Don't wet yourself

While there is more to wheat's adverse effects on human health than celiac disease, studying celiac disease provides important insights into why and how wheat--the gluten component of wheat, in this case--is so destructive to human health.

Modern wheat, in particular, is capable of causing "celiac disease" without intestinal symptoms---no cramping or diarrhea--but instead shows itself as brain injury (ataxia, dementia), peripheral nervous system damage (peripheral neuropathy), joint and muscle inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica and others), and gastrointestinal cancers.

One neurological manifestation of wheat's effect on the human brain is a condition called cerebellar ataxia. This is a condition that can affect adults (average age 48 years) and children and consists of incoordination, falls, and incontinence.

Because brain tissue has limited capacity for healing and regeneration, symptoms of cerebellar ataxia usually improve slowly and modestly with meticulous elimination of wheat and other gluten sources.

Such observations are relevant even to people without celiac disease. Celiac disease sufferers are more susceptible to such extra-intestinal phenomena, but it can also happen in people without positive celiac antibodies.

Some references:

Neurological symptoms in patients with biopsy proven celiac disease

A total of 72 patients with biopsy proven celiac disease (CD) (mean age 51 +/- 15 years, mean disease duration 8 +/- 11 years) were recruited through advertisements. All participants adhered to a gluten-free diet. Patients were interviewed following a standard questionnaire and examined clinically for neurological symptoms. Medical history revealed neurological disorders such as migraine (28%), carpal tunnel syndrome (20%), vestibular dysfunction (8%), seizures (6%), and myelitis (3%). Interestingly, 35% of patients with CD reported of a history of psychiatric disease including depression, personality changes, or even psychosis. Physical examination yielded stance and gait problems in about one third of patients that could be attributed to afferent ataxia in 26%, vestibular dysfunction in 6%, and cerebellar ataxia in 6%. Other motor features such as basal ganglia symptoms, pyramidal tract signs, tics, and myoclonus were infrequent. 35% of patients with CD showed deep sensory loss and reduced ankle reflexes in 14%. Gait disturbances in CD do not only result from cerebellar ataxia but also from proprioceptive or vestibular impairment.

Gluten ataxia in perspective: epidemiology, genetic susceptibility and clinical characteristics

Two hundred and twenty-four patients with various causes of ataxia from North Trent (59 familial and/or positive testing for spinocerebellar ataxias 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7, and Friedreich's ataxia, 132 sporadic idiopathic and 33 clinically probable cerebellar variant of multiple system atrophy MSA-C) and 44 patients with sporadic idiopathic ataxia from The Institute of Neurology, London, were screened for the presence of antigliadin antibodies. A total of 1200 volunteers were screened as normal controls. The prevalence of antigliadin antibodies in the familial group was eight out of 59 (14%), 54 out of 132 (41%) in the sporadic idiopathic group, five out of 33 (15%) in the MSA-C group and 149 out of 1200 (12%) in the normal controls. The prevalence in the sporadic idiopathic group from London was 14 out of 44 (32%). The difference in prevalence between the idiopathic sporadic groups and the other groups was highly significant (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.003, respectively). The clinical characteristics of 68 patients with gluten ataxia were as follows: the mean age at onset of the ataxia was 48 years (range 14-81 years) with a mean duration of the ataxia of 9.7 years (range 1-40 years). Ocular signs were observed in 84% and dysarthria in 66%. Upper limb ataxia was evident in 75%, lower limb ataxia in 90% and gait ataxia in 100% of patients. Gastrointestinal symptoms were present in only 13%. MRI revealed atrophy of the cerebellum in 79% and white matter hyperintensities in 19%. Forty-five percent of patients had neurophysiological evidence of a sensorimotor axonal neuropathy. Gluten-sensitive enteropathy was found in 24%. HLA DQ2 was present in 72% of patients. Gluten ataxia is therefore the single most common cause of sporadic idiopathic ataxia.

Comments (13) -

  • Anonymous

    4/3/2011 6:52:08 PM |

    Doc Davis,

    Thank you for all of your generosity and energy.  You've 50 posts on fish oil and 84 or vit D.

    I'm sending people to your site, but sometimes they're overwhelmed.

    Since these seem very important topics to you, would it be possible to summarize them in a definitive, proscriptive pair of posts.

    Thank you,


  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    4/3/2011 10:03:28 PM |

    Spino-cerebellar Ataxia (SCA) researchers claim to be associated with 28 (29?) variations of gene positions (loci) on human chromosomes; with gene mutations in 17 of those loci. Hereditary neuro-degeneration becomes clinicaly symptomatic in due time, not neccessarily when young.

    Gluten/gliadin responders who make anti-bodies to tissue trans-glutamin-ase (enzyme) have this anti-body implicated in ataxia syndrome. Spino-cerebellar ataxia is a category encompassing more than stumbling (SCA clinically includes psychiatric symptoms, etc.).

