Sunday, November 21, 2010

Do you suffer "Gluten-Brain"? The neurological manifestation of Celiac Disease exposed...

If you ever needed confirmation that Gluten can lead to a lack of proper brain-functioning and/or other nervous-system disorders and symptoms thereof (without the presence of gastrointestinal manifestations as well), an article by David Perlmutter, M.D (a Board-Certified Neurologist) that I read today is sure to be enlightening.

The article discussed the case history of a 9-year old child that was previously undiagnosed (with Celiac Disease) and suffered from no particular symptoms that would make one immediately think: "Celiac!"; there was no history of the typical abdominal symptoms that doctors first associate with Celiac Disease, but rather a variable amount of cognitive impairment manifesting as difficulty thinking, memory issues, and general academic performance decline.

What caught the attention of Dr. Perlmutter was the fact that although "...she [the 9-year old patient] had no significant medical problems in her past and her overall physical, as well as neurological examinations were entirely normal...", [...] "...her problems were not constant, indicating that basically her brain was intact but something seemed to be detrimentally influencing her from time to time, causing her to have these significant issues with respect to how her brain functioned."  Dr. Perlmutter recognized the possibility that DIET was perhaps the culprit (due to the fluctuating cognitive impairment), and ran blood tests that confirmed a profound sensitivity to gluten in this girl.

Within just a couple weeks of implementing a strict gluten-free diet for this young patient, the girl experienced a remarkable change in her cognitive function (for the better), and this improvement in symptoms continued over the next several months as the gluten-free diet was maintained.  Her parents reported the following:
"Karen is completing third grade this year. Prior to removing gluten from her diet, academics, especially math, were difficult. As you can see, she is now soaring in math. Based upon this test, entering the fourth grade next year, she would be at the top of her class. The teacher indicated that if she skipped fourth grade and went to fifth grade, she would be in the middle of her class. What an accomplishment!"
WOW! Gluten was knocking this girl's brain for a loop, and once it was removed from her diet, she quickly returned to normal functioning!  This is certainly more evidence for why we need to maintain a STRICT GLUTEN-FREE DIET if we want to live life to the fullest and function normally. 

I personally can tell the difference gluten makes (with regards to my thinking process) if I am accidentally exposed to it these days, and I have other friends (with gluten sensitivity / gluten intolerance) that have repeatedly experienced "gluten brain" whereby they find it difficult to think, formulate thoughts, and even articulate themselves in a coherent fashion.  This condition is not one to be taken lightly, and we need to avoid gluten 100%.

Hopefully the medical community at large will begin to receive further education into the devastating effects of Celiac Disease -- effects that go beyond the GI tract and into our gray matter.  Like the author (Dr. Perlmuter) states:
Standard medical text books typically describe celiac disease (gluten sensitivity) as being primarily a gastrointestinal problem. I recall in medical school being taught that celiac disease was characterized by abdominal pain, abdominal distention with bloating and gas, decreased appetite, diarrhea, nausea, unexplained weight loss and growth delay in children. Newer research indicates that celiac disease can have a profound effect on the nervous system.
And, if that quote is not enough, when you start seeing the words TOXIC and BRAIN in the same sentence discussing a condition you have (Celiac), it is time to really snap to attention and take notice:
Dr. Maios Hadjivassiliou of the United Kingdom, a recognized world authority on gluten sensitivity, has reported in the journal, The Lancet, that "gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times, exclusively a neurological disease." That is, people can manifest gluten sensitivity by having issues with brain function without any gastrointestinal problems whatsoever. Dr. Hadjivassiliou indicates that the antibodies that a person has when they are gluten sensitive can be directly and uniquely toxic to the brain.
EEK!  I do not want any brain-toxins in MY body, thank you!  This type of article may make me even more paranoid about my desire to remain free of gluten, though it seems my concern stems from substantial scientific basis.  I take quite a few precautions to keep (wheat, rye, barley) gluten out of my diet, and I will maintain vigilance with regards to this task as I go through life.   This is an allergy not to be taken lightly.

I do not want to suffer "gluten brain" ever again!  Although the article focused on the manifestation of what I call "gluten brain" (i.e., cognitive impairment) in children affected with gluten-sensitivity, the fact is this condition affects ADULTS as well.  I personally experienced severe bouts of cognitive impairment and neurological manifestations prior to discovering I had Celiac Disease.  It was a terrible period in my life, and I never want to end up like that again.  This disease nearly killed me before I knew what it was that was destroying me (i.e., gluten), and it took years for some of the symptoms to abate and/or disappear completely.  The periods of being dizzy all the time, living with parathesia (rather badly) in my feet, being unable to think clearly, and more... that is gone, along with the gluten.  Doctors I dealt with during that time of my life had, quite literally, no experience with Celiac Disease and never even considered it... luckily my brain was functioning (on "good days") enough to perform my own research discover Celiac Disease before it was too late.  It would have been nice if someone else (e.g., doctors) would have considered this prior to all those tests: MRI, CT, EKG, EEG, and a boatload of others I just assume forget.  I wonder if today those same doctors I dealt with a mere 7 or 8 years ago are now educated in spotting the neurological symptoms of Celiac Disease? They had better be... if this information is out there on the Internet for the average person to learn about, I expect medical professionals to get up to speed as well.

I hope Dr. Perlmutter's article, and additional emerging research, prevents others from ever having to go through this, or at the very least I hope it helps medical professionals (and the population at large) develop an awareness that leads to very early identification of the condition before Celiac Disease / Gluten substantially reduce the quality of life for anyone else.  

NOTE: The original article I referenced herein appears on the Huffington Post website: Gluten Impacts the Brain


~M said...

I have definitely experienced gluten sucks. Plus, I was constantly irritable. :(

I also get corn brain fog, especially if it's processed corn (tortillas, HFCS, etc.) so I avoid it too.

Flower said...

Wow! That's probably the best response I can give. . . wow!
I've been off of gluten for about a year now (admittedly cheating) but I was never really given any good reasoning. I suffer from fibromyalgia and I was told by my chiropractor to get off the gluten and maybe I would stop hurting. The pain only decreased a little, but I knew I was feeling better but couldn't figure out why. I thought it had to do with the season change(I do better in the summer) or maybe the slight increase in activity.

I'd experiment and eat gluten here and there, and while the pain increased it wasn't as noticeable as when the days got cold, but I knew I didn't function quite as well. This article makes perfect sense! And while there are days when I want to throw my hands in the air and give up on the diet, I now have a better understanding and more incentive to stick to it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Autism Mom Rising said...

Yes, this totally happened to me...but it is not just gluten that does this to me is dairy, corn, soy, nuts, and foods high in oxalic acids. I only found out when my son was dx's Autistic and I had to put him on a special diet. Had that happened I'd never have know!

Lea said...

I'm sure that I have gluten brain, but I am so poor at observing myself. Looking back, I know that my oldest son did when he was growing up. At that time I didn't really know about gluten sensitivity and thought it was just a "carbohydrate" thing. I always knew when he had sandwich of any kind. He just went bonkers. I think getting him off gluten back then would have made life so much easier for us all.