January 29, 2010

Gluten Causes Nerve Damage


Another study links nerve damage to gluten sensitivity.  Gluten has been identified as a potential neurotoxin, and many with gluten sensitivity do not manifest symptoms of classic celiac disease, but instead develop nerve damage.   In this study, the average age for nerve damage to develop was 55.  A correlation was found between patients with idiopathic neuropathy (nerve damage of an unknown cause) and the presence of gluten intolerant HLA-DQ genes.


J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2006;77:1262-1266.

Gluten Free Society’s Stance:

The Gluten Free Society would like to thank the authors of this study for their continued excellent research in the field of gluten induced nerve disease.  Dr. Hadjivassiliou and colleagues have published a number of papers connecting gluten sensitivity with nerve damage.  Many neurological conditions both acute and chronic are associated with gluten sensitivity.  Below is a small list of some of the more commonly known:

  1. Headaches
  2. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  3. Vertigo/Ataxia
  4. Tinnitus
  5. Multiple sclerosis
  6. Restless legs syndrome
  7. Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (Neuropathy)
  8. Parkinson’s disease
  9. Lou Gehrig’s disease
  10. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  11. Alzheimer
  12. Depression
  13. Autism
  14. ADD/ADHD
  15. Epilepsy
  16. Schizophrenia

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21 Responses to “Gluten Causes Nerve Damage”

  • how to ollie says:

    Great post. I’m always looking for great blogs and I really like yours.

  • Phyllis Mueller says:

    I am 55 yrs old, a blood test and biopsy diagnosed celiac, 2 years now. Also hypothyroid and psoriatic arthritis. Had an episode of optic neuritis, followed by an MRI of brain. Several lesions discovered, so spinal tap done. Negative for MS. Continue to have neurological symptoms. Now I am wondering if gluten has caused this damage? How would I know? Is is reversible? I am totally GF, only eat what comes out of my GF home. What do I do now?

  • Phyllis,
    It is very possible that gluten did indeed cause your nerve damage. If this is the case, a True Gluten Free diet will possibly reverse the damage. Make sure you watch the first video so that you are eliminating all gluten from your diet.
    All the best,

  • Lisa Spooner says:

    Is it realistic to suggest that a gluten free diet if embarked upon now can reverse nerve damage that has occurred over a lifetime of 55 gluten-consuming years?

  • Lisa,
    Yes it is realistic. The body is dynamic and has the ability to heal provided you give it the right environment, nutrients, etc. Clinically speaking, we have treated thousands of patients with nerve damage and seen reversal of long term damage. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen. Keep your hopes up!
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Jennifer says:

    I have RSD. I have found a lot of relief when I went gluten free just to support our daughter (age 3) who was going gluten free. Does this mean I probably have celiac or just a sensitivity? My father in law has celiac and we suspect our children do and we assumed this was because of my husband’s genes. Thanks.


  • Jennifer,
    Remember that gluten sensitivity causes many problems (celiac and RSD included). Different people react differently to gluten. Check out this post as it helps delineate the differences:

    Also, watch this video tutorial on the topic:


    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Pam Holm says:

    Is it possible for a gluten free diet to reverse atypical facial pain/trigeminal neuralgia? I have tried all the meds…was muscle tested and was told I was gluten intolerant….is there hope?

  • Pam,
    Not only is it possible, it is common to see neuralgia recover in gluten sensitive individuals.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Mia says:

    I have dx for gluten sensitivity (double dq1, non-celiac variety), plus positive tests for sensitivity to soy, casein & yeast. I also have a dx for peripheral neuropathy, which started about two years ago. After finding the link between gluten & neuropathy, I’ve been eating gluten free for 5 months and soy, casein and yeast free for about 2 months. Lately I’ve noticed my symptoms for peripheral neuropathy have changed. For the past 2 years I’ve had progressive numbness in my feet, and more recently tips of the fingers. No tingling, more that “altered state” like you’re wearing a sock. Occasionally I’d get those electric shocks up the legs, too. But in the last few weeks I’ve noticed more burning on the bottom of my feet, more shock-like pains in my toes, and my feet are aching much more than they used to.

