Neurological symptoms seem to be common in people with celiac disease -- they range from brain fog to migraines. There's also evidence that some people (not necessarily celiacs) suffer from a neurological condition called gluten ataxia, which potentially can lead to progressive, permanent disability.
Now, a new study shows brain abnormalities in people with celiac disease who have certain neurological symptoms ... and these brain abnormalities are similar to the abnormalities found in people with gluten ataxia.
The study, from the U.K.'s Sheffield Teaching Hospitals neurologist Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou (the physician who first described gluten ataxia), looked at the extent of brain abnormality in 33 patients with celiac disease referred to a neurologist because of their symptoms.
These symptoms included balance disturbances, headache and sensory loss, according to the study. Physicians used advanced MRI imaging to look at their brains, and compared them to a group of controls.
What they found was scary.
The size of the brain region called the cerebellum -- that's the part of the brain that deals with motor control, and possibly has some functions in language and attention -- was significantly less in the patient group than in the control group.
In addition, 36% of the celiac disease group had "white matter abnormalities," which most frequently are seen in multiple sclerosis patients. The group of people who reported headaches had the most of these abnormalities -- almost twice the number than those with balance disturbance, and six times more than those with sensory loss, the study said.
The researchers concluded that "patients with established coeliac disease referred for neurological opinion show significant brain abnormality on MR imaging." The study was published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
As I said earlier, neurological issues seem common in people with celiac disease, and they're also commonly seen in gluten sensitivity (see my article Gluten-Related Neurological Symptoms and Conditions for more detail). This study from Dr. Hadjivassiliou provides fresh evidence that celiac disease affects far more than just our small intestines.
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