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Leaky Brain, Seizures (epilepsy), & Gluten Sensitivity

New research draws a connection between gluten induced leaky brain damage and seizure disorders (epilepsy).

Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg?

It has long been held that chronic seizures cause blood-brain barrier (BBB) damage. Recent studies have also demonstrated that BBB damage triggers seizures.


Brain Res. 2010 Sep 24;1353:176-86. Epub 2010 Jun 27. Mov Disord. 2009 Oct 30;24(14):2162-3. We know that gluten sensitivity can cause seizure disorders. To that point, the Discovery Channel had an episode of Mystery Diagnosis that featured a young boy who responded to gluten by having seizures. Additionally, we know that gluten sensitivity can contribute to blood brain barrier permeability (leaky brain). Now add to this the fact that a leaky brain will contribute to seizures and epilepsy. Thus the circle is complete. When added together these elements create a viscous unending cycle of perpetual food induced damage. Standard treatment for seizure disorders is typically medication (antiepileptic medication or AED’s). Unfortunately, the drugs do not actually correct the seizure disorder, they just reduce the occurrence of seizures through the artificial manipulation of brain chemistry. The real question is, why are the seizures occurring in the first place. Too often doctors look for a symptomatic fix over the origin of the problem. This leaves patients no better off and in many cases worse off because the medications used for epilepsy lead to B-vitamin deficiency. B-vitamin deficiency can cause neurological disease, contribute to seizures, neuropathy, and so on and so on and so on…

And so we wonder how many people with seizure disorders are gluten sensitive?

And because epilepsy is for the most part diagnosed by doctors (primarily neurologists) who don’t recognize the important contribution that food plays on health and disease, medication is the first line of treatment. If you ask the doctor what the cause of the disease is, the most common reply is – “The cause is unknown, but most likely genetic.” (unknown etiology) How long can we justify the use of powerful drugs that have equally powerful side effects to treat a disease that in many cases could be easily treated with a simple dietary change? And so we wait for doctors to open their eyes to the possibility that epilepsy (seizure disorders) can be caused by gluten exposure. Wishing you excellent health, Dr. Osborne – AKA – The Gluten Free Warrior Please share this article to facebook or twitter if you think it can help someone you love.

40 Responses

  1. I wish my doctors would have told me of this before I was sick for 20 years and given the run around..and meds that scrambled my eggs..and made me drool!! Feeling Better now, Thank God!

  2. I was an undiagnosed celiac for approximately 32 years. Of that, I was prescribed epilepsy drugs that did not control my partial complex seizures for over 18 years. At a point after going gluten free, although my seizures were decreasing, they had not disappeared and a new neurologist (to me) put me through the full testing again, this time in-patient, and said I did not have epilepsy. She didn’t know what caused my seizures, but they were not epilepsy and she took me off my meds and sent me home. I still have some seizures and I do not ever cheat on my gluten-free diet. If all those years of gluten was the cause of my seizures, I hope that someday they will stop especially since I have been gluten free, completely, for over 6 years now.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Michelle. I would encourage you to eat TRUE gluten free (no grains at all). Often this eliminates residual symptoms that a traditional gluten free diet does not. I would also recommend having a spectracell test performed to identify nutritional deficiencies.
      Wishing you excellent health,
      Dr. O

    2. I’m losing trust in medications for epilepsy as I agree with you Michelle – the Dr.’s said they believed I had myelin sheath damage after Meningitis as a baby but now I see a light at the end of the tunnel, believing now that was just a plausible explanation. Knowing now there is a connection between gluten intolerance which I discovered 12 years ago (when I was 49) in the library – according to my symptoms – and now able to only eat gluten-free foods. Also I know now Lamictal blocks vitamin D absorption – a defeciency of D can cause seizures. Things are just coming together after so many years of misery. Leon