    Serum from humans with ataxia and the tissue trans-glutaminase anti-bodies was injected into normal mice, and the mice temporarily got ataxia. And then serum from humans who did not have ataxia, but did have tissue trans-glutaminase anti-bodies (ie: gluten sensitive)injected into normal mice also gave the mice temporary ataxia. In other words the gluten anti-bodies, irregardless of person having pre-existing ataxia or not, were enough to trigger ataxia in the mice.

    Doc cites study with average age of 48 as development of ataxia; this is explainable as fitting classic pattern of genetic neuro-degeneration. What I do like about Doc's linkage is the  concept that the gluten/gliadin anti-bodies may be a trigger of some sort.

    As for people "without positive celiac anti-bodies" who get spino-cerebellar ataxia (including any SCA associated symptoms)at the study's average age of 48 I am  skeptical. "Idiopathic" anything is a fancy way of saying something just so happens to be; as in patient Q has idiopathic XYZ and nobody knows for sure why, it just is XYZ.

    Doc has me thinking that if SCA genetic tendencies occur in an individual along with sensitive gluten genetics then cutting out the one risk factor controllable makes sense. Since genetic tests for SCA isn't readily done the no gluten tactic had to be tried out, and Doc seemingly noticed a % of encouraging results.

  • Dr. William Davis

    4/4/2011 1:23:28 AM |

    Hi, DG--

    Point taken.

    Perhaps a "Best of the Heart Scan Blog" would be in order.

    Thanks for the excellent suggestion.

  • Dr. William Davis

    4/4/2011 1:24:40 AM |

    Hi, Mighto-o,

    You've got some wonderfully unique insights.

    I'd like to see more of your ideas chronicled. Are you blogging or writing in some form?

  • dextery

    4/4/2011 2:10:33 AM |

    Recently there have cases of four people in the TV entertainment/news on air business that for some reason start speaking in gibberish...the latest being Judge Judy.

    Do you suspect we may be seeing some brain atrophy from consumption of wheat?  I wonder how many times this may happen to ordinary people and they don't seek medical help because it passes.

  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    4/4/2011 3:42:08 AM |

    Hi Dr. Davis,
    I am not qualified to practise medicine, nor claim to be a true
    expert on things I discuss. Most of my work has been in developing countrys, which challenged my perspective and what pick-up on.

    The only other blog I read (and comment)is Whole Health Source.
    No personal blog or publication until another 1/4 century proves my advice worthwhile.

  • majkinetor

    4/4/2011 11:41:51 AM |

    How can it prove, if there is absence of digital forms Smile ?
    You should express your thought, definitely, in whatever form.
    Bring open source to medicine !


  • Dr. William Davis

    4/4/2011 12:14:29 PM |

    Hi, Dextery--

    Interesting thought.

    Making the connection between wheat/gluten consumption and a neurological syndrome can be tricky. The most confident means to establish probable cause-effect is brain biopsy or autopsy. Most people would not submit to such things, so we rely on indirect measures like HLA DQ genetic markers and the reversal of the syndrome with elimination of wheat and gluten.


    Well then, keep your wonderful insights coming!

  • Geoffrey Levens

    4/4/2011 4:12:33 PM |

    "Recently there have cases of four people in the TV entertainment/news on air business that for some reason start speaking in gibberish...the latest being Judge Judy."

    Some of my more paranoid friends think this is from "EMF mind control experiments" being performed by our govt, NSA, CIA, etc.

  • Anonymous

    4/5/2011 7:00:11 AM |


    well that certainly proves brain atrophy, if not in those 4 tv anchors but somewhat in your friends!!



  • Medicomp INC.

    4/12/2011 4:11:14 PM |

    While there is more to wheat's adverse effects on human health than celiac disease, studying celiac disease provides important insights into why and how wheat--the gluten component of wheat, in this case--is so destructive to human health.

    Disheartening, but facts are facts.  It's somewhat mind-boggling to fathom how much wheat is consumer everyday, and the amount of adverse effects that can inflicted among the population.  The best thing is to stay informed-It should be a priority for everyone to understand at least fairly well what we are ingesting daily.

  • Daniel A. Clinton, RN, BSN

    4/17/2011 2:57:59 AM |

    It saddens me that a gluten-free diet for six weeks isn't recommend for a whole host gastrointestingal, neurological, and automimmune diseases. Celiac markers are just numbers. Exclude gluten from the diet and see if there is improvement. That's the best way to assess wheat's role.

  • Todd

    1/25/2012 12:03:22 PM |

    Hi Mitochonri'Al!

    I love your commentaries!  Anyway, just wondering, a hypothesis of mine, given your citation about the human blood serum and mice experiment above, can trans-glutiminase anti-bodies be present in grain-fed meat and dairy products (pasteurized)?  Would that be another argument in favor of grass-fed beef and dairy (and the raw dairy of that group, if wanted)?

    Just a hypothesis, as i notice a lot of people that eat very low carbs to zero carb paleo eating start to have issues that are arthritic and ataxiatic (sic) and conditions that seem neurologic (incontinence, lower back pains, and other inflammatory issues) even from heavy whipping cream consumption.  And anecdotal journals, they tell of self-experimentation with and without dairy, and the pains depart, return and then depart again almost to a tee...