What do Depression, Mood Disorders, ADHD, Gluten Ataxia, Autism, Neurological Issues, Migraine Headaches, Epilepsy, Seizures, White Matter on Brain and Schizophrenia; have in common? According to NIH (National Institute of Health), all of the above are also symptoms of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity which can affect adults and children!
I get asked about this so often by customers, at least once or twice a week, that I thought I would write about this in depth. Some are having multiple neurological complications from their Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity or their child is exhibiting ADHD Symptoms and stomach aches but has not been tested for Celiac Disease. (I am Celiac and also have Ataxia (Neurological symptoms; loss of balance & coordination, fumbled speech and I exhibit signs of ADHD-can’t concentrate when exposed to gluten). The shocking thing is that many in the medical community are not investigating the gluten connection by testing for Celiac Disease first! Often a child or adult are just put on ADHD medications or anti depressants and just sent on their way. Often the medicines are just addressing some of the symptoms; not the actual cause! The result is ongoing pain and suffering because the true condition is NEVER addressed. The good news is that NIH (National Institute of Health) has put solid information out there for our physicians and us to see!
First we need to understand the difference between Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity. Then we will learn that psychological and neurological issues can be preset in either condition. NIH has some great information about this and will clear up any question that you or your medical provider have about the validity of these symptoms. Finally, I give you a link to these neurological and psychological symptoms; which are sometimes the only symptoms that an adult or child actually presents with. (Yes, many don’t even have any gastrointestinal symptoms or stomach aches!)
First, read this, all of it. Second, if any of this applies to you or you child, get yourself or your child tested for Celiac Disease (while still eating gluten) by a gastroenterologist who is well versed in Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease (CD) affects about 1% of the population (about 1 in 130) and gluten sensitivity affects about 6% of the population. Even with all of the knowledge that we have now, it is believed that as many as 85% of cases of CD go undiagnosed. CD is dependent on an autoimmune reaction to gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye and barley) and is usually characterized by intestinal symptoms. Those with gluten sensitivity (GS) don’t have intestinal damage (villous atrophy) or antibodies for CD but can test positive for antibodies to gliadin. Those with CD and GS can present with many neurological and psychiatric symptoms. However, gluten sensitivity remains under-treated and under-recognized as a contributing factor to psychiatric and neurological manifestations.
In CD, the classic symptoms typically include abdominal bloating, steatorrhea (excretion of abnormal quantities of fat due to malabsorption) and weight loss. Some just present with a rash that looks like eczema, but is really the skin manifestation of Celiac Disease known as Dermatitis Herpeterormis (DH). However, there are too many symptoms to list here; so a link will follow. Diagnosis is confirmed by testing for a number of different antibodies including anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA), anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies (tTG), and anti-gliadin antibodies (AGA). We understand what causes the intestinal damage and the genetics related to CD. Those genes are HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 and their other versions.
There are more than 300 signs and symptoms of CD. Click Here for List. This list is great because it describes symptoms as they affect different body systems and there is also a list of how children may present with Celiac Disease (that list is at the bottom of the link). Not everyone presents with the same symptoms..some just have bloating and constipation and stomach aches. Some just are fatigued, irritable and are moody or present with Autism or ADHD like symptoms. The intestinal biopsy used to be the gold standard. Now there are 5 criteria for a Celiac diagnosis. Those with GS often have the same symptoms as those with CD.
Five Criteria for Diagnosing Celiac Disease and someone only has to have 4 of the 5!
- The presence of signs and symptoms compatible with celiac disease.
- Positive serology screening (high serum levels of anti-TTG and/or EMA).
- Presence of the predisposing genes HLA-DQ2 and/or –DQ8.
- Histological evidence of auto-insult of jejunal mucosa typical of celiac disease.
- Resolution of the symptoms and normalization of serology test following the implementation of a gluten-free diet.
People with GS would not fit into less than 4 of the 5 categories. GS is a diagnosis of exclusion; this diagnosis is given once CD and wheat, rye or barley allergies are ruled out. This means all of the above testing was done while the patient is still consuming gluten and did not meet 4 of the 5 criteria for CD. Then the patient is put on a Gluten-Free diet. If symptoms resolve; you are given a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity! (There is some evidence that GS is just an early form of CD.)
Neurological/Psychiatric complications of CD have been known to the medical community for over 40 years. Meanwhile, GS sensitive patients also have many neurological and psychiatric complications. However, based on the lack of intestinal involvement, the neurological and psychiatric complications may be the prime presentation in patients suffering from GS! Therefore gluten sensitivity may easily go unrecognized and untreated.
Studies have shown that about 22% of patients with CD develop neurological or psychiatric dysfunction and as many as 57% of people with neurological dysfunction of unknown origin test positive for anti-gliadin antibodies. Neurological and psychiatric complications observed with gluten-mediated immune responses include a variety of disorders.
From 1953 to 2011 a PubMed literature search located 162 original articles associating psychiatric and neurologic complications to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity! 36 articles for seizure disorders, 20 for ataxia and cerebellar degeneration, 26 for neuropathy, 20 for schizophrenia, 14 for depression, 12 for migraine. There were up to 10 articles each for anxiety disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, myopathy, and white matter lesions.
However, the vast majority of research to date has not looked at CD and GS independently, so the true prevalence of the neurological/psychiatric complications with each is hard to pin down. It does call attention to the fact that GS and CD are different gluten-mediated immune responses that may be the cause of patients presenting with a host of psychiatric and neurological complications.
For more information on the symptoms listed at the top of the article (NIH) please use this link. It goes into detail about each neurological and psychological manifestation, just click on link and scroll down, good stuff in here..! Click Here for NIH Info