    3. Michelle, my wife is experiencing a very similar scenario to yours. About every three months she goes into a non epileptic seizure. She is totally gluten free, on top of the celiac she also has approximately 21 other food allergies. She suffered from severe colitis in her 20″s for about 7 years and she has recently been diagnosed with MTHFR, a genetic disorder and not very many doctors have even heard of it and as it described to me it’s the root cause of all Illness and I want to say 20 to 30% of the population have it. I like to call it mother F*+cker it sucks

    4. My kids are celiac off the charts. FYI
      Spices such as pepper are made on the same machine and therefore cross contained

    5. Have you tried going completely gluten free? Meaning eliminating all gluten cross contamination as well? Even products that are gluten free and labeled as such can be processed on equipment and in facilities that also process gluten. Try a natural supplement called gluten ease.

  3. My five year old daughter has seizures for two days four an hour if she eats anything with gluten or dairy. No seizure meds control them!

  4. The day I reintroduced gluten back into my diet (after a 3 months break) coincided with my first ever fit. I can now detect gluten in foods by the brain effects – sudden memory & cognitive impairment, weakness, visual effects, speech impaired. Im ok as long as I don’t get glutened.

    1. This is similar to my case. I had undiagnosed celiac disease until my 30s. I had a lot of neuro symptoms, many associated with hypothyroidism, but my meds didn’t help. My seizures started at 14, and got worse w age. I was always sick, light- headed, and dizzy when riding in a car, plane,etc. The symptoms got so bad I couldn’t drive anymore. My arms would go completely numb during sleep. My eeg said my seizures were non-epileptic. Gluten free eating stopped ALL of my symptoms I had my entire life. I need to take vitamin d and b complex, as well as magnesium and iron, and I’m ok. If I accidentally eat gluten I will have the numbness and partial seizures for a few days. I feel my life was saved. I literally felt like I was dying. And to find out the culprit was food was amazing. I had been on beta blockers, anxiety meds, anti seizures meds. Nothing ever helped

  5. My daughter was diagnosed with JME when she was 11, she is 15 now and doctors believe she has this rare disease called Leber’s Optic Neuropathy LHON. Has anyone made a connection with gluten and vision or optic nerve?

    1. Yes I have only just spoke to my doc after 30 some years of nystamus, dizziness, partial complex seizures and migraines I researcher on the net kinda said he’ll ill try gluten free now after only 1.5 months gf I’ve had a gluttening and my eyes went nuts really bad nystagmus and dizziness brain fog etc… Yes there is an ocular connection google gluten ataxia it’s very eye-opening.

  6. Gluten and cross reactive foods give me all sorts of symptoms. One of them is blurry vision which slowly dissipates once I have stopped the offending food.As a matter of interest I react to rice, potatoes,eggs,soya, dairy ,coffee (decaf too) and of course gluten. I am hoping the cross reactions will go away eventually………not sure about that.

  7. OMGoodness all these threads are so informative. I had a complex partial seizure 3 months ago. Now that my brain is able to process better I have been researching what could of caused this seizure when NO history exists. I also have a phytobezoar (which is like a vegetable hair ball stuck in your stomach). Between the research between the seizure and the cause of the bezoar 12 of the daily or prn medications rx’s and otc’s can cause both seizures and bezoars. I also had a niessen fundloplication 8 years ago and it has side effects from the surgery. I have weaned off all my medications and otc’s ,due to the over 25 side effects I was having and reported to the MD and was told just stay on all my meds until my appt in 2 months. AH HELLO MD…the side effect sheet says if you have any of these side effects contact your MD. I figured if it wasn’t importantant enought for them to see me to address the side effects I would research out what to do and listen to my own body. Now I am researching out diets that can help. I will put this gluten free one on my list and see what happens. It is said that I pay $$$$$$ to an MD to help diagnosis these problems for me. I give them all my history and meds and I get nothing but a bill$$$$ and a “gee I don’t know”. Thank God for the internet and the ability to discuss these problem with others. It has taken me many hours of research because of all the cross related issues, but now I had a list of ideas and theories with, written back up, I can present to my MD to get a second opinion from them. All I can do is be my own best patient advocate so I know what questions to ask my MD, but LOL since I have already researched out the info I will know the answer and they won’t. Prayers to all to keep researching and prayers for a productive and healthier lifestyle. 😉

