Gluten Free Guerrillas

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Our Coeliac Question of the Week: Dr Rodney Ford answers…



Our Question of the week is answered by Dr. Rodney Ford!

A brief overview:

Dr Rodney Ford is well known amongst the Coeliac community and his medical peers as New Zealand’s expert Paediatric gatroenterologist, allergist and nutrition consultant. He is also a champion of Coeliac awareness and passionate advocate of gluten free living and penned the book ‘The Gluten Syndrome’.

Our question this week..
arose as we’ve had a lot of on-going queries on our Health Site HealthUnlocked and our facebook page ref neurological symptoms of Coeliac Disease. We all know that when we are diagnosed much focus is made by the medical profession on healing the gut through a strict gluten free diet so that we can digest foods properly again and regain our health. Yet as we know Coeliac Disease is an auto-immune disease not an allergy (despite what ill informed articles may sometimes say!). So like us you may be one of the many Coeliacs that had non-typical symptoms which eventually led to the correct diagnosis of Coeliac Disease e.g. via neurological symptoms like dizzyness, poor co-ordination, fatigue, foggy headedness, repeat headaches, cramps and muscle spasms. So it got us thinking about our nervous system and when this will recover. After all we know it can take years for our villi to recover and grow back in our gut yet what of our neurological symptoms - when will these get better?

So this week Gluten Free Guerrillas ask …

Q: When will my nerves get better?

Dr Rodney Ford answers…


There is overwhelming evidence that gluten sensitivity affects the brain.  My research, and that of others, indicates that gluten sensitivity if predominantly a nerve and brain disease.
Ford RP. “The gluten syndrome: a neurological disease.” Med Hypotheses. 2009 Sep;73(3):438-40. Epub 2009 Apr 29.
Hadjivassiliou and colleagues, “Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain.” Lancet Neurol. 2010 Mar;9(3):318-30.

The brain is connected to every cell in your body by nerve fibres.  Your brain sends nerve messages to all the organs of your body.  This delicate and extensive nerve network is called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).  It is responsible for the faultless function of all of your organs, including the whole length of your intestines.  For your gut, this means that when you eat something it gets swallowed, digested, broken down and passed out of your bottom end, all without you being aware of it other than the taste and the download.

However, when this process goes wrong you get to know about it.  You suffer from gut symptoms (the belching, gastric reflux, bloating, tummy pain, diarrhoea, constipation).  Other symptoms that gluten can cause, related to the brain and nerves, include: epilepsy, ataxia, headache and migraines, depression and psychosis … and also behaviour problems, attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism and irritability.

Similar to the gut healing story, the longer that the gluten-illness has lingered (with gluten provoking the symptoms), the slower you are going to recover.  The adult literature on nerve and brain disease caused by gluten is not good reading.  It shows that gluten-nerve-damage is often not reversible.  It is permanent: once the brain and nerves are damaged by gluten, it is difficult to heal them.

Fortunately for children, they bounce back much more quickly.  Some lose their irritability and headaches within a few weeks of going gluten free.  Many children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder on Ritalin, feel so much better on a gluten free diet that they can reduce and even stop their medication.  Children’s learning improves dramatically if gluten was interfering with their attention and behaviour.

Yes, there is overwhelming evidence that gluten can provoke many neurological and brain diseases.  I recommend that any person with any nerve/brain/mental/mood disorders should be tested for gluten sensitivity (using the IgG-gliadin antibody test – also known as AGA: Anti-Gliadin-Antibody).  The earlier the diagnosis can be made, the speedier the recovery.  If gluten has been allowed to cause neurological harm for decades, it becomes irreversible. Think about gluten-nerve damage and get testing today.

By Dr Rodney Ford, Author of The Gluten Syndrome


We’d like to thank Dr. Rodney Ford for answering our question and helping to widen the debate and awareness of Coeliac Disease for the gluten free community worldwide!

Discover more…

Dr Rodney Ford, Author of The Gluten Syndrome


The Gluten Syndrome is now available as an eBook revised new edition, 2011 see:

Be Coeliac Savvy and share this blog post:
As May is a big Coeliac / Celiac awareness month why not post a link to this post on your facebook wall profile and spread the word on Coeliac Disease?  Maybe you you have close relatives that don’t think they have the ‘typical’ stomach symptoms of Coeliac Disease? If so this blog post may help prompt them to have the Coeliac blood test you’ve been suggesting to assess if they may have undiagnosed Coeliac Disease.  Alternatively tweet the post and help spread awareness on twitter.

Want to quote us?
We’d love you to help us spread the word that a gluten free diet is for life for Coeliacs, no ‘ifs no buts’. However, although the saying goes that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ we’d really appreciate it if we collaborated together to raise gluten free awareness by you quoting us as the source of the article. We’ll promise to do the same. After all social media works best when we all play nicely online.


Gluten Free Guerrillas Team

PS Let us know what you’d like us to feature as one of our regular questions in future? 

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