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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Multiple Sclerosis and Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    The following research was compiled by Don Wiss and posted on the Celiac Listserv news group:

    The MS/gluten/casein connection is mostly only anecdotal as it has never really been studied. This is what I have (much contributed by Ron Hoggan):

    (1) Roger MacDougall was a famous British playwright, who was diagnosed with MS in the 1950s. The doctors felt it was best to keep the information from him. They thought it was in his best interests not to tell him what he had. It was not until he was bedridden that he learned what illness he had. When he knew about it, he did some reading, and went on a gluten & casein free diet. He recovered almost totally. This is from Can a Gluten-Free Diet Help? How? by Lloyd Rosenvold, M.D., [Keats Publishing, 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT 06840-0876, 1992, ISBN 0-87983-538-9]. MacDougall eventually wrote a pamphlet titled My Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis, pub 1980 by Regenics Inc, Mansfield, Ohio. Rosenvold also includes some other anecdotes in his book.

    (2) In the Oct. 5, 1974, Lancet, Dr. Norman A. Mathesons letter Multiple Sclerosis and Diet was published on p. 831, wherein he outlined his having been diagnosed with MS and subsequently reading Roger MacDougalls story. He then described his return to good health and ended with: I thank Roger MacDougall, whose diet made it possible to carry out these observations.

    (3) Ashton Embry has written an article MS - probable cause and best-bet treatment in which he discusses the dietary and food allergy links to MS.

    (4) In Gluten Intolerance by Beatrice Trum Hunter, Keats Publishing Inc. New Canaan, CT. ISBN 0-87983435-8 She talks about a Dr. R. Shatin in Australia who has suggested that an inherited susceptibility to multiple sclerosis is from a primary lesion in the small intestine resulting from gluten intolerance, and that the demyelination is secondary. Shatin suggested that the high incidence of multiple sclerosis in Canada, Scotland and western Ireland may be related to the predominant consumption of Canadian hard wheat, which has the highest gluten content of all wheat varieties. In contrast, the incidence of multiple sclerosis is low among indigenous Equatorial Africans who mainly consume non-gluten containing grains such as millet.

    (5) In Multiple Sclerosis, by Jan de Vries, Mainstream Publishing, (Thorntons?) UK it recommends absolutely no gluten and very high reduction of dairy products, refined sugar, and saturated fats. He says that one of his most successful case studies, confirm that absolutely not one pinch if flour i.e. absolutely no gluten at all... otherwise you are deceiving yourself.

    (6) According to Dr. Joe Murray at the University of Iowa there is the possibility that the MS patient suffers from a neurological complication of undiagnosed celiac disease. About 5% of celiac patients get nerve damage that can vary from tingling and numbness in the feet to confusion, memory loss, dizziness and loss of balance, visual abnormalities. This sometimes happen in the absence of GI symptoms.

    (7) Lutz, W.J., The Colonization of Europe and Our Western Diseases, Medical Hypotheses, Vol. 45, pages 115-120, 1995

    Dr. Lutz argues that there is a clear, inverse relationship between civilisatory diseases and the length of time the people of a given region of Europe have had to adapt to the high carbohydrate diet associated with the cultivation of cereal grains that was begun in the Near East, and spread very slowly through Europe.

    I quote from the first page of the article:

    In over thirty years of clinical practice, I have found, as published in numerous papers and several books (3, 4), that diet works well against Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, heart failure, acne and other problems.

    Don Wiss can e-mail a copy of the article text to those requesting.

    (8) There is a fellow named Dave Q that has recovered with a gluten-free diet and lots of supplements. He discusses this, along with other recovery stories.

    (9) There is supposedly a newsgroup for those interested in Natural Recovery of MS. Its alt.support.mult-sclerosis.alternatives. Ask your system administrator to add it if you cant find it. But it seems to be hard to find.

    (10) A page on Milk and MS is from the Carbondale Center for Macrobiotic Studies and blames dairy for the distribution of MS. Visit: http://www.macrobiotic.org/health3.html

    (11) The following is a list of articles in medical journals, which were published at about the time that prednisone became popular in the treatment of MS. They appear to connect MS with celiac-like intestinal morphology.

