Human Brain & Mind
  • Gluten and the Brain

    Celiac disease is the best studied form of delayed pattern food allergy caused by eating wheat and other cereal grains. A surprising range of disease is triggered by the proteins in these foods, collectively referred to as gluten. Celiac disease may present as a vague illness, even a mental illness.

    Patients often complain of dysphoria with fatigue, difficulty in concentration, loss of recent memory, irritability, loss of pleasure and interests, often with sleep disturbances. Sleep and dreaming are influenced by food problems. Most people eat their major meal in the evening and snack at night. This food is digested and absorbed during the night and symptoms often emerge as you sleep. Some allergenic effects tend to peak at night - asthma, migraine, body pains, and itching are often at their worst. Sleep disturbances include difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking and nightmares.

    Luostarinen et al suggested: It is well known that coeliac disease may be associated with various neurological manifestations. We have had a high index of suspicion of coeliac disease during recent years in our neurological clinic. As a result 10 (7%) out of 144 of our new coeliac patients were detected because of neurological symptoms. The most common neurological manifestations were neuropathy, memory impairment and cerebellar ataxia. In these patient groups screening for coeliac disease with serological antibody tests helps to find patients who may suffer from this disease.

    Wills suggested A number of neurological syndromes have been described in association with coeliac disease. These include disorders of the central nervous system encompassing epilepsy, myoclonus, ataxia, internuclear opthalmoplegia, multifocal leukoencephalopathy and dementia. Most of these associated conditions show a poor response to gluten restriction. Peripheral neuropathies, of axonal and demyelinating types, have also been reported and may respond to elimination of gluten from the diet. The mechanism underlying these processes remains obscure but may be immunological or related to trace vitamin deficiencies. Controversially, it has also been claimed that occult coeliac disease accounts for a substantial proportion of patients with neurological dysfunction of unknown cause. Some authorities recommend that cryptogenic ataxias and neuropathies should be routinely screened for the presence of gluten-sensitivity but this remains contentious and has not been universally accepted.

    Gluten and Cerebellar Ataxia

    One example of specific brain injury from eating gluten is cerebellar ataxia. The cerebellum looks after the coordination and smoothing of movements so that problems here show up as movement disorders. Gluten sensitivity, with or without classical celiac disease symptoms and intestinal pathology, is a treatable cause of cerebellar ataxia. Bushara et al reported: We investigated the prevalence of abnormally high serum immunoglobulin A (IgA) and IgG anti-gliadin antibody titers and typical human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) genotypes in 50 patients presenting with cerebellar ataxia who were tested for molecularly characterized hereditary ataxias. A high prevalence of gluten sensitivity was found in patients with sporadic (7/26; 27%) and autosomal dominant (9/24; 37%) ataxias, including patients with known ataxia. Patients with hereditary ataxia (including asymptomatic patients with known ataxia genotype) should be considered for screening for gluten sensitivity and gluten-free diet trials.

    Hadjivassiliouet al reported that patients with gluten ataxia have antibodies against Purkinje cells. Antigliadin antibodies cross-react with epitopes on Purkinje cells. Burk et al reported the symptoms of gluten ataxia: The clinical syndrome was dominated by progressive cerebellar ataxia with ataxia of stance and gait (100%), dysarthria (100%) and limb ataxia (97%). Oculomotor abnormalities were gaze-evoked nystagmus (66.7%), spontaneous nystagmus (33.3%), saccade slowing (25%) and upward gaze palsy (16.7%). Extracerebellar features also included deep sensory loss (58.3%), bladder dysfunction (33.3%) and reduced ankle reflexes (33.3%).

    See Celiac Disease

    Bushara KO, Goebel SU, Shill H, Goldfarb LG, Hallett M. Gluten sensitivity in sporadic and hereditary cerebellar ataxia. Ann Neurol 2001 Apr;49(4):540-3

    The humoral response in the pathogenesis of gluten ataxia. Hadjivassiliou M; Boscolo S; Davies-Jones GA; Grunewald RA; Not T; Sanders DS; Simpson JE; Tongiorgi E; Williamson CA; Woodroofe NM. Neurology 2002 Apr 23;58(8):1221-6

    Luostarinen L, Pirttila T, Collin P. Coeliac disease presenting with neurological disorders. Eur Neurol 1999;42(3):132-5

    Wills AJ. The neurology and neuropathology of coeliac disease. Department of Neurology, University Hospital Nottingham, UK. Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol 2000 Dec;26(6)


    • You are viewing the Brain Mind Center at Alpha Online. Understanding the human brain is essential to become a well-informed, modern citizen.
      Stephen Gislason MD is the author of the Human Brain. 2018 edition. 238 Pages.

    • Alpha Online is a Division of Environmed Research, founded in 1984 at Vancouver, BC, Canada. Online Since 1995.
    • Alpha Nutrition is a trademark and a division of Environmed Research Inc.
    • Download The Human Brain as an eBook


      All Alpha Education and Persona Digital books, eBooks and Starter packs are ordered online. Prices are listed in Canadian Dollars.
      US $ cost is lower depending on the daily dollar exchange rate. Physical shipments by the Post Office are available to destinations in the USA and Canada.
      We are located in Sechelt, close to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. eMail: alpha.sg@telus.net

      Brain Rescue Starter Pack

      This starter pack includes two books, the Alpha Nutrition Program and the Human Brain plus one 500 Gram jar of Alpha DMX. There are a host of clues that link the food supply to mysterious and threatening neurological diseases. We suggest that a prudent person suffering early brain-dysfunction symptoms would be wise to pursue vigorous, thorough diet revision at the earliest opportunity. Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment learning and motivation, family members, friends and professional advisor often have to initiate diet revision and provide the right direction and support.

      Order Brain Rescue Starter Pack

      Order Persona Digital Books

      Click the Add to Cart buttons on the left to begin your order for printed books from Alpha Online (mail delivery to US and Canada).
      Download eBooks
      Click the Download button to order eBooks (PDF file) for download. Click book title (center column) to read topics from each book.

      Print Book Read Topics Download
      Human Nature
      The Good Person
      The Puzzle
      Sound of Music
      Surviving Humans
      Language & Thinking
      I and Thou
      Emotions & Feelings
      Neuroscience Notes
      Human Brain
      Children & Family
      Intelligence & Learning
      Religion 21st Century

      Further reading: Neuroscience Notes, Intelligence and Learning, Language & Thinking, Human Nature

      Persona Digital