    1. Michelle, my wife is experiencing a very similar scenario to yours. About every three months she goes into a non epileptic seizure. She is totally gluten free, on top of the celiac she also has approximately 21 other food allergies. She suffered from severe colitis in her 20″s for about 7 years and she has recently been diagnosed with MTHFR, a genetic disorder and not very many doctors have even heard of it and as it described to me it’s the root cause of all Illness and I want to say 20 to 30% of the population have it. I like to call it mother F*+cker it sucks

      1. Your MD does not know the relationship that diet and health have. I think its amazing that traditional medicine only know about what RX can ease the symptoms. Talk to a naturalist.

    2. Pamela, to be gluten free you can not any breads unless they are special gluten free breads. So many kings contain gluten you have to be very careful. There are a few apps to scan products, I use one called the gluten scanner full version. Also, companies are getting better about making things gluten free and labeling them as such

      1. To Artie and Pamela – To be truly gluten free, according to Dr. Osborne, you need to avoid ALL grains. That includes things like Rice, Corn, Oats which are often used as a wheat substitute in commercial breads. If I were you, I’d make your own bread and baked goods using non grain flours like Almond, coconut, cassava, and such. Also be aware that Baking Powder is not gluten free despite it’s label. It has corn in it. Research this, and other foods you are eating. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been ingesting thinking you were gluten free. I’ve been trying to do the grain free thing since December 2020 and am still discovering gluten in foods, personal care products, spices, supplements, etc, that I had no idea were a problem. I do NOT trust any processed food that says it’s gluten free. Unless the label says grain free, I don’t even pick it up to look at it. And even then I contact the company to find the sources of their ingredients or if they are processed on the same equipment that gluten products are made on. Do your research and make sure to watch Dr. Osborne on Youtube on Monday nites where you can post questions and he’ll answer live! Such a great service. Check it out.

  8. Oh my! I went to see a private nutrients, and was advised that I was intolerant to wheat, barley, oats, rye, milk and soya, however I’m not entirely sure whether this means if I am a coeliac or not.

    I did get tested for wheat a few years ago many years ago by my then neurologogist but, he said that the test came back as negative, I queried this with my doctor, who asked if when being tested I was eating wheat, and I said No, in which to my surprise he said that it would of come back as negative anyway then as it was not in my system to test. I was not happy.

    Can anyone advise me exactly what foods need to be cut out, if I was to try a totally gluten free diet, and what types of bread could I eat,nor alternatively make myself.

  9. My sons epilepsy was so severe he has ended up with Autism and severe learning disabilities, at his worst he was having 13 fits a day… I had him tested at Newcastle University in the height of all the controversy about the MMR etc and he was gluten and dairy intolerant. But I never informed his GP so now he has no record of being tested.
    He is now in a residential care home and they have taken him off the gluten and dairy free diet he was on…
    I am very interested in getting him tested again if it is not too intrusive, please could you let me know any details..

    Many thanks
    Nicky Killick

    1. There is a celiac blood panel that is run for the first step in diagnosing celiac disease. It can include TTG and some of the gluten antibodies. If that is not definitive, they may run a genetic blood test to see if you have the gene necessary to get celiac. This test can rule out celiac disease, but cannot confirm it. If these tests need confirmation, the next step is an endoscopy with biopsy. It is similar to a colonoscopy, but they put the tube/camera in through the mouth, usually with sedation. They check the small intestine for damage.

      All but the genetic testing require the patient to be eating gluten for many weeks to ensure reliable test results. If you do not eat enough gluten, the damage to the blood and body will not be there to be found and you will get a false negative on the tests.

