(Health Secret) Are you one of the people who literally stumble through life thinking you are just clumsy, when the real blame rests with gluten? Neurological damage from this component of wheat can occur even before gastrointestinal symptoms like upset stomach show up, says the Center for Peripheral Neuropathy. The Gluten Free society classes gluten as a potential neurotoxin. Mysterious symptoms such as dizziness or numbness in extremities may actually be signs of damage from gluten.
Do you have gluten ataxia?
The Center for Peripheral Neuropathy also states that approximately 10 percent of people with Celiac disease develop neurologic symptoms. Ataxia is a neurologic condition characterized by jerky movements and an awkward gait. Gluten ataxia specifically describes a neurologic condition caused by a sensitivity that leads to a wide range of symptoms, including:
• Difficultly concentrating
• Loss of balance
• Frequent falls
• Visual disturbances
• Trouble walking
• Trouble judging distances
In people with a gluten sensitivity, eating foods products containing it can triggers an autoimmune reaction. The body attacks the gluten with antibodies in the same way that antibodies attack viruses. This damages the intestines. Intestinal damage inhibits absorption of nutrients, often leading to nutrient deficiencies.
Vitamin deficiencies could be to blame for gluten ataxia, according to an article in the Living Without magazine. Another explanation is that something in the brain is similar enough to gluten that the antibodies released to attack gluten also attack the brain.
The exact cause for gluten ataxia is unknown, but what is clear is that eating gluten makes it worse. A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found that participants with ataxia who followed a gluten-free diet demonstrated improvement in ataxia symptoms compared to the control group, and had significantly fewer anti-gliadin antibodies, or “anti-gluten” antibodies, after one year.
Autoimmune response may be root cause of nerve damage
Neuropathy, or peripheral neuropathy, describes a range of disorders characterized by nerve damage to one or more nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. Often the cause of the neuropathy is unknown, though autoimmune diseases and vitamin deficiencies are some of the potential causes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Gluten neuropathy can occur when the autoimmune response is the root cause of the nerve damage.
A study published in Muscle & Nerve journal found that participants with neuropathy who followed a gluten-free diet showed significant improvement in symptoms after one year. The control group reported worsening of symptoms.
There are good alternatives to gluten
People who have a gluten intolerance do not respond to simple allergy tests like someone with a milk or nut allergy might. The gentlest way to figure out if someone is sensitive to gluten is dietary therapy. Avoid gluten for several weeks, then reintroduce it and observe any reactions.
Once it is known that a person has a problem with gluten there is only one form of treatment: abstinence. People with any degree of gluten sensitivity or intolerance must completely give it up. This means not only avoiding obvious foods like bread and pasta, but also foods like soy sauce and licorice that contain small amounts of wheat.
Fortunately, there are many alternatives. Pastas made with rice flour or quinoa are gluten-free. Rice bread can replace bread made from grains containing gluten. Buckwheat flour is gluten-free and works well for pancakes. Some companies even make wheat-free soy sauce. It is simply a matter of reading labels and shopping around.
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