Gluten and neurological problems

Eoin Roe, Chiropractic

Call 087 958 2362

The research around the negative effects of gluten is growing all the time. Often the focus is only on coeliac disease, which manifests with gastrointestinal symptoms like pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and damages the lining of the gut. More recent research is showing that actually two-thirds of people with gluten sensitivity present solely with neurological symptoms and don’t have any gut-based symptoms at all. For these people they may find that they have brain fog, memory loss, declining cognitive function, balance issues and unusual unexplained neurological symptoms.

 The standard tests for coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity are limited. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the person is producing antibodies to tTg2 (Tissue transglutaminase 2) and to alpha-gliadin, both of which are tested for in blood tests.

 Tissue transglutaminases are enzymes involved in creating the protein structures that hold cells together, tTg2 is found in the gut but there other important tTg’s namely tTg3 found in the skin and tTg6 found in the brain and nervous tissue, that most tests do not include. 

 Alpha-gliadin is the chemical name for gluten but it is only part of the proteome found in wheat and all other grains. Many people will react to different parts of the proteome in grain and not alpha-gliadin, or they will react to tTg3 and or tTg6 and are therefore missed by conventional testing.

Gluten sensitivity

Gluten can still be a problem for people who do not have celiac disease, this is referred to in the literature as NCGS (non-celiac gluten sensitivity) it is often disregarded but can cause many symptoms and for somebody who has gluten sensitivity removing gluten from their diet can be very helpful.

Cross-reactive foods

The traditional understanding is that being gluten free means removing, wheat, barley and rye from the diet. For many people removing these foods is not enough for them to have a resolution of their symptoms. This is often because of cross-reactivity of food proteins.  

 Your immune system works by recognising the arrangements of amino acids which make up protein chains in food. If two different foods have a similar sequence of amino acids the immune system can make a mistake and produce reactions against those foods as well.

 The most common cross-reactive foods are all other grains and dairy.

Cross reactivity and molecular mimicry and
brain function

Just as certain foods can be mistaken by the immune system, the immune system can mistake other tissues in your brain and this is known as molecular mimicry. This occurs when the immune system mistakes brain tissue for gluten and causes an immune reaction in your brain. It does this because some brain tissues and gluten have identical amino acid sequences.

 A part of the brain that is particularly susceptible is called the cerebellum, and when people are producing antibodies to gluten these can also bind in the cerebellum and cause problems with balance known as cerebellar ataxia. This can also lead to increased anxiety and sound and light sensitivity.

 The good news is that for many people with these problems a complete removal of gluten from their diet can prompt a complete resolution of symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and have removed wheat, barley and rye from your diet but are still having gastrointestinal symptoms or are still suffering with mood problems, skin or balance issues, testing for cross-reactive foods and removing these from the diet may help you achieve the changes that you are looking for.

Eoin Roe is a certified functional medicine practitioner and chiropractor based at Skibbereen. Please feel to make contact through the website or call 028 62081. 

WCP Staff

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