Is There a Connection Between MS and Gluten?

Should I Go Gluten Free?

Is There a Connection Between MS and GlutenGluten free diets have been promoted as a cure for many illnesses over the past several years. For some people a gluten free diet is truly lifesaving; however, for most people, gluten free diets are not the “miracle cures” that proponents would lead us to believe.

There are some people who claim that their MS symptoms disappeared when they adopted a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, many research studies have failed to duplicate those results. Let’s take a look at the facts about MS and gluten.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

In theory, it seems that there could be a relationship between gluten sensitivity and multiple sclerosis. Gluten sensitivity, Celiac disease and MS are all autoimmune diseases. Some researchers believe that auto immune diseases begin with what is commonly called “leaky gut syndrome.” When leaky gut syndrome occurs, undigested proteins from food leak into the blood stream. The immune system responds to them as dangerous foreign invaders, and produces antibodies are produced to resist them. As a result, a generalized increase in inflammation throughout the body occurs.

There is a strong parallel between leaky gut syndrome and MS. The proteins from foods are similar to the proteins in the myelin sheath that protects the nerves of the human body and is damaged in people with MS. Researchers theorize that the body begins to destroy these nerve coverings thinking that the proteins in the myelin are dangerous.


Conflicting Research

In 2011, a Spanish study revealed that an abnormally large percentage of patients who had MS also had of celiac disease. Relatives of people with MS also had higher than normal occurrences of celiac disease. According to the researchers, when the individuals diagnosed with both illnesses switched to a gluten free diet, their neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms diminished. However, the Spanish research was based upon a small study of fewer than 100 patients diagnosed with MS. In general, studies that evaluate large numbers of people are more rivaling and accurate.

Another study found that people diagnosed with MS have elevated levels of the antibody that forms against gluten. These people did not have an elevated occurrence of celiac disease. Other studies have not found elevated rates of the antibody or celiac disease among people who suffer from MS.

More research will be needed in order to reach a definitive conclusion.

Should You Adopt a Gluten Free Diet?

It would be a good idea to discuss this with your health care provider. Your doctor can order tests that will show if you have elevated levels of antibodies against gluten. If you have signs of gluten sensitivity as well as MS, it is essential that you seek professional assistance in order to receive a complete evaluation and diagnosis.

If you believe that you may be sensitive to gluten, do not start on a gluten free diet until you meet with your health care provider. He or she may want to order the diagnostic studies for gluten sensitivity. If you are following a gluten free diet, it may be harder to make a diagnosis as the tests may not be as responsive.

Next page: types of gluten sensitivity and where gluten hides. 

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Patricia BratianuPatricia Bratianu

Patricia is a registered nurse with 40 years of experience. She has a PhD in natural health and is a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild.

Mar 3, 2015
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