Gluten Damages NervesIt 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 neurological conditions I see resolve on a gluten free diet, 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.
Nutritional Deficiency – A Common Problem in Tremor DisordersAlthough 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:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
How to Identify DeficienciesIn 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):
- Methylmalonic acid
- Serum B12 (not very accurate)