  10. I became intolerant to gluten seven years ago and now believe I am just right out allergic to it. Any amount sends me into the bathroom and flulike for days. I get rashes and swelled joints and migraines. My dr said he can give me a diagnosis of celiac but I would have to eat wheat for four weeks!! No thanku. But I have started to have siezures. Two in the last two months. Could it be from gluten free eating or from years of eating gluten.

  11. I went to my neurologist and told her that whenever I ate eggs, it triggers off my seizures and she did even asked me what diet I was on. She just prescribed the medication and changed the route I am to take the medication. I researched what cause seizure and and it indicated that my diet should be gluten-free. I am going to go to the supermarket and pick out these foods and see what happens. Thank God.

    1. Hi Latoya
      I work in healthcare and have noted many cases where seizures were greatly controlled by removing gluten (some were having several daily seizures and now none !). I wonder how many others diagnosed with ‘epilepsy’ are actually gluten intolerant. Our local neurologist doesn’t accept that gluten could be a cause (despite so many cases where the removal of gluten has resulted in a significant improvement). Personally I experience the brain effects first and then the gut effects secondarily. Apart from avoiding gluten I use curcumin as an anticonvulsant, and keep magnesium, calcium & zinc levels up.
      Best of luck.

    1. Kathy, if gluten is causing issues for you or if you are eliminating gluten to see if what is affecting you gets better than yes cross contamination must be avoided

  12. I agree gluten can cause seizures but also mercury poisoning from silver fillings and Epstein Barr Virus can cause seizures.unfortantly very few doctors are taught to look for causes of seizures. They just know to prescribe toxic medication.. Don’t give up there are alternative doctors that do care. It takes time to find them.

  13. My daughter developed a rash at 12 months old consisted of lots (100+) small white bumps. It appeared on the front of her arms, from the elbow to the shoulder, also on the front of her legs from her knee to her upper thigh. No other areas on her body had the rash. We took her to the GP who said it was likely to be a reaction to a cleaning product, also it could be a food allergy but thought it was unlikely since the rash would be all over her body. We eliminated various cleaning products, but the rash did not subside. My sister suggested gluten as the cause so I started cutting out bread and pasta. I didn’t realise how many foods contain gluten and gluten additives at this stage, so she was probably still getting gluten, but no where near as much. Her rash started subsiding a bit but was still present.

    She was breastfeed until approx 15 months. This had been difficult but I was determined that she be breastfed. At approx 15 months my daughter started having Absence-like Seizures however, her eyes were closed rather than the typical blank stare associated with Absence Seizures so they were called episodes rather than seizures. She had these sporadically, sometimes none per day, sometimes 14 per day. This was over a period of 10 days. She also started waking up in the night crying rubbing her head a lot, we thought she might have headaches. She had a hospital stay to investigate and was seen by the leading Pediatrician, he thought Absence Seizures and ordered an EEG, the results came back clear, no seizure activity detected despite having had an “episode” in the 24 hours leading up to the EEG. We went home with no solution but just to keep an eye on it, record any, and come back if it got worse. Her developmental milestones were being met easily so they weren’t too concerned. At this stage we had no idea that gluten could be a cause of the seizures, we didn’t link the rash AND seizures to gluten, just the rash.

    One day, a couple of months later, I gave her a bit of bread to see what would happen, within 60 seconds of giving her bread, a red bumpy rash appeared on her face, on her cheeks (not forehead or chin). She was up that night crying and with flatulence and head rubbing. We started cutting out gluten strategically from then, checking labels for hidden gluten and buying “gluten free” products (pasta, bread, tomato sauce) but mainly her diet was meat, fruit, dairy because I didn’t like the sound of “modified tapioca starch” that is a main ingredient in GF food.

