Experts are looking into whether celiac causes neurological disorders. The disease is on the rise in the U.S. and so are other neurological disorders that were once considered less common. We all know that celiac disease is a problem of the small intestine. But most of us are probably unaware that according to scientists, celiac disease causes neurological disorders, too. Conditions from brain fog, to tingling and numbness sensations in your extremities, to developmental delays and learning disorders are all found in some patients with celiac. Experts think that this is because celiac disease causes neurological disorders. Autoimmune disorders like MS (multiple sclerosis) and rheumatoid arthritis are also connected to celiac disease. Even movement disorders like ataxia, and psychological issues from irritability or depression to schizophrenia can be associated with celiac disease.
Undiagnosed Gluten Intolerance may be Causing Your Symptoms
It seems crazy to think celiac disease causes neurological disorders like ataxia, MS, and schizophrenia. If you suffer from a neurological disorder, an unknown issue with wheat gluten could be the hidden cause.
Alternative medicine looks at the connections between food and health, and special testing often reveals food intolerance. When the body develops celiac disease it destroys the digestive system. There are real scientific studies that have proven that celiac disease causes neurological disorders. How? Celiac sprue is a condition that damages the small intestine. This will destroy the gut flora and will cause nutrient deficiencies. Those deficiencies will affect the brain. There are a whole host of forums filled with people that claim celiac disease causes neurological disorders. These people have made recoveries from a variety of neurological disorders after going gluten free.
I hesitated to write this article about whether celiac disease causes neurological disorders. I sat on it actually for quite some time. The claims sound so incredulous, how could anyone actually believe this stuff? I tried to put myself back into my own shoes a little over a year ago– back before things got so crazy around our house. I thought about what life was like back before we ever stepped foot into a Whole Foods store, or went to Trader Joes for anything other than gourmet cheese or those awesome appetizers in the freezer section. That me would have read the title of this article and thought, “What an extremist nutzo.” Then I would have picked up the phone and speed dialed the local pizza joint for dinner, too.
So What Makes me Believe Celiac causes Neurological Disorders?
Well, we had a very personal experience with a neurological disorder and it went away after we started a gluten free diet for celiac. In late September of last year my son received his preschool vaccinations. Within three weeks he became a real behavioral problem at school, and by six weeks we saw his first tic. By the time the Christmas holidays rolled around he was nearly impossible to take anywhere as he was an emotional time-bomb in the making and so ticcy that it was hindering his daily activities. We kept him home from preschool for a couple weeks to limit his stress, but it didn’t work. Then came the insomnia. He would just lie awake blinking for hours. I used to sit in his room and choke back the tears. To comfort him I fed him more of his favorite foods: pizza, mac and cheese, Christmas cookies, etc. How did I know that the very things I was doing were actually making his condition worse? His undiagnosed celiac was causing his neurological symptoms.
Before I knew that celiac disease causes neurological disorders I had a lot of other testing done. I visited his pediatrician, the pediatric neurologist, a naturopath, a general practitioner, an ophthalmologist. We had a CBC, titer test, EEG, eye exam, acupuncture, you name it. I even went as far as giving him a pyramid-scheme all natural remedy with no scientific basis for cure, too. The only proof it worked was the sales pitch I got from the supplier. Crazy, I know. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Then I found a forum about tics and a wonderful person by the name of Mary opened my eyes. She claimed that celiac causes neurological disorders. She insisted that a gluten free diet that was also casein free helped cure her son. Intrigued, I ordered a white blood cell food intolerance test. Low and behold I discovered that my son was also intolerant to wheat. Is he celiac? Yes. But that diagnosis didn’t come right away. Our treatment plan for his tic disorder included many natural dietary and supplemental changes. Now, after many years he no longer has any symptoms of a chronic tic disorder. He’s still gluten-free. Is he cured? I wouldn’t say he is cured. I would much rather use the term “recovered”. Any exposure to an offending food will trigger symptoms. He doesn’t tic anymore, but he will get headaches from gluten. It also causes irritability. But the constant ticcing is definitely a thing of the past. So are a whole host of other symptoms that we thought were just a part of his personality. In addition to going gluten and corn free (his other main intolerance), we use vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. I have done a lot of research on cerebral allergies, particularly gluten intolerance.
Scientists on Whether Celiac Causes Neurological Disorders:
Here is what I have found when I researched to discover how celiac causes neurological disorders like motor tics:
K. Mustalahti, of the Pediatric Research Centre, University of Tampere, Finland states: “Recently, a growing body of distinct neurologic conditions has been connected to untreated celiac disease, mainly in middle aged adults. These manifestations are usually chronic, such as occipital lobe epilepsy with cerebral calcifications, cerebellar ataxia, progressive leukoencephalopathy and dementia. Seven per cent of all untreated celiac disease patients are diagnosed on the basis of various neurological symptoms. Although earlier studies reported neurologic disorders in patients with classical gluten enteropathy, some recent studies report neurologic symptoms in otherwise asymptomatic celiac disease patients. The pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders remain obscure, but immunological mechanisms are implicated. In few cases neurological symptoms seem to be alleviated by gluten-free diet but mostly the disorders are permanent” (712). The current criteria for celiac disease may give the false impression that celiac disease is purely a gastrointestinal disorder with manifest small-bowel mucosal lesion” (713). Excerpts taken from: “Unusual Manifestations of Celiac Disease” Indian Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 73, August 2006.
