Gluten Neuropathy: What You Need to Know About It

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A woman rejecting bread, gluten-free concept. A whole-grain loaf of bread on a rustic wooden table, and a woman rejecting it with a hand gesture.

Neuropathy is nerve damage. When nerve damage is mentioned, diabetes pops in the mind of many — nerve damage as a result of poorly managed diabetes is what’s referred to as diabetic neuropathy.

However, not a lot of people are aware of the fact that diabetes is not the only one that can cause neuropathy. According to health authorities, neuropathy can also be blamed on things such as excessive alcohol consumption, intake of certain medications, exposure to toxins, infections, and pressure or trauma on the nerve.

In this article, we will focus on a particular culprit of nerve damage: gluten.

Read on to learn some of the most important things you need to learn about gluten neuropathy, or nerve damage due to sensitivity or intolerance to gluten.

So What is Gluten?

Gluten is a type of protein that is found in certain types of grains, in particular wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Needless to say, any food product that contains any of the said grains has gluten.

The one that makes dough possess an elastic texture is gluten. Typically, gluten is harmless — except for people who are extremely sensitive to it. Those who are sensitive to gluten have what’s referred to as gluten sensitivity or intolerance. After the intake of anything that contains gluten, they tend to experience all sorts of unfavorable symptoms.

There is a severe form of gluten sensitivity or intolerance, and it’s referred to as celiac disease. The problem with celiac disease is it can cause damage to the small intestine, eventually causing many problems due to poor absorption of nutrients and also inflammation.

Not Just Digestive Problems

Because it is the small intestine that is affected in people who are suffering from gluten sensitivity or intolerance or celiac disease, it doesn’t come as a surprise why there are many digestive symptoms involved. Abdominal pain, excess gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, smelly stools — these are the most commonly reported problems by people whose small intestines are not in good terms with gluten.

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However, there are many other symptoms that may be experienced that are not related to the digestive system. They include fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety and joint pain.

Then there’s also gluten neuropathy, which is nerve damage as a result of gluten consumption. According to doctors, gluten neuropathy can be blamed on inflammation that individuals with gluten sensitivity or intolerance or celiac disease suffer from upon the consumption of anything with gluten in it.

Different for Different People

Because the nerves are damaged, gluten neuropathy can cause nerve pain. However, some people who are suffering from it complain of what’s referred to as pins and needles sensation — the kind you usually encounter when you sit on your leg or sleep with your arm under your head.

Gluten neuropathy may sometimes cause numbness. In some instances, it can cause weakness as well. Health authorities say that the symptom of gluten neuropathy may shift from one to the other.

The symptoms of gluten neuropathy can be felt in the extremities, just like peripheral neuropathy — peripheral means that the affected nerves are those that are situated outside of the brain and spinal cord. So in other words, they are the ones that are found in the feet, legs, hands and arms.

How is It Managed?

Most of the time, refraining from taking anything with gluten in it is enough to make gluten neuropathy go away. So in other words, making the necessary dietary changes is the solution for it.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case — some people with gluten sensitivity or intolerance or celiac disease still suffer from gluten neuropathy even after steering clear of gluten-containing food products. Experts believe that such can be blamed on inflammation that gluten can cause.

There are medications that may be prescribed to help deal with nerve pain, pins and needles sensation, numbness or weakness brought about by gluten neuropathy. Also, various home remedies exist such as taking warm baths, application of creams with cayenne pepper on affected areas, acupuncture and stress reduction.