  • Steph says:

    I’m encouraged by GFS. For one thing, the fact that going gluten free can reverse symptoms is so powerful! I have been tested as not celiac, but SEVERE intolerance to wheat and MODERATE intolerance to gluten/glaidin. When I eat wheat/gluten I get really bad symptoms I call gluten neuropathy 36-48 hours later: dizzy/off balance, left food numbness, tingling, and puffy eye lids!
    Sadly, many Dr’s, even natural health Dr.’s blow it off and have even had some perscribe supplements w/gluten/wheat! UGH!

  • Lorna says:

    I am a 61-year-old woman who is just now exploring the possibility that I may be gluten-sensitive. My niece and nephew have both tested positive for the genetic indicator, so it would stand to reason that the symptoms that have no relief may be connected.
    My question is whether my tinnitus could be just one more on the ever-growing list of chronic issues. I see it in the list above, but wonder how strong the link is. I’ve been dealing with it for a number of years and have been told it is not something that can be treated. GF diet, perhaps?

  • Hi Lorna,
    I have clinically seen tinnitus improve with a gluten free diet in multiple patients. That being said, there are many factors involving this condition, so I wouldn’t declare gluten free a cure all for it. All in all, I would encourage you to go gluten free and send me feedback on how it goes.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • KH says:

    Thank you for the great article and website. I am trying to figure out the cause of my recent balance/ ataxia symptom. It’s been going on for about a month now, and is only the second time in my life this has ever happened. It happened for a few months last year around this time and just went away, and I never knew what it was or why it went away. Anyway, I have been eating gluten-free for a little more than a year and a half. However, this past Christmas when I was making cookies as presents for my neighbors, I completely wasn’t thinking and ate some of the batter (because that’s what I’ve done my whole life!) Could that have caused this month-long ataxia symptom? I have no idea if it’s gluten-related, I’m just so desperate for answers, I’m analyzing every possibility.
    When this happened last year, there was also an incident of having eaten gluten.
    Is this possible, even with no previous neurological or balance symptoms?
    Thank you for your time and any input/ideas.

  • Yes. The dough exposure can be behind your symptoms. Small quantities of gluten exposure are known to contribute to lengthy neurological detriment.
    All the best,
    Dr. O

  • Johnny says:

    Doc, long story short of it; 1998 optic neuritis with fatigue/vertigo = MS right? Lumbar and MRI negative.

    2000, heart palpitations (not an MS symptom!) with brain fog, numbness in feet. Lumbar and MRI negative.

    2002, double vision, vertigo, Miniere’s (left ear) Lumbar and MRI negative.

    2010, double vision, Miniere’s (right ear). Lumbar and MRI negative.

    2012, fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, tinnitus, blurred vision, extreme weight loss, herniated discs. Lumbar negative, Brain MRI positive for lesions. Given DX of MS. Tested positive for IgE wheat allergy and positive for gluten sensitivity. 7 months after gluten free, endoscopy was negative (wouldn’t it have to be?) but lesions are going away.

    I am convinced this was celiac, just not caught by the hospitals or medical staff. Grandfather died from failure to thrive before celiac DX days and my son has tested positive. It is unfortunate, but this seems to be the traditional DX route.

  • Patricia says:

    How can I be tested for gluten sensitivity ?

  • Andrea says:

    I had all-over neuropathy diagnosed as lupus. It was everywhere–hands, arms, feet, legs, spine, trigeminal neuralgia on both sides, plus severe “brain fog.” I was in so much pain, I wasn’t sure how much longer I wanted to live. Naturopath put me on anti-inflammatory diet–no grains, beans, nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, others), dairy, sugar, and–for me–eggs. She also gave me curcumin to reduce inflammation & high doses of fish oil, accompanied by Vitamin E. The neuropathy started to get better within 2 days, and completely disappeared after about 6 months, except in my finger tips, which took a year and a half to heal. When I eat ANY grains or nightshade family veggies, the symptoms return. If I go off the supplements for over 3 weeks, the symptoms return. I am not a doctor and can’t make specific recommendations, but as an individual, this is what worked for me. You have to be ever-vigilant about foods containing gluten, and you have to keep with it to obtain the longterm results. There is hope!

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