The Myth of Diagnosis, One Disease, Many Causes—One Cause, Many Diseases, Gluten: One Food Compound That Causes Many Problems

The Myth of Diagnosis:  If you know the name of your disease, you know what’s wrong with you

This myth is pervasive throughout medicine and is the single biggest obstacle to changing the way we do things and finding the answers to our health problems.  The problem is we are in the “naming and blaming” business in medicine.  Find the name of the “disease” then match the drug to the disease.  You have “depression” so you need an “antidepressant” and so on.

Unfortunately, this approach or method of thinking is outdated and sometimes dangerous.  Once you have a label, you are put in the group of people that have the same label and it is assumed that you carry the same attributes of that group.  The outdated method of naming the disease and then assigning a drug to fix it clearly isn’t working.  The reason why is because the name of the disease bears little relationship to the cause of the disease.

The chemical model of mental illness has too often confused association with causation.  Worse still, it has failed the species.”(1)

We need to get out of the “name-it and blame-it game” and start thinking about how the body works, how to personalize our approach, and how not to suppress symptoms but to restore normal function.

Fortunately, there are only a  few fundamental mechanisms that underlie nearly every chronic disease.  These underlying mechanisms are the link between all these different diseases people develop as they age.  In almost all chronic disease, the same few mechanisms go wrong.  These mechanisms can lead to many different types of problems or disease states.  At the same time, one disease may have multiple causes.

One Disease, Many Causes—One Cause, Many Diseases

One disease can have many different causes, all of which manifest the same symptoms.  For example, depression may be caused by many different factors, yet the symptoms we see are the same across the board.  Depression may be the result of a multitude of causes:

  • Folate, B6 or B12 deficiency
  • Low thyroid function
  • “Brain allergies” to foods
  • Autoimmune response to gluten that inflames the brain
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Abnormal proteins called gluteo- or caseomorphins from poorly digested food that alter brain chemistry
  • Brain inflammation from a hidden infection
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Low testosterone or other sex hormones
  • Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
  • Adrenal gland dysfunction from excessive stress

These are some of the real causes of “depression” as well as many other mental illness and neurological conditions.  Without addressing the root, underlying mechanisms like these, we can never have optimal brain function or mood.  There is really no such thing as the “disease” of depression, just many different systemic imbalances that cause the symptoms we refer to as “depression”.

Gluten: One Food Compound That Causes Many Problems

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, is one common food compound that can create many illnesses and diseases

A recent review paper published in the NEJM listed 55 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten.(2)  These include many neurological and psychiatric diseases such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy.(3)  Gluten in the diet has also been linked to autism.(4) Removing gluten and casein (a protein found in milk) can lead to significant improvements in the symptoms of autistic children.(5)

Besides making the brain inflamed, gluten can be broken down in the gut into odd little proteins that act like psychedelic drugs (opium-like peptides called gluteomorphins) which change brain function and behavior.  Gluten also contains significant amounts of glutamate, a molecule that excites and damages brain cells through a special brain receptor or docking station called the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptorOveractivation of this receptor by glutamate is implicated in many psychiatric disorders.  Glutamate is called an excitotoxin (a substance which overexcites and kills or damages brain cells).  So, gluten can cause brain dysfunction by three different mechanisms—inflammation, odd morphine or psychedelic proteins, and as an excitotoxin.  This is how gluten is a single cause behind many different “diseases”.(6)

In the next article, we discuss the myth of medication, the rapid increase in prescriptions for mood-altering drugs and some of their side-effects.


  1. Reducing the Brain, Ignoring the Soul.  Grace E. Jackson, M.D.
  2. Farrell, R.J. and C.P. Kelly.  2002. Celiac sprue. NEJM 346 (3):180-88. Review.
  1. Bushara, K.O. 2005 Neurologic presentation of celiac disease. Gastroenterology 128 (4 Suppl 1):S92-97. Review
  2. Millward, C, et al. 2004. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2:CD003498. Review.
  3. Millward, C, et al. 2004. Gluten- and casein-free diets for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2:CD003498. Review.
  4. The UltraMind Solution.  Mark Hyman, MD.  Simon and Shuster. 2008