    We had another bout of the seizures over a three day period a couple of months later and saw the Ped again – again no solution, but suspected epilepsy but thought she was too young and the seizures too mild to go on meds. I thought antibiotics could be a cause as she had amoxicillin both times before the seizure bouts. I had also done some research on the link between antibiotics and behavioural ticks, as we werent sure at this stage if they were even seizures.

    We saw a homeopathic expert a couple of weeks later who thought gluten was causing the seizures through leaky gut. We read some articles online about the link between gluten and seizures, and leaky gut. We cut back the gluten even more, and she started on enzymes to help her gut and homeopathic remedies. The seizures stopped. The rash reduced more.

    Five months later, she was accidentally given a barley spread to eat one day (at playgroup). Three days later, she had three seizure like episodes (this time the blank stare that characterizes with Absence Seizures was present in all three). That was a week ago. I found this website and watched the Discovery Channel story about the boy. We’re now fairly confident that her seizures are caused by gluten. This time she did not have any antibiotics, and she has had other antibiotics over the period without seizures. I think antibiotics worsen the situation by reducing good gut bacteria but that gluten is the cause. We’re not sure if she is Caeliac, she is too young to do the camera/biopsy tests and we will ABSOLUTELY NOT (hell will freeze over before this happens) put her on a gluten diet to have these tests be more reliable. We’ve learnt about the genetic testing that doesn’t require adding gluten to her diet and are starting to investigate if this is available in our country.

    My husband and I have no reaction to gluten we are aware of. However, it seems gluten is VERY LIKELY the cause of my daughter’s seizures, rash, waking up at night, head rubbing. My daughter is now 22 months old and does not eat any wheat, barley or rye based products. However, she does have rice, corn, maize and sorghum based products – daily. I’ve watched the presentation by Dr Osborne via this website that these grains contain gluten proteins (the proteins have a different name). I’m not sure if my daughter should be eating these or if these are okay. Suggestions please…

    Also, interestingly, at approx 3 months old, my daughter had a significantly bulging intestine it looked like a huge lump under her skin. We took her to the GP. He thought perhaps hernia but no vomiting so ruled that out. All her signs and behaviors were normal – so he thought she just needed to grow in body size to catch up with the growth of her intestine and assured us everything was okay. I look back on this now and think what nonsense – he didn’t have the enlarged intestine from birth. Basically just a big ball like bump appeared in that area one day and then went away a week later. Now I wonder if it was linked to this gluten business. Anyone else had a similar experience?

  14. For 10 years now I have had no grains or any food with grains in it. I was having seizures on a regular basis before and it would start out with a migraine and was put on seizure meds. But my husband and my family doc wanted me to write down everything I eat every day and find the common food that was in my diet and take it out. It was grains. I don’t take seizure meds anymore and stay away from all grains including rice. Have not had a seizure in ten years got my life back and love it.

  15. My 13 year old son has been having partial complex seizures for almost 5 years. Prior to that he was diagnosed with ADHD, although those symptoms disappeared almost entirely (with the exception of poor memory and focus) when we cut out all dyes, artificial colors, additives, etc, and started eating organic. We tried seeing a natropath, three different chiropractors, a functional medicine doctor, etc, and none of it helped. We started to see a connection between what we thought was carbs and his seizures a couple of years in. We went on a self-prescribed atkins-style diet since the hospital we were at didn’t have a keto program and his doctor had no experience with keto. We then moved to a state that did have a hospital nearby with a keto clinic, and were allowed to begin the diet, even though his new neurologist didn’t agree with it either. He was put on a supervised “modified atkins diet” and was still allowed a little bit of grains. Seizures never disappeared and my fruit and veggie loving kid was absolutely miserable not being able to eat a healthy diet. We remained “mostly gluten free” for a year or so, and recently let him start eating a little bit of wheat at special occasions. We definitely noticed the past two times that a day or so after eating wheat, he had multiple seizures in the same day. We’re now convinced there is a connection, and are ready to go completely gluten/grain free. Now the difficult task or convincing his doctor that there is a connection so she’ll let him come off of meds. (Currently on med number 3, none of which have ever worked, even after numerous increased dosages). They’re wanting to switch him again, and I know in my heart that a) it won’t control his seizures b) the drugs are harming him c) the possible rewards do not outweigh the risks. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to find answers, have gone into debt trying “alternative treatments”, but have never felt closer to the answer than I do right now after finding Dr. O and this information!!

