver failure and certain types of hepatitis (Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005 Oct;17(10):1015-7). Scientists in Italy have found that gluten can cause liver damage and inflammation (Indian J Pediatr. 2006 Sep;73(9):809-11). Gluten can also cause your immune system to attack the liver (Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2003 Apr;15(4):423-7).
The first signs of a gluten problem that caught my attention were my difficulties thinking and remembering. Those were so severe, I thought I was falling into Alzheimer’s. Going gluten free has helped my brain immensely. Now I’m convinced that going gluten free has also rescued my liver. (And I don’t drink beer any more because it usually contains gluten.)