What is the Connection Between Gluten and Neuropathy?
Does gluten cause neuropathy? Can gluten cause tingling? What foods trigger neuropathy? Does cutting out gluten help those who have battled with nerve pain? These are some of the questions we’ve been asked by many of our customers.
Gluten: What is it and why is it bad for some people?
Gluten is a group of seed storage proteins found in mostly in cereal grains. Although, strictly speaking, “gluten” pertains commonly to wheat proteins. Most people can tolerate gluten with no adverse effects. However, it can cause problems for people with certain health conditions which includes, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies.
For some, eating foods with gluten protein triggers an autoimmune reaction. The body attacks the gluten with antibodies in the same way that antibodies attack viruses.
This damages the intestines. Intestinal damage inhibits absorption of nutrients, often leading to nutrient deficiencies. Vitamin deficiencies could be to blame for gluten intolerance.
Approximately 10 percent of people with Celiac disease (a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food) develop neurologic symptoms, according to the Center for Peripheral Neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy Involves Nerve Damage
Neuropathy, or peripheral neuropathy, describes a range of disorders characterized by nerve damage to one or more nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord.
The tingling, numbness, and pain of peripheral neuropathy generally stem from nerve damage in your hands and feet. The nerve damage—and the symptoms—generally start in your longest nerves, which is why you’ll probably notice symptoms first in your feet and possibly your hands.
Often the cause of the neuropathy is unknown, though autoimmune diseases and vitamin deficiencies are some of the potential causes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Gluten neuropathy is when the autoimmune response is the root cause of the nerve damage.
A study published in Muscle & Nerve journal in December 2006 found that participants with neuropathy who followed a no-gluten diet showed significant improvement in symptoms after one year. The control group reported worsening of symptoms.
People who have a gluten intolerance do not respond to simple allergy tests like someone with a milk or nut allergy might. The gentlest way to figure out if someone is sensitive to gluten is dietary therapy. Avoid gluten for several weeks, then reintroduce it and observe any reactions.
Once it is known that a person has a problem with gluten, the best course of action is abstinence. People with any degree of gluten sensitivity or intolerance should completely give it up.
Food Matters: Following a Gluten-Free Diet
Following a gluten-free diet means eliminating all sources of gluten from your diet. That means anything made from wheat, barley or rye, and flours milled from any of these grains. Couscous, bulgur, farina, graham flour, semolina, triticale, and spelt flour are all wheat products and should be avoided.
Since oats may be grown in fields close to and contaminated by other grains, it is important for those with gluten sensitivity to choose oatmeal and other oat products that are guaranteed to be gluten-free.
It is also important to check the labels on all processed food products. Wheat gluten can be found in deli meats, coated French fries, processed cheeses, imitation seafood, soups and condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, malt vinegar, and salad dressings.
When it comes to following a strict, gluten-free diet, the key word here is “strict.” If your diet isn’t completely gluten-free, you will continue to produce the same antibodies that lead to inflammation and pain.