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Wheat and gluten can destroy your nerve cells


This bread looks delicious but it's poison to the gluten sensitive (AP)

I used to dream that I couldn’t run. In those night time adventures, as I fled a nightmare horror, my steps were more up than forward. I floated in the air and each desperate step would push me into a frustratingly gentle arc above the ground. The faster I tried to run, the harder it was to get anywhere. During the day I didn’t suffer with that aggravation, but occasionally, while walking, I’d suddenly find myself just the slightest bit uncoordinated, troubled by the unexpected problem of how to put one foot down in front of the other.

Though it never occurred to me, part of my difficulty might have been linked to gluten, a protein in wheat that causes a digestive condition called celiac in susceptible people. Turns out, that an inability to digest gluten can also lead to a condition called ataxia, an interference with nerve function that leads to difficulty coordinating your muscles. This happens often enough in gluten sensitive people that scientists have given it the official name of gluten ataxia.

Well, now researchers have found that even if you don’t have apparent stomach aches or digestive problems with wheat products, gluten can still interfere with your nerves. A study in England at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, found that gluten can damage nerve cells in the brain (in the cerebellum) without causing intestinal damage (Neurology, 4/23). Since these nerve cells coordinate your movment, injury in this area is linked to ataxia.

Certainly, my own experience with gluten sensitivity is that it just about destroyed my memory (see Brain Problems) and gave me strange rashes. Since I stopped eating wheat and barley products (no more bread, pizza, cookies, etc) my walking seems to be much better. And I don’t seem to have a problem climbing stairs the way I used to – I often had to hesitate mid-step to plan where my foot was going to go.

Meanwhile, my own brain is still recovering from gluten. I began eating a gluten free diet about a year and half ago and my memory is much improved. At least now, when I forget something I realize I have forgotten it. When I used to eat gluten foods I was so lost, I couldn't even see the fog that was enveloping me.

For more info: Gluten Ataxia


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  • Jerome Triplett 5 years ago

    Interesting. I've never heard of this.

  • Sue 5 years ago

    I would also be interested in finding out more about the foods you avoid in your diet.
    Did you go through any medical tests or simply trial and error with diet?
    I was getting severe pains from eating cereal and also homemade granola made from oats.

  • Julie 5 years ago

    I also had this problem. I stumbled and dropped things, as well as had paresthesia of my tongue. Going gluten free helped, but I was deficient in B vitamins from the malabsorption. Supplementing these has helped my neurological symptoms to clear.

  • Linda 5 years ago

    I remember the first time I read the term "brain fog" and thinking "Yes! That's what it is." It's amazing how many different symptoms are associated with celiac disease.