All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I am a palliative care nurse. A big part of my job is to offer patients narcotics to alleviate their pain. While at home, one of my hobbies is baking bread. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I recently learned that all grains contain elements that mimic the action of morphine in the body.

morphine moleculeAlthough I primarily work with hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine remains the prototype opioid analgesia. Morphine was first derived from the poppy plant and it was found to be useful because it binds to opioid receptors in the human body to block the ordinary pain response. Any substance that so directly affects the human central nervous system will have side effects, and indeed, morphine has many -- including euphoria.

The human body manufactures its own endogenous opiates, or endorphins. And the poppy is not the only plant that creates substances that will bind to the human opioid receptors. For example, wheat contains peptides which mimic the action of opiates in the human body.

In 1995, Greg Wadley and Angus Martin published a paper in Australian Biologist hypothesizing that humans invented agriculture in order to feel the euphoria that grain provides. In other words we cultivate plants, specifically grains, in order to experience the narcotizing effects of the grain's exorphins.

Last night, following my third 12-hour shift, dealing with hospital patients that overflowed our ward, I made my way home, exhausted but sleepless. Three shifts in a row is almost equivalent to an ordinary workweek for most people. So there was a reason why I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

But I wasn't sleeping because I was waiting for my firm starter to rise before refrigerating it, prior to the next day's baking. And that's when I realized it was true. I am addicted.

I am an exorphin junkie.