An interesting study on celiac disease and neurological disorders was completed in Israel. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that requires a gluten-free diet to relieve symptoms (chronic diarrhea, malabsorption syndrome, failure to thrive, and/or abdominal pains).
For this research, over 100 subjects with celiac disease, mostly children or their caregivers, and young adults, completed questionnaires that included items on neurological status. A matched control group also completed the survey. Physical exams were conducted when warranted.
Overall, about 50 percent of persons with celiac disease had neurologic disorders compared to 20 percent of control subjects. These disorders included hypotonia (decreased muscle tone), developmental delay, learning disorders and ADHD, headache, and cerebellar ataxia (the sudden onset of a movement disorder, often after a viral disease). Epileptic disorders were only marginally more common in celiac sufferers. In contrast, those with celiac disease did not have an increased incidence of tics — in fact, a higher percentage of controls had tic disorders than the celiac group.
Editor: This is a relatively small study, so caution should be use when interpreting the information on tics. It would be interesting to know if the gluten-free diet followed by those with celiac disease served to prevent the development of tics; this is speculation, and more research on this subject would be worthwhile.
Nathanel Zelnik, MD, et al. “Range of neurologic disorders in patients with celiac disease.” Pediatrics, Vol. 113 No. 6 June 2004, pp. 1672-1676.