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Neurological Damage Caused by Celiac Disease Not Reversed by Gluten-Free Diet 12/28/2006 – Antonio Tursi and colleagues at the Digestive Endoscopy Unit, Lorenzo Bonomo Hospital, Andria, (BA), Italy have published a study which concludes that any neurological damage caused by celiac disease may be irreversible—even after treatment with a gluten-free diet. Although the study is relatively small, its conclusions are important—especially to those who suffer from the neurological effects of celiac disease. More research needs to be done to determine why antineuronal antibodies persist in treated celiacs. It would be interesting to see if the removal of other common offending proteins (such as casein, soy, corn, eggs, etc.) from the diets of the patients in this study would have any effect on their antineuronal antibody levels.

Below is the abstract of the study:

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Dig Dis Sci. 2006 Sep 12
Peripheral Neurological Disturbances, Autonomic Dysfunction, and Antineuronal Antibodies in Adult Celiac Disease Before and After a Gluten-Free Diet.
Tursi A, Giorgetti GM, Iani C, Arciprete F, Brandimarte G, Capria A, Fontana L.
Digestive Endoscopy Unit, Lorenzo Bonomo Hospital, Andria, (BA), Italy.

Thirty-two consecutive adult celiac disease patients (pts), complaining of peripheral neuropathy (12 pts), autonomic dysfunction (17 pts), or both (3 pts), were evaluated to assess the presence of neurological damage (by clinical neurological evaluation and electrophysiological study) and antineuronal antibodies and to assess the effect of a gluten-free diet on the course of the neurological symptoms and on antineuronal antibodies. At entry, 12 of 32 (38%) pts showed signs and symptoms of neurological damage: 7 of 12 (58%), peripheral neurological damage; 3 of 12 (25%), autonomic dysfunction; and 2 (17%), both peripheral neurological damage and autonomic dysfunction. The overall TNS score was 105 at entry. Anti-GM1 antibodies were present in 5 of 12 (42%) pts: 3 showed peripheral neurological damage and 2 showed both peripheral neurological damage and autonomic dysfunction. One year after the gluten-free diet was started, histological lesions were still present in only 10 of 12 (83%) pts. TNS score was 99, 98, 98, and 101 at the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th month after the gluten-free diet was started, so it did not improve throughout the follow-up. None of the pts showed disappearance of antineuronal antibodies throughout the follow-up. We conclude that adult celiac disease patients may show neurological damage and presence of antineuronal antibodies. Unfortunately, these findings do not disappear with a gluten-free diet. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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11 Responses:

Monica Dewart
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said this on
02 Feb 2010 7:08:39 AM PDT
Thank you for this article. I am one of the "atypical presenters" that went to my doctor with neurological symptoms only to discover that I am a celiac. I was also told that the brain damage from 50 years of being undiagnosed was irreversible. It's nice to see this information getting out to a younger generation, when it might still be possible to prevent irreversible damage.

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said this on
10 Apr 2010 5:56:55 PM PDT
I am in tears after reading this. I have been having dizziness and tingling in extremities lately. I started after accidental gluten intake in January, and with the last two "accidents" it has gotten worse. Doctors are being very slow to diagnose me and and it's driving me crazy.

Lance R
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said this on
12 Nov 2010 10:48:04 AM PDT
With all due respect to Mr. Adams et al., get a second opinion on this. When presented with the notion my damage was irreversible, my first thought was that if I hurt my finger(which I don't need to survive) it can heal, but if I hurt my brain(which I do need to survive) it can't heal? I found it ridiculous. I had *severe* neurological defects, but through the adoption of a strict gluten-free diet, supplements, and cognitive behavioral therapy, I have made a 'miraculous' comeback. It has taken time and work, I'm not back to 100%, but is very doable. If you do a little research, you'll find my experience is not unique.

ricardo guerra
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said this on
15 Sep 2011 4:56:47 PM PDT
Hi Lance. I am doctor in Brazil and recently I got a patient with cerebelar symptoms and celiac disease. This patient has a big limitation on walking. He is 35 years old and I think he can make progress in his health. What have you been doing for this?

Dana E
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said this on
12 Nov 2012 12:43:13 PM PDT
Thanks Lance! I need hope! I have been diagnosed for less than a week and my symptoms are completely neurological. I would love to hear what you did. I am 36, and it took 4 years for them to tell me what was going on...

Susan Bailey
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said this on
30 Nov 2010 8:34:27 AM PDT
When you cant even walk or talk correctly, and get lost going to the corner market because of this you might not be so flip.

