Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, is linked to an increased neuropathy (nerve damage) risk. The findings were published in JAMA Neurology, where researchers found a 2.5-fold increased risk of neuropathy.
The prevalence of celiac disease is roughly one percent of the popular. The disease is categorized by having a gluten sensitivity. The first reports of celiac disease and neuropathy date back 50 years.
The authors wanted to examine the relationship between celiac disease and neuropathy, so they collected data from small-intestine biopsies from 1969 to 2008 and compared the risk of neuropathy in 28,232 patients with celiac disease and 139,473 controls.
The researchers found 198 individuals with celiac disease and a later diagnosis of neuropathy compared to 359 control individuals with a later diagnosis of neuropathy. Risk of neuropathy for those with celiac were 64 per 100,000 person years and 15 per 100,000 person years for those without celiac disease.
The study concluded, “We found an increased risk of neuropathy in patients with CD [celiac disease] that persists after CD diagnosis. Although absolute risks for neuropathy are low, CD is a potentially treatable condition with a young age of onset. Our findings suggest that screening could be beneficial in patients with neuropathy.”
Why is celiac disease associated with neuropathy?
Celiac disease neuropathy presents itself as pain, tingling and numbness of the feet. Some patients may experience pain in the face or even muscle weakness, but this is less common. These symptoms can be confused with other conditions, so it’s important to rule them out as neuropathy and not another condition.
Celiac disease is associated with neuropathy for three reasons.
- Due to a nutritional deficiency brought on by celiac, the body may not absorb certain essential nutrients that are known to lead to neuropathy.
- Individuals with an autoimmune disease are prone to having another one as well, when compared to the general population. Neuropathy could result from an additional autoimmune disease.
- Some antigens targeted in celiac disease have structural similarities with proteins expressed in the nervous system. This means the autoimmunity in celiac disease could target the nervous system and digestive system.
Gluten and neurological disorders
There has been multiple studies that show a link between gluten and other neurological disorders. In one study of individuals with idiopathic neurological disorders – meaning no known cause was detected – 30 to 53 percent of those patients were found to have antibodies against gluten.
A common neurological disorder found to be associated with gluten is cerebellar ataxia, which affects the brain, making it unable to coordinate balance, movement and leading to problems with speech, just to name a few of the symptoms. This condition – also known as gluten ataxia – causes irreversible damage to the cerebellum, which is a part of the brain that controls motor function.
Other studies have associated gluten with schizophrenia, autism and even epilepsy. If you have been diagnosed with a neurological condition deemed idiopathic, it may be wise to remove gluten from your diet.
Home remedies for celiac disease
The number one thing you can do for celiac disease is remove gluten from your diet. With a rise in awareness surround celiac disease, this is actually far easier today than it was in the past. Gluten-free products are basically everywhere and are not just limited to health food or specialty stores.
To help you narrow it down, avoid foods that have the following ingredients on their label:
- Graham flour
Gluten ingredients can be hiding in the following common foods:
- Imitation meats and seafood
- Processed lunch meats
- Salad dressing and sauces – soy sauce
- Self-basting poultry
Foods that can be included in a gluten-free diet are:
- Fresh meat, poultry and fish
- Most dairy products
- Wine and distilled liquors
- Gluten-free flours
- Pure corn tortillas
The key for proper celiac management is simply to read labels. As mentioned, there is a large variety of gluten-free products available all over, but you still may need to take the time to read ingredients just to be sure.