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Your Brain on Gluten: It’s Not a Pretty Picture!

By Ritamarie Loscalzo

neurological effects of gluten

neurological effects of glutenI first got seriously interested in the devastating effects of gluten on brain and behavior almost a decade ago after listening to a recording of a talk by Dr. Thomas O’Bryan at a meeting of the International and American Association of Certified Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN).

Before that, I was aware of the dangers of wheat and had taken myself and many patients off it with great results. Later, I developed a resource pack to help those wanting to free themselves:

Gluten-Free Survival Kit

Originally, many wheat-free enthusiasts still ate gluten in the form of kamut and spelt, including me. I would sprout kamut and make a delicious raw, dehydrated bread or pizza crust from it.

I didn’t notice negative effects unless I ate too much, but I did notice that once I started eating it, I craved more beyond satisfaction of my hunger.

After listening to Dr O’Bryan’s talk and doing extensive research of my own on the neurodevelopmental effects of gluten, I personally gave it up. I didn’t make a decision to give it up from my mind, though. It was a gut reaction and a loss of all desire for it. I had no cravings or remorse. I just stopped because once I understood the impact it had on me, I wanted no more of it.

There were several changes I did notice AFTER giving up gluten entirely.

My energy and stamina become extremely high. I could sleep less and feel more energized. I became more productive and clear about my business goals. I became more motivated to be successful.

My brain seemed more clear and less unfocused.

Neurological Effects of Gluten

In 2006, my paper on gluten intolerance in regards to developmental disorders in children was published in the Journal of Nutritional Perspectives.

What follows is data I found while researching for that paper.

The Neurological problems associate with gluten intolerance became known as early as 1908 in a book titled Sprue and its Treatment by Carnegie Brown. In it, Brown described two pa­tients who developed “peripheral neuri­tis”, which is inflammation of the nerves in the hands and feet. Later, in 1925, Elders reported the association between “sprue” and ataxia, which is a balance disorder.

Since then, gluten intolerance has been associated with a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions, with or without intestinal problems.

The list of conditions associated with gluten includes:

  • brain conditions associated with glutencerebellar ataxia
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • epilepsy
  • dementia
  • schizophrenia
  • depression
  • migraine
  • seizures
  • encephalopathy
  • chorea
  • brain stem dysfunction
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • myelopathy
  • mononeuritis multiplex
  • Guillain-Barre-like syndrome
  • Huntington’s disease

Gluten is also associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including:

  • autism
  • ADHD
  • Aspersers and
  • PPD

Wow. That’s some lineup.

Changes to cells and blood supply in the central nervous system have also been associated with gluten intolerance.

Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how gluten affects the neuromuscular systems. The mechanisms include autoimmune reaction and inflammation, malnutrition, and opioid excess.

Gluten and Autoimmune Disease

In addition to neurological issues as a result of gluten damage, you may also be suffering from immune system dysfunction.  Gluten has been implicated as a causative factor in autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s, Sjogren’s, Lupus and many others.

During a very popular radio interview about going gluten free, Dr. Tom O’Bryan and I discussed autoimmune diseases that improve when gluten is removed from the diet, as well as how to determine if you are affected by gluten intolerance.

The Gluten Free Challenge

Try to go a week or two without gluten and post your experience to the blog. Use this free resource kit to help you go gluten-free:

Gluten-Free Survival Kit

Over the last year or so, I have realized that the effects of food allergies and gluten contribute heavily to autoimmune diseases. Gluten and other intolerances can upset that delicate balance of blood sugar, hormones, and overall body regulatory systems. The issue is quite serious and can lead to a whole host of health complications—most of which can be completely eliminated or reversed.

Bye-Bye B4 Videos player x200My wildly popular free webinar and 5-part video series: 5 Cutting Edge Strategies to Balance Your Blood Sugar and Say Bye-Bye to Belly Fat, Brain Fog, and Burnout! goes into great detail in unraveling the puzzle of your health, and tackling some of your more immediate needs.

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It is my wish for you to feel vibrant and energetic in every way, and to eliminate needless suffering from eating things that our bodies just can’t tolerate.

With joy and appreciation,


Please post your experience with gluten free below.

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Medical Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo, drritamarie.com, and the experts who have contributed. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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  1. George Noble on September 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    It’s the disabling of thyroid function I’ve been hearing about most lately.
    Don’t forget to mention MORE LOVE, greater desire and desirability whether coupled or not.

  2. Ah So! on October 16, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    It has only been 4 days. Strangely, I thought I would have crazy desires for bread, etc., but I don’t. I’ve had no positive health changes yet, but instead experienced the worst case of constipation imaginable. I had to take something for it, a drug. I cannot diagnose myself in this matter, ie, why this would occur. I have no digestive problems whatsoever.

    The book published in 1908 refers to sprue, ie, celiac disease, and not the non-celiac issue. In any case, now “they” are saying that it’s not necessarily the gluten component of grain that’s the problem, but maybe something else. I do think we all eat too much wheat in any event and whether it’s one type of gluten, the other kind of gluten, the lectin, or whatever, our bodies are just saying “No more”.

  3. […] are typical complex inflammatory disorders. The brain is on fire. It’s the most common system affected by gluten-sensitivity. What we want to do is treat the […]

  4. Page not found - Error 404 • Vibrant Living Blog on September 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    […] Radio Show: Gluten-Related Disorders and How It Affects the Brain on Your Brain on Gluten: It’s Not a Pretty Picture! […]

  5. Himakshi on December 11, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks! I was happy when I stayed at the Courtyard Marriot in DC beasuce it had a Gordon Beirsch on the ground floor that had a lot of gf options. They also serve free wine from 5-7 in the lobby, so I was a happy camper!Thanks for the resource!

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