I recently treated a patient who had a history of headaches for 40 years. I did some blood work and found that she was gluten sensitive. I took her off of gluten and her headaches went away. She then visited with her gastroenterologist who picked up the phone and called me and said, quot;Why did you put this patient on a gluten free diet, she doesn’t have celiac disease.quot; I began to explain something called nonceliac gluten sensitivity and I have to admit there was a lot of silence on the other end of the phone. There are still people who don’t believe that there really is such a thing as being gluten sensitive if you don’t have celiac disease. But let’s look at what the science is really telling us about this notion of.
Nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Back in 2012, there was an international symposium in England and I’ve listed hereâ€”these are the top gluten researchers really on the planet. They came together to look at this notion of gluten related disorders, in other words being sensitive to gluten without necessarily having celiac disease. And what did they find? They looked at the notion that this is a big question with $2.5 billion dollars each year being spent on glutenfree products globally, at least that’s the 2010 statistic. They described 3 different things: being allergic to wheat, having celiac disease, and yes, being sensitive to gluten. Here’s what they came up with.
quot;The symptoms in gluten sensitivity may resemble those associated with celiac disease but with a prevalence of extra intestinal symptoms, meaning away from the gut, behavioral changes, bone or joint pain, muscle cramps, leg numbness, weight loss and chronic fatigue.quot; And here is a percentage breakdown in terms of what they found, things like abdominal pain, 68%, and further down you see foggy mind. Thirtyfour percent, about 13 of the people with gluten sensitivity actually have neurologic issues like foggy mind. And a little further down, depression and even numbness in extremities and joint pain. So the point is that gluten sensitivity is real, and it frequently manifests itself outside.
Of the gut. In my profession, being a neurologist, we see a lot of brain related issues related to being gluten sensitive. Things like cognitive issues, attention deficit issues, depression and even nerve issues. So we’ve really got to understand that our most well respected researchers are telling us loud and clear that gluten sensitivity, apart from celiac disease, is very real, and that we should consider going gluten free when we have patients with these types of complaints. I’m David Perlmutter.
Epilepsy and Gluten Sensitivity
Epilepsy, it effects 3 million Americans and generally, we as treating physiciansâ€”as neurologistsâ€”don’t know the cause. Certainly in some cases the cause is readily identifible, but most cases of epilepsy are what we call, quot;idopathic,quot; meaning we don’t understand the cause. And again, that’s 3 million Americans. Now, the goto treatment for epilepsy is obviously using medicationâ€”what we call anticonvulsive medications. But let’s have al look at kind of another perspective on what we should be thinking about in terms of this sometimes devastating situation. This is a study published in the journal Neurology, a very well respected peer review.
Journal that describes the case of an individual, a 30 year old man who has a headache history for 2 years, and also what are called refractory seizures, meaning that despite giving this gentleman seizure medication, his seizures continued. In addition he has other issues of chronic constipation, he has a rash on his elbows and his knees, and interestingly the researches found that his antigliadin levels, antibodies against gliadin, which is something found in gluten, in wheat and barley and rye, were elevated, meaning he was reacting to glutencontaining foods. And what they did for this gentleman was really quite interesting. They went ahead and put him on a glutenfree diet. And what they found.
When they did that was that his seizures completely went away. So not only did his seizures go away, but his blood work actually normalized as well. Very interesting. Giving a gentleman with a seizure disorder a glutenfree diet and his seizures went away. And here’s another case of a 23 year old woman who has seizures for 11 years, also called refractory seizures, meaning that nothing could help her in terms of pharmaceuticals. They put her also on a glutenfree diet and her epilepsy went away. Well, the reason we’re having this discussion today is because of this recent article that appeared in the journal Neurology calling for us to look at treatment of epilepsy in.
A different way. The study is called quot;Epilepsy surgery trends in the United States 19902008,quot; again, published in the journal Neurology. Stating, and I quote, quot;Temporal lobectomy,quot;â€” and that means taking out the temporal lobe of the brainâ€”quot;continues to be heavily under utilized as a treatment for epilepsy. Patients who are medically refractory after failing 2 anti epileptic medications should be referred to a comprehensive epilepsy center for surgical evaluation.quot; And this is a picture of what it looks like when you’ve had your temporal lobe of your brain removed. So what this study is saying is that if you are refractory, meaning that you’re still having seizures, after two medications have been tried, then you should.
Be referred to a center to have your temporal lobe of your brain removed. Now I opened this tutorial showing you cases of patients who had gluten sensitivity whose epilepsy resolved when they simply went gluten free. Let’s take a look at another study. This is a report called, quot;Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain,quot; written by a British researcher named Marios Hadjivassiliou, published in the journal Lancet Neurology. And he tells us that quot;most patients who present with neurological manifestations of gluten sensitivity may have no gastrointestinal symptoms.quot; And what that means is basically that we should always have a high index of suspicion for gluten sensitivity, even if there are no gastrointestinal issues.
My point is this: that prior to taking out somebody’s temporal lobe, what would be the harm of trying that epilepsy patient on a glutenfree diet? At the very least you’ll reduce inflammation, they’ll feel better, they may lose a little weight, their headaches may improve, their cognitive function may very well improve as well, and as we’ve now learned, it may actually help their seizure disorder. Why not give it a try? I’m David Perlmutter.