Nathanel Zelnik, et al states, “Although in the past celiac disease was primarily considered to be a gluten enteropathy, during the past two decades, its clinical concept has been expanded, and it is now considered a multisymptom autoimmune disorder, with most of the patients being asymptomatic, oligosymptomatic, or present with extraintestinal manifestations. Among these extraintestinal manifestations, there is a growing body of publications that report neurologic conditions that are associated with celiac’s disease (1672).” Zelnik et al concluded that:
“the spectrum of neurologic disorders in patients with celiac’s disease is wider than previously appreciated and includes, in addition to previously known entities such as cerebellar ataxia, epilepsy, or neuromuscular diseases, milder and more common problems such as migraine headache and learning disabilities, including ADHD”
(1675). Excerpts taken from: “Range of Neurologic Disorders in Patients with Celiac Disease” Pediatrics, Volume 113, June 2004.
In 2006, Dr. Bruce Roseman, M.D. et al, created a brochure entitled: Pediatric Neurology and the Many Faces of Celiac Disease. In it he states, “We will present in our findings and show the need for all health care workers to be aware of the strong association between celiac disease and pediatric neurological problems in order to diagnose and treat children in a timely manner.” Here is an excerpt about a patient who tested positive for CD and presented with a progressive 6 week history of tics much like my son did:
“Case 4: An 11 yr male with IDDM who presented with a progressive 6 week history of neck tics. Patient would extend, flex, and rotate neck abruptly lasting for approximately 30 minutes. These movements were not associated with change of mental status. On review of symptoms patient complained of chronic abdominal pain, no nausea or vomiting. Patient had no recent history of Strep infection, excessive video game exposure or sleep deprivation. Irritable Bowel Syndrome diagnosed at 5 years of age. Paternal aunt had Celiac’s Disease. On physical exam patient had no focal neurological deficits. Investigation (revealed): Ig A level: <6 mg/dl; IgG: 1400 mg/dl; Anti-TTG IgA: <3, anti-gliadin Ig G: 19 U/ml, anti-gliadin Ig A, anti-reticulin Ig A and anti-endomysial: negative. Biopsy: flattening of villi.”
And just like my son, this boy’s neurological symptoms improved on a gluten free diet. This is further proof that celiac causes neurological disorders in some patients with tics. If you have a child with a tic disorder, consider using alternative methods to treat symptoms. There is a strong correlation between motor tics and diet.
UPDATE: In Stavanger, Norway scientists completed a one year ADHD diet study in 1996:
The children in the Stavanger project all followed a strict casein-free diet the first year, and the results were overwhelmingly positive, Noedland says, pointing out that 22 of the 23 families reported clear improvements in their child’s behaviour and attention-span. The group set out to prove a theory by Oslo-based scientist Karl Ludvig Reichelt that a metabolic disorder making it difficult to break down certain proteins, including casein (the protein in milk that makes it possible to make cheese), could cause mental problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A number of the children have since stopped following the diet for different reasons and some were put on medication, but after eight years six were still strictly avoiding all milk products and several had also cut out gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and to some extent oats. “We see a clear difference between those who stopped and those who stayed on the diet,” Noedland says.
I had many initial disappointments with the medical community when my son was suffering from motor tics. There was no one who suggested that celiac disease causes neurological disorders. No one thought there was a connection between motor tics and diet. The doctors I first saw had a complete lack of knowledge about celiac disease. None of them were aware that celiac causes neurological disorders in children and adults. We visited several specialists and no one ever suggested we look into dietary changes. That is, until we saw a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctor.
It wasn’t until we sought help from other parents struggling with their own child’s autoimmune disorders or neurological dysfunctions did we finally got the vital information we needed to make a life altering change for our son. We are on the cusp of new discoveries in neurological science as medical studies are trying to catch up with anecdotal testimonies, by testing the claims parents are making. It is my sincere hope that more and more medical professionals be made aware of the gut-brain connection and begin to look more closely at the values in trying a gluten-free diet before advancing to more serious treatments such as the use of drug therapy.
A low carb gluten free diet does not always work in some cases, but it is certainly worth a try.
I want to thank Mary. She took the time to console me and educate me on how celiac causes neurological disorders like motor tics. This is outside what most medical doctors understand. Without Mary I would have never believed there is a connection between motor tics and diet. My son would not have had the wonderful recovery that he had on a low sugar, gluten and corn free diet. The healthy, organic, whole food diet he has been on did more than diminish the tics. It has brought peace to our house, improved my son’s learning abilities, his mood, and his overall sense of self. So thank you Mary.
Find Support for Celiac Disease and Neurological Disorders
If you are interested in trying a Gluten-free diet to help alleviate tics or other neurological disorders, visit our Healthy-Family forum! If you’ve got questions please feel free to scroll down and post a comment. I’ll do my best to answer you right away. Celiac causes neurological disorders, but it isn’t the only cause. It is possible to have a tic disorder that is not caused by celiac disease. Even without celiac, there is strong evidence that motor tics and diet are connected.
If you would like to learn more about being gluten free or other additional natural remedies for neurological disorders please visit the following forums:
Latitudes.org (An alternative treatment forum for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Tourette Syndrome)
MDJunction.com (A gluten-free casein-free Autism support group)
Ataxia.org has a special thread in their toast forum that discusses Celiac ataxia.
You can also download and print this Gluten Syndrome/Celiac Symptom Circle for your convenience.
Update: View and forward the link to Dr. Ford’s two new educational You Tube videos about the Gluten Syndrome.
If you have additional resources you would like to share, please post a comment below.