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6 Common Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy (Gluten Included)

Neuropathy Is Extremely Common

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that leads to multiple symptoms in the arms, legs, hands, and feet. Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain are some of the most common symptomatic manifestations. The condition effects as many as 80 out of every 1,000 people. The condition has a number of different causes. Let’s take a look at 6 ways you can develop peripheral nerve damage:
  1. Diabetes (diabetic neuropathy) – elevations in blood sugar over time lead to accumulated damage to the nerves of the hands and feet. The damage nerves and subsequent reduced blood flow increase the risk for diabetic infections => gangrene => potential loss of the limb to prevent systemic sepsis.
  2. Trauma – physical damage to the nerves exiting the spinal cord can cause neuropathic pain syndromes.
  3. Disc herniation – herniation of an intervertebral disc can put pressure on the nerves exiting the spine. This pressure can disrupt nerve flow leading to pain, numbness and tingling, and in subsequently muscle degeneration.
  4. Toxic Metal Exposure – Excessive or chronic lead and mercury exposure can cause damage to the nerves leading to the symptoms of neuropathy. Both of these heavy metals are known neurotoxins. Common sources of lead exposure typically come from polluted industrial environments, old plumbing (lead was once used to solder pipes together), and old paints. Gasoline used to be leaded but is no longer. Because lead toxicity is accumulative over time, and stores in the tissues, it can sometimes take years to manifest as a problem. Mercury exposure can come from contaminated fish, vaccinations, and from silver amalgams (fillings used in dentistry).
  5. Vitamin Deficiencies – there are several nutrient deficits that can cause neuropathy. The most common include vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-1 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 is a key ingredient that the body uses to produce the coating (myelin sheath) around the nerves. This coating serves to insulate nerves much in the same way that the lining around an electrical wire serves to insulate. Without the myelin sheath, nerve function deteriorates and neuropathy can set in. Vitamin B1 deficiency leads to a disease called Beri Beri. This condition causes neurological damage and manifests as peripheral neuropathy.

Last But Not Least Gluten Sensitivity (#6)-

Unfortunately, most doctors won’t consider gluten induced nerve damage in their initial work up with patients. Over the past many years, gluten has been shown to induce an autoimmune response to nerve tissue. Most recently gluten was implicated as a cause of gluten induced ataxia. Gluten is also known to damage the gut inducing malabsorption of vitamins and minerals (such as vitamins B1 and B12). Gluten has also been shown to contribute to blood brain barrier damage (leaky brain). To top it off, the following list of neurological conditions have all been linked to gluten sensitivity. I have hyperlinked these for you to review more details:

Medical Study Identifies Peripheral Neuropathy Resolves in Many With Gluten Sensitivity

The following is a direct quote from the research:
Gluten sensitivity can engender neurologic dysfunction, one of the two commonest presentations being peripheral neuropathy. Out of a total of 409 patients with different types of peripheral neuropathies, 53 (13%) had clinical and neurophysiologic evidence of sensory ganglionopathy. Out of these 53 patients, 17 (32%) had serologic evidence of gluten sensitivity. The mean age of those with gluten sensitivity was 67 years and the mean age at onset was 58 years. Seven of those with serologic evidence of gluten sensitivity had enteropathy on biopsy. Fifteen patients went on a gluten-free diet, resulting in stabilization of the neuropathy in 11. The remaining 4 had poor adherence to the diet and progressed, as did the 2 patients who did not opt for dietary treatment. Autopsy tissue from 3 patients demonstrated inflammation in the dorsal root ganglia with degeneration of the posterior columns of the spinal cord. Sensory ganglionopathy can be a manifestation of gluten sensitivity and may respond to a strict gluten-free diet.
  1. Peripheral neuropathy. BMJ. 2002 Feb 23;324(7335):466-9.
  2. Neurology. 2010 Sep 14;75(11):1003-8.
Going gluten free will not reverse all cases of neuropathy, but doctors responsible for treating this condition on a regular basis should be brought up to speed on the possibility that gluten can play a major role in the development of the condition. Especially in light of the fact that the current medicinal treatment options have limited success. Help us spread the word and share this article with a neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, family doctor, or chiropractor as these doctors are most commonly helping and managing patients with this condition. Want more proof? Below is a patient I recently treated with this condition. She had full resolution without the need for surgery or medication…   Always looking out for you, Dr. O – The Gluten Free Warrior Leave your comments down below. Share your story, ask your questions, and be a part of our community 🙂

28 Responses

  1. I WISH Dr. Peter Osborne would come to Massachusetts and give the Dr.s in my area important information about Gluten…I’ve spent nearly 20 years going to Dr. after Dr. only to be told time after time after time that there was NOTHING wrong with me. One Dr. went so far as to tell me that I must be a little crazy…food couldn’t possibly make me this ill…..THANK YOU Dr. Osborne for the break-through information. I finally got the answers I have been searching for….You videos have opened my eyes to an entirely different world and now I am sharing it with so many!!! THANK YOU!