    • Cook, Gupta, Pertschuk, Nidzgorski Multiple Sclerosis and Malabsorption Lancet; June 24, 1978, p. 1366
    • Fantelli, Mitsumoto & Sebek Multiple Sclerosis and Malabsorption Lancet May 13, 1978 p. 1039-1040
    • Davison, Humphrey, Livesedge et al. Multiple Sclerosis Research Elsevier Scientific Publishing New York, 1975

    I find it curious that the connection between malabsorption and MS stopped at about the same time that prednisone and other such steroids became the treatment of choice for MS. As Im sure you know, prednisone incites the re-growth of the villi despite the ingestion of gluten, in the celiac gut. Investigators who did endoscopies on MS patients admit that they have not asked about the patients use of such drugs.

    (12) Some literature from the celiac view point:

    • Drs. Cooke & Holmes in Celiac Disease 1984; Churchill Livingstone, NY say that 10% of celiacs have neuropathic symptoms. Many appear to be associated with demyelination. Fineli et. al. echo that figure in Adult celiac disease presenting as cerebellar syndrome Neurology 1980; 30: 245-249.
    • Cooke & Holmes come right out and express some of their frustration with neurologists for ignoring the potiential for neuropathic celiac.
    • A new school has emerged, on the heels of the following report:
    • Hadjivassiliou, et. al. Does cryptic gluten sensitivity play a part in neurological illness? Lancet 1996; 347: 369-371
    • They found that 57 percent of those with neurological problems of unknown cause also had antibodies to gliadin, which is a component of gluten. Sixteen percent of them had celiac disease, a much higher level than normally found. Most of the patients with the anti-gliadin antibodies did not have other symptoms of celiac disease such as poor absorption of vitamins.

    (13) There is supposedly a book on MS written by a Greg Nooney, a fellow that has cured himself with a gluten-free diet. He may be in Colorado.

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    I was diagnosed with relapsing & remitting MS 18 months ago and have been following a gluten free and dairy free diet for almost one year now. I have not had any further relapses since my diagnosis, and while I cannot prove that this is due to the diet, my general health has certainly improved because of it.

    Frankly, the science makes sense.

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    I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and subsequently went on a diet free of: wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and carragean. I am on no medications for Multiple Sclerosis after 2 1/2 years on the diet. It has completely changed my life -- more research in this area is clearly needed.

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    Thank you for this article. I am currently doing my Thesis on this topic after knowing a loved one who saw amazing results with their Multiple Sclerosis after doing a gluten-free diet. If anyone reads this who has MS and would like to help me with my thesis (I need individuals testimony) I would greatly appreciate it!!!!

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    Message for Sarah...my daughter who is now 20 living in Toronto has gluten allergic (i.e., celiac).

    She has just recently displayed symptoms of MS. Currently not yet 100% confirmed, despite MRI's etc.

    I believe there is a connection. She has been cheating on the diet lately and now has these symptoms. She plans on now strictly adhering to diet so she might be a good case study and hopefully please god a success story too.

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    I have Celiac and I am have been gluten free for 5 years. I'm currently being tested for MS due to balance issues. Thanks for this article, I was wondering if there could be a connection.

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    Thank you for your website and this article. I was diagnosed with MS in 2002. My MD (not my neurologist) recommended that I go on the Gluten and Casein free diet. I have been gluten free for almost 5 months, but I have not yet eliminated dairy completely. I recently found out that my sister has celiac disease; my sister and I speculate that our mother's (now diseased) gastrointestinal issues were a manifestation of her celiac disease.

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    Thank you for creating this site in 1994. I developed gluten intolerance in 1995 and your site was the first and only place I found the info I needed to get my life back!

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    My mother was diagnosed with MS in 1991 and she passed away in 2008. I started getting the similar symptoms of balance problem, eyesight problem, numbness in right leg and difficulty walking. I read Roger Macdougall example and went on Gluten and Dairy free diet and I got a positive response within few weeks but lately I am cheating on my diet to see if the symptoms do re occur and I was surprised to see that it does.

    Now I am completely on gluten free but occasionally I do grab some pizza once a week, cant resist that.

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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