Untreated, celiac disease (CD) can affect the brain and lifespan.
When someone has a neurological problem, it’s worth considering the possibility that celiac disease is a culprit. Research has linked celiac disease (CD) to a number of developmental and neurologic disorders. In 2004, Nathanel Zelnik and collegues reached the following conclusion after studying CD and a select number of disorders:
“The spectrum of neurologic disorders in patients with CD is wider than previously appreciated and includes, in addition to previously known entities such as cerebellar ataxia, epilepsy, or neuromuscular diseases, milder and more common problems such as migraine headache and learning disabilities, including ADHD.”
Triggered by the consumption of gluten-containing foods (wheat, rye, and barley), CD is now estimated to affect 1 in 106 children compared to 1 in 652 adults just fifty years ago based on a study by Dr. Alberto Rubio-Tapia and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic. Changes in food growing and processing methods, along with other environmental issues, are suspected of causing the increase.
Untreated, CD results in inflammation of the digestive system, with undigested proteins triggering the immune system to attack the intestinal lining. When this occurs, patients have difficulty absorbing nutrients, which can lead to a number of health problems.
According to the current Rubio-Tapia study, unrecognized CD can increase the rate of death. The team identified people with undiagnosed CD from frozen blood samples of 9,000 presumably healthy individuals. They then conducted a 45-year follow up on these cases and found a significantly higher rate of death among this group compared to those without CD. In other words, those who had CD but were unaware of it and did not change their diet to avoid gluten-containing foods tended to die at a younger age. The authors suggest the increased rate of death was four times as high as for those without CD.
Testing for Celiac Disease
You should consult a gastroenterologist for evaluation. The Celiac Sprue Association offers suggestions for diagnosis. Information on a gluten-free diet is included on the site, and numerous cookbooks are now available. Be aware that if someone has been avoiding gluten prior to testing, the lab work will not show an antibody response because gluten is not in the system; this can result in a false negative report.
The complete article for Dr. Zelnik’s important research is available for free here.