  16. My son had this.
    He deteriorated and having seizures including blinking, fidling hands, wetting himself, asking random questions and not knowing where he is. He also became exhausted all the time and was missing a lot of school. He had some gut symptoms which led to the gluten free diet. Gluten was given 6 months later and he had a absence seizure at home. He gets very exhausted with slight contamination. This is the first website I have seen that explains his symptoms completely. I think even the consultant was not convinced.
    Thank you for this brilliant explanation.

  17. The previous two comments fit my daughter to a tee. She started having frequent “episodes” that looked like seizures or cataplexy attacks, felt exhausted and ill all the time, and had constant constipation, diarrhea and stomach pain. We tried going gluten and dairy free, but without medical support (they didn’t think it would work) so we didn’t realize how careful we had to be about cross-contamination and so she kept on getting glutened occasionally…we thought it wasn’t working. We then underwent testing for narcolepsy / cataplexy but after two sleep studies they said this wasn’t what it was. Ruled out dysautonomia, heart problems, epilepsy, etc. We tried keto, which “worked” because it was also gluten free, but we didn’t realize we were still cross contaminating her and it wasn’t “working” all the way. We have now returned to a strict gluten free diet paying close attention to cross contamination and it is WORKING nearly 100%. Her stomach issues are much better, episodes are rare, and her mood and energy are back to normal. I pray that we have finally found the answer. I am frustrated that pediatric neurologists at both Duke and UNC seem to have no clue that gluten could be the cause of these symptoms.

  18. I am so glad I came across this page. Reading all the comments and comparing them to my nieces almost all fit in one way or another.

    My niece who is 5 years olds has been having seizures for the past three years. She would usually have one yearly this past year to current date she has had about four became worse and worse each time. They put her on medication Keppra and have up her dose since the seizures haven’t been controlled. The neurologist says that all her test blood works comes back negative. We are starting a gluten-free diet for her and hopefully she doesn’t have them so they can take her off the meds.

  19. My son is 11 years old. We have been aware that he has a gluten sensitivity but up until about 18 months ago felt it was just an intolerance. 18 months ago he started having “eye twitches” that he couldnt control. After like 3 weeks they went away. 5 months later they came back but worse, this time hands would clasp together and he would raise and lower his hands during the episode. Again after a few weeks they went away. They have now come back and again worse. He has what I would call a full seizure first thing in the morning for 3 days straight. In addition, he has about 25 “fits” (his body tenses up, he can’t speak, but can hear us console him) a night. They last about 20-30 seconds. I am positive that he has much more than a gluten sensitivity. We have gone completely grain free. My question is how long till his brain and gut repair themselves and these nighttime fits go away? It’s been 5 days.

  20. We are in same boat with out 12 yr old son, he has had seizures since 2011, due to febrile seizures. They switched when in second grade after he fell and hit head. We’ve had my son to several natural doctors and none has helped they dismissed the leaky gut find, we just found out our son is off the chart allergic to wheat, not so much to gluten, I’m wondering if he has celiac due to wheat issues and leaking gut . Since an seizure episode at dyslexic center he was placed on a waiting list, for getting help at the center even though he’s been going there for 2 other years and was already approved to get help, one episode, then because I do not have my son on drugs I was turned in to a company that tries to take kids away . I’m reading these stories and know I’m not alone. Thank you God. I’ve heard horror stories but this gluten world leaky gut place is due to all the bad put in and on our foods.

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