Soraya Malowney
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said this on
21 Aug 2011 6:26:32 AM PDT
I have celiac and my only son has celiac disease as well as my two grandchildren. We all have varying degrees of neurological damage. I had the worst damage and on a gluten-free diet I am almost 100% improved. It was like a miracle but it has taken 3 years and absolutely no cheating or mistakes. I eat no maltodextrin because I do not trust it.
I had ataxia, confusion (did not know where I was when I would be out driving at night), difficulty swallowing, difficulty with speech, poor memory, headaches, vertigo, hand tremors, tingling and numbness of extremities and personality changes. It all took time to go away but it did.
My advise is to stay with the diet. The personality change may still be there but I am willing to live with this. Otherwise I am feeling better than I have in years.

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said this on
25 Jan 2012 2:46:43 PM PDT
My daughter was diagnosed with Celiac 4 years ago. This last May I decided to try the gluten free diet because I was having some arthritis issues in my hands. (Blood tests for me a few year back indicated that I did not have celiac.) Since May, my neuropathy symptoms went away! I wasn't cold for the first time in years, also, anxiety (I've had a phobia since I was 5) was almost completely eliminated! I was ecstatic! This Christmas, however, I got a flare of neuropathy and anxiety. I didn't eat gluten, that I'm aware of, but I did have more sugar and chocolate than normal. I'm just beside myself, not knowing what to do. Am I allergic to something new? I don't have health insurance, but I'd love to get tested for sensitivities. Will this go away again?

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said this on
21 Mar 2012 1:01:54 PM PDT
Hello Jenny, I highly recommend you have this type of test done:

Array 4 - Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity

I have read that lectins in chocolate, coffee, carrageenan, etc. can cause the same reaction as gluten in some highly sensitive people, besides dairy, soy, corn, etc.

You don't have to have full blown celiac disease to be sensitive to gluten or wheat and sometimes blood tests are not accurate.

You might also want to read, Live Right 4 for your Blood Type by Peter D"Adamo.

Hope this info is helpful.

Rebecca Paul
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said this on
21 May 2012 1:24:20 PM PDT
I am having severe pain and tingling in my legs and after my EMG test was told I have damaged nerves in my legs and arms, or "axonal polyneuropathy". The doctors seem puzzled as I do not have diabetes, but I was diagnosed with celiac disease 15 years ago. I have been on a strict gluten-free diet, but the damage was done. I don't know what is next for me, as they have told me they cannot repair the nerves. It's scary.


said this on
08 Nov 2014 11:13:16 AM PDT
I am today 56 years pld, I was diagnosed with celiac disease 15 years ago, and I follow a gluten free diet. The damages in order of appearance were; numbness of extremities, premature ejaculation, tinnitus, ventricular extrasystoles. Only the ventricular extrasystoles disappeared after hidroxicobolamin (B12) injections. It could be a connection?

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Hi! My daughter is 19 was diagnosed at age 16. It took about 12-18 month s for her to fully heal from the damage and feel "normal" again. Also because of the damage done she had reactions to dairy, so you may want to try no or minimum dairy until youre fully healed. Just a suggestion. Hope you start feeling well soon!

Hi yall! New to this blog, but really glad it exists because I have lots of questions. First off, I'm Allie! I'm 17 and newly diagnosed Celiac after about 3 years of searching for answers. I initially went gluten-free on the recommendation of a friend, I felt better in about a month and then my pediatric gastroenterologist had me do the gluten challenge, and my symptoms were the worst they have ever been, and ones I barely noticed before became very present. I did the biopsy and was diagnosed, it's been about 2 weeks and my symptoms are still pretty bad, although my diet has no known sources of gluten or cross contamination. Wondering if anyone has any input on healing post gluten challenge, any tips or how long it took for you would be quite helpful! Thanks

Might want to look into a keto diet, I have UC on top of celiacs and keto is working great Yeah I have major nerve and brain issues with gluten, gluten ataxia with nerve issues and brain issues. Seems to cause my body to attack my brain and nerve system. My brain stumbles fogs, and starts looping, the confusion causes me to become really irritable, I call it going Mr Hyde. Like my mind will start looping constantly on thoughts and not move driving me literally mad, or it used to. Now days it is primary the numbness anger but the gut issues and sometimes random motor loss limit me motionless to the floor now days for the duration of the major anger effects. Used to be a lot more mental then painful gut. I did a mental trauma post on it on while back where I came out about all my mental issues with gluten.

^^^^^^ good info, tips and tricks^^^^^^^^^ yes, crumbs will make you sick. also, breathing flour/pancake mix, etc that is in the air because eventually, you're going to swallow some.

Hello I was diagnosed Dec 15 of last year and went totally gluten-free the next day. I actually got worse before I got better - it's a steep learning curve - but now, 4 1/2 months later I'm finally seeing improvement. Hang in there.