  2. These are all very good causes of nerve damage. The one that is not listed is prescription drugs. I took benzodiazepines for many years. The doctors misdiagnosed me with SADD, ADD, GAD, bipolar, etc. before being diagnosed with Celiac disease. Since I have been on a strict gluten free diet, I have not had anymore depression or anxiety. But, I have gone through terrible withdrawal from benzodiazepines which has caused significant nerve damage. Psych drugs especially are rampant along with bad diet.

    1. Medication induced PN is often ignored. The list of medications which can cause it is growing. Here is just one link: Most doctors are either ignorant of the link or don’t take it seriously. I stopped benzo’s cold turkey 3 years ago after being on them for decades. My physician attributes my PN to them and lithium.

    2. On the off chance you get this, I’m trying to find help for a friend with severe neuropathy due to benzo withdrawal. She is 17 months out and feeling hopeless. How long did you take to heal?

  3. I aquired Peripheral Neuropathy from the use of dilantin for epilepsy. Dr. would not tell me the reasons, so I had to do my own research, before the age of computers. It got so bad, I was in a wheelchair for years. I weaned myself off that prescription, and use another. It was years before the daily pain left, now it just shows up when it is cold out, and I walk a lot on concrete. On a gluten free diet for 10 yr. now for 2 colon diseases.

  4. I’m happy to report (apart from the freezing cold feet) that my neurologist alerted me to a likely cause being my gluten intolerance. He is up to speed with the academic side of things, and is awaiting availability of better testing and treatment. I guess you’re aware also of a recent very successful trial in Australia of treating gluten intolerance with hookworm larvae injected into the bloodstream. Now they are working on the larvae to extract material for a more suitable route.

    I agree with Cindy about the terrible experience with benzodiazapines. They actually make me moody, and it took a whole six years to go through withdrawal. I was also classified a Borderline or Bipolar, but when free of benzos the moodiness went.

  5. I am in my late 60’s and 5 years-ago I started to suddenly get numbness in my feet followed by terrible pain that made it almost impossible to walk. I went to my local ER & they said it might be Diabetes but I was not Diabetic. I did have Hashimoto hypothyroid issues and a goiter. So to make my story short I didn’t get any relief or help from drugs, in fact they made it worse! Everything from Lyrica, Neurontin, and Cymbalta made my symptoms worse! So after 4 years I did the research on the Internet and found the gluten-free diet solution and it helped immensely! The last year before I went on a gluten-free diet I screamed in pain and would not be able to walk at all for weeks on end. Thank God I found out about gluten and how it affected me! I encourage anyone that has these issues to try it! It took me about 3 months to get relief & I will never go back! I also had a “band” around my head that bothered me before the gluten-free diet and one day I told my husband, “OMG the band around my head is gone!”. I don’t know what caused that but it is a relief! Blessings to you all and I hope this will help someone else!

  6. KC,
    That is a great story.
    Could you please describe what you mean by a “band” around your head?
    A rash? Discoloration? Swelling?

  7. Hi, I have been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I have tingling and numbness in my hands every morning upon waking. I am on a gluten free diet. I hope that one day that upon waking my hands will not be feeling this way. I am 57 years old and type on a computer at work for 8 hours a day.

    I am so grateful to my Doctor, as I had been having stomach issues for years and thought it was a nervous stomach, when it was actually Celiac Disease.

  8. My mom has been going to chemotberapy and all the syptoms are aloke as i read above any solutions or anything that can help

  9. I get tingling in the back of my head along with severe pain and pain down neck to upper back, burning in my feet and numbness in arms and hands when I eat bread or cookies. What test should I ask for? I feel really bad. Also feels like a weight is in my stomach after I eat gluten items.

  10. Since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I have a complete intolerance to gluten. Any ingested contact produces widespread nerve pain in my skin…feels like I have a sunburn head to toe, as well as neuropathy in my hands and feet. The skin pain subsides, but the feet neuropathy is constant to varying degrees. I’ve given up running, still walk and hike as much as possible. There is always some skin sensitivity right about my waist in back. Could B vitamins, as mentioned above, or something else still be irritating me? What kind of Dr do I see to pursue relief?

    1. Hi Diana,
      Yes, it is common for B vitamin deficiency to play a role in neuropathy, especially in those with a history of gluten sensitivity. You should also consider the possibility of other food allergies as well as the potential for gut dysbiosis. If you are looking for a doctor who can help, you can either call 281-240-2229 or visit this link
      All the best,
      Dr. Osborne

  11. I started avoiding gluten and soy to try and help my vitiligo. My diet is very close to a Paleo diet. How wonderfully surprised I was to have my feet return to normal, a bad shoulder no longer a pain, a sore hand joint cleared up and yes, after about 8 months, a reversal of my vitiligo. If I eat pizza, chocolate, or sushi dipped in soy, I’ll have little reminders that I should be avoiding those — tip of toes are tingly, a bit of foot inflamation. I also used to have back numbness in “facial” muscles just under the skin… gone. There was a time I could barely walk in bare feet due to nerve pain. Screw orthotics, drop gluten! 51 now. Feel like 30. Symptoms began around age 39. Changed diet at 49. No looking back. Oh, I drink wine and not beer.

