C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.


Exorphins are opioid peptides (bits of amino acids) that largely are byproducts of digestion of wheat and milk, and which create a myriad of symptoms. They do often interfere with our normal endorphin systems, the intrinsic opioids which are critical regulators of mood. Beta endorphin is the best known of the feel good endorphins, has mainly been associated with excessive jogging. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is perhaps the best known disorder of insufficient endorphins, although depression also includes endorphin inadequacy.

Interestingly, exorphins can cause cravings to foods that are harmful! Exorphin producing foods “Taste” good but often produce a variety of emotional and physical symptoms that are anything but good! Gluten appears to be the most common endorphin producer, with 5 different opioids; spinach has two; soybeans have at least one; and milk has its own unique exorphins. It is interesting that wheat and milk are the most common foods that produce a wide variety of allergic symptoms.

These “normal” byproducts of digestion are associated with problems that range from obesity to fatigue, migraine, ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, constipation, diabetes, depression, diarrhea, GERD, asthma, rhinitis, eczema, immune disorders, schizophrenia, autism and ADHD, as well as every known autoimmune disorder! Even colon cancer may be related to these ubiquitous molecules. There often are genetic predispositions to various reactions to the foods that are most likely to create symptoms. Interestingly, coffee has potent opioid receptor binding activity; but I have not found any paper which suggests that coffee prevents exorphin symptoms.

For anyone who has any of the problems listed above, I strongly recommend getting a comprehensive stool assay (Assays A and C) from www.enterolab.com. In all states except New York and Maryland you can order your own tests.

You may want to read WHEAT BELLY by William Davis, M.D., which focuses on wheat and gluten problems.

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