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Think being gluten-free is a fad? Think again

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You'd have to live under a rock to not recognize the popularity of gluten-free diets by now. But if you think going gluten-free is just another fad, think again. Although it may be a passing fad for some, a gluten-free diet is powerful medicine for most.

The benefits, which attain almost miraculous heights for some people, vary depending on the person.

A gluten sensitivity is not a one-size-fits-all disorder with requisite symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, it does not simply cause digestive complaints (although it does cause severe digestive distress for many).

Neurological symptoms common with gluten

In fact, one of the most common consequences of a gluten intolerance are symptoms that express themselves  neurologically, and even these can vary.

The part of the brain most commonly affected by a gluten intolerance is the cerebellum, the area at the back of the brain that controls motor movements and balance. This can cause issues with balance, vertigo, nausea, car sickness and sea sickness, and getting dizzy or nauseous looking at fast-moving images or objects.

Also commonly affected are the protective coating of nerves called myelin. As damage to myelin progresses one can develop multiple-sclerosis type symptoms such as numbness, tingling or muscle weakness.

Other neurological symptoms associated with gluten include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, autism symptoms, and even more serious  psychiatric disorders  such as schizophrenia.

How a person with a neurological response to gluten reacts depends on that person's genetic makeup.

Other common symptoms caused by gluten

For others the reactions to gluten manifest elsewhere in the body. Some common symptoms include skin disorders (i.e., eczema, psoriasis, rosacea,  dermatitis herpetiformis), joint pain, digestive problems, and poor thyroid function (Hashimoto's hypothyroidism).

Why does gluten cause such diverse symptoms?

The symptoms of a gluten intolerance vary from person to person because of its effects on the immune system and brain.

Gluten is inflammatory and damaging to the gut in many people, causing leaky gut. The gut is the seat of the immune system, and also communicates intimately with the brain.

When the gut is constantly inflamed and becomes leaky (even though one might not have digestive symptoms), this increases overall inflammation in the body and the brain.

Increased inflammation not only gives rise to myriad disorders on its own, it also increases the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder. This is a disorder in which an imbalanced immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys tissue in the body, such as the brain, the thyroid, the pancreas, joint cartilage, and more.

Gluten and autoimmune disease

When it comes to autoimmune disease, no tissue in the body or brain is safe from an overzealous immune system deranged by constant inflammation. The rates of autoimmune diseases have exploded in recent years, and most are yet undiagnosed — meaning years of chronic and "mysterious" symptoms.

If you suffer from troubling and chronic symptoms, it is definitely worth considering an intolerance to gluten and other common trigger foods, such as dairy, eggs, soy, and different grains. Although giving up a favorite food is rarely easy, getting back your health is always wonderful.

Ask my office for more advice on how to manage a chronic health disorder and how to adjust your diet to support your health.

Meet the Author

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM.

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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