March 13, 2013

Can Tremors Resolve with The Gluten Free Diet?

 

Gluten Damages Nerves

It is a well established medical fact that gluten can cause inflammatory nerve damage as well as incite neurological autoimmune disease.  Multiple studies have made this connection over the last several years.  Common neurological diseases caused by gluten include – neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, vertigo, ataxia, autism, schizophrenia, depression, and epilepsy.

One of the most common gluten induced neurological conditions I see in my clinic in Sugar Land, TX is tremor disorder.  In my experience, the problem is much greater in children and teenagers than in adults. Much like the medical report below, these patients’ tremors tend to resolve after several months on a gluten free diet. A synopsis of the report recently published is below:

A 4-year-old boy presented with a history of tremor for 7 days. He also had recurrent diarrhea for the previous 1 year, and poor weight gain. Magnetic resonance of the brain was suggestive of central pontine myelinolysis. There was no evidence of electrolyte abnormalities. The serum tissue transglutaminase level was markedly elevated, and the duodenal biopsy revealed features of celiac disease. The patient was started on gluten-free diet. The tremor resolved within 3 months. Repeat imaging of the brain done 3 months after starting gluten-free diet showed complete resolution of the lesion. This case highlights the unusual presentation of central pontine myelinosis as tremor in a malnourished child with celiac disease.

Source: J Child Neurol. 2013 Feb 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Nutritional Deficiency – A Common Problem in Tremor Disorders

Although a gluten free diet can often resolve this problem, sometimes getting rid of gluten is not enough.  There are a number of gluten induced nutritional problems that may persist in patients and lead to continued symptoms.  The most common are:

How to Identify Deficiencies

In my experience, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 Deficiency are by far the top two culprits (so common that I formulated a multi vitamin with higher levels of these nutrients for those with this problem.)

Vitamin B12 is necessary to help the body form the insulation around nerves (often times referred to as myelin).  Without this insulation, nerves can misfire and trigger tremors, neuropathy, and neuritis (nerve pain).  If the deficiency goes on like enough, it can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Vitamin B-6 is needed by your body to produce neurotransmitters (chemicals that allow your nerves to communicate).  When this process fails, neurological symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety, and irritability are common issues.

If you have a history of neurological problems, take this quiz to help determine whether or not going gluten free might help you.  I would also recommend that you have vitamin B-vitamin levels measured.  This is best done by having a Spectracell lab test performed.  In addition to measuring B vitamins, this type of lab test will measure all of the nutrients above and give you a more comprehensive picture of you nutritional status.  You can also measure vitamin B-12 using the following tests (though they are not as accurate as a Spectracell):

  • Homocysteine
  • Methylmalonic acid
  • Serum B12 (not very accurate)

Always looking out for you,

Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior

 

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7 Responses to “Can Tremors Resolve with The Gluten Free Diet?”

  • Sheila says:

    Thanks for all the great info Dr O, just wish there was someone like you here in the St Pete Fl area where I live. I had been on multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids for about an 18 mos period, my health declined rapidly, I’ve been passed around from dr to dr and labeled with just about every autoimmune syndrome there is…I was off the charts with serum tissue transglutaminase level, went gluten free, then positive bx on 4 sites on endoscopy, with severe gastritis from top to bottom, all that with being gluten free for 5mos. Meds offered were prilosec and cymbalta…bad, bad reactions to both. Have gone completely grain free since Feb. I recently started taking the supplements you have suggested. I am hoping and praying for some relief but it’s hard not having a ‘doctor’ who sees it the way you do. I feel lost. I just keep reading what I can from your sites and applying to myself. Thanks again.

  • Norene says:

    Dr. Osborne, I have gluten sensitivity and the genes for celiac as well. I developed a tremor disorder 4 years ago—Spasmodic Dysphonia Essential Tremor. It is difficult to live with. It causes tremors in my vocal cords and I have some difficulty talking. There is no strength to my voice either. My first connection to gluten came from reading Natasha Campbell McBride’s writings about gluten and autism. I really began to wonder then if that might be my problem and I started the journey of going gluten free. The specialist told me the problem I have is centered in the basal ganglion of the brain and affects the brain waves that stimulate vocal activity. I have been told there is nothing that I can do to alleviate this problem and that it will be with me for the rest of my life. The one treatment they have come up with is to inject the vocal folds with botox, which slows down the tremors (temporary). I had one injection and didn’t see an improvement. It is expensive, my insurance doesn’t cover it and I have to drive 300 miles one way to get it and it needs to be repeated every three months! I have decided injecting with a toxin is probably not a really good idea! Do you think gluten could possibly be at the root of this problem? Once developing a neurological problem such as this, is it even remotely possible for it to be reversed? This is a rare disorder. Your comments would be appreciated!

  • Norene,
    I have seen this problem resolve with a gluten free diet. Read the following post:
    http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-free-society-blog/what-to-do-when-going-gluten-free-doesnt-help-you/
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Hi Sheila,
    You are welcome,
    Hang in there and keep moving forward. The healing process can take time. You might find this post helpful:
    http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-free-society-blog/what-to-do-when-going-gluten-free-doesnt-help-you/
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Julie says:

    I have gluten ataxia and cervical dystonia. I was diagnosed via biopsy for Celiac Disease in Jan 2009 and have kept a very strict GF diet except for a gluten challenge last fall.

    My personal opinion is; that while B-12 or other vitamin deficiencies may play a key factor, I believe the real problem is an auto immune response on the brain as well as inflammation of the brain. I’d like to see research in this area.

    I’ve had my blood levels checked for all vitamin and mineral dificiences on a regular bases by my Gastrointerologist. The last few years they have come back all within normal ranges. I’ve also had four brain MRI. All “normal”. Yet, I continue to go downhill neurologically every year. The cervical dystonia is a new diagnoses just in the last month. I’m currently awaiting for insurance approval of botox injections.

  • celestina uriarte says:

    Dr. O,

    Thank you for your article. It has helped me confirm my own personal findings. I have an appointment with my doctor to go over my changes and improvements and run a few tests.

    I was diagnosed about 15 years ago with non-essential tremors. My mother and grandmother both had it. I knew my daughter was doomed to have them too. I heard all of the bad news from my neurologist, “it may get worse, just increase your propranolol”. I didn’t like taking this heart altering medication. About 3 months ago, I went on a 90/10 Paleo diet. I have no gluten, no processed foods and absolutely no processed sugar. I am part of a FB community called “The Paleo Approach”. They are AI, which is Auto Immune Paleo. One day I read that someone had some success with a disorder. So I weaned myself off of the Propranolol to test if my disorder had “cured itself”. I am so happy that it brings me to tears to think about it. I have gone from an occasional head-snap, off balance, vertigo, migraine, severe hand tremors sufferer, to being completely free of these symptoms. Side note: besides being gluten free, being Paleo, I incorporate good fats such as Grass Fed Butter and Coconut Oil. I think these have also helped my nervous system.

    Thank you again

  • Celestina,
    You are welcome! Thanks so much for sharing your story and experience. Your testimony to the power of diet change and disease will no doubt help encourage others to a better state of health.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

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