  12. This could be helpful. Have to reread to take it in & process.
    Don’t really have pain in feet just burning,sometimes a throbbing, but not all the time. Have had lot of lower back damage/pain over the yrs.
    Dr thinks could come from that. I’m 73yrs.

  13. I went gluten free and dairy free at the suggestion of a functional medical practitioner who was trying to help me to get a handle on my hashimoto’s thyroid disease. The most wonderful thing happened about a month into the new lifestyle! The nerve pain in my mouth started to go away!! I thought this was something I was going to have to tolerate for the rest of my life. I had no idea these two things could be connected and was so thrilled, words can’t describe! She also recommended I read “No Grain No Pain”, and I did. Ok, now I get the connection. My mother has celiac disease and I was told I was negative for this disease and no one (not my doctor, not the neurologist I had to see for the nerve pain, nor my dentist, made the connection to gluten. I’m not “fixed”, but I am so much better and now feel I have a hopeful future again.

  14. I have had neuropathy in feet and now hands go numb. My feet hurt and I know the difference between pins and needles and having what they feel like after certain foods. I go gluten free but even gluten free has the same bad affect. My family dr, my podiatrist and psychiatrist say food has nothing to do with my problem. I do not know where to turn next. Can you help me?

  15. Neuropathy, most definitely. One is born with celiac…recently had what I thought was a mild stroke. My neurologist diagnosed it as ” vascular Migraines.”
    This all stems
    from celiac…my Ferretin level was 7 when I was admitted to the hospital in 2014… That episode was a TIA.
    This condition wreaks havoc with the body as it can deplete the essential nutrients…

  16. How does one know if they have celiac disease or is gluten intolerant? I have had memory and confusion issues for a few years. Last Aug 2016, I started getting numbness and pain in my toes and it has progressed half way up my calves, into my hands and now my lips and throat. I am hypothyroid and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s this past summer. I’ve seen the endocrinologist, neurologist, and orthopedic doctors. My sensory nerves test at 0 when they should be 2.5 or higher. I am thinking I have to quit working because my mind is so crazy and my body is failing. I had a spinal tap last weekend that I’m waiting for the results on. It’s just so frustrating.

  17. I have foot drop from peripheral neuropathy due to glucose intolerance. It is in both of my legs. Supposedly the nerves down the front of my legs are shot. Is there anything that can be done to remedy this.

  18. Dr Osborne I get an electrical like shock on the back of my right leg where my knee is. It’s not my knee just the back in that area. Has been going on for about 8 months now. I also have a lot of pain in the joints and muscles at night when I’m sleeping that wakes me up I was diagnosed with gluten sensitive a couple of years ago. I didn’t really do a lot to change my diet until about three weeks ago I went totally gluten-free I still haven’t noticed a change in the electrical shocks, if anything it seems like I’m getting them more now. Just wanting to know if the electrical shocks can because by gluten? Hi just done a food allergy test and will get back the results in two more weeks, maybe this will give me more insight what’s wrong with my body right now. What type of foods do you think just a person eat when going gluten free? Thank you

  19. I was diagnosed with celiac disease several years ago and always avoided gluten. Last year at the end of May I went through a divorce and was under a great deal of stress and financial strain so I stopped eating gluten free. I thought it would just upset my stomach, but by Oct. I noticed I started having trouble getting up and maintaining my balance. I had my couch put up on risers, I began using a raised toilet seat, and used a walker. By Nov. I could barely walk, and was admitted to the hospital. They determined I probably needed physical therapy so I was admitted to a rehab facility for several months. Once my insurance ran out I was released back home in a wheelchair, using a slide board for transfers, along with a bariatric toilet, and shower seat. I was completely unable to stand, or extend my legs out. My legs are numb and tingly, but I do not experience any pain. I also have some numbness in my finger tips. I am undergoing IVIG treatments every 3 weeks and have seen some improvement over the past 3 months. I am now able to extend my legs, but still unable to stand. I have been reading about neuropathy especially that related to gluten sensitivity. I am wondering if this is what caused my issue. My neurologist has suggested CIDP, or Guillian Burre, but my research has led me to believe those are not my issue. I have resumed a gluten free lifestyle since the beginning of the year. I am just wondering if my gluten intake last year has caused my issue, and now that I have resumed a gluten free lifestyle and am undergoing treatment will this resolve the nerve problems.

  20. I’m commenting in regards to my boyfriend he’s been having very odd symptoms for about 6 months he’s done every test and x. Ray that I can think of more recently he’s completely fasted for 24 hours and was symptom free then when he began to eat the following day he got itchy All over muscle twitches and numbness in his arms and feet does anyone know what could cause this and who we should go to next for help ? (He did eat gluten and dairy )


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