Thursday, November 01, 2012

Brain Changes in Autism caused by Gluten?

Gluten affects the brain and the nervous system. This is knowledge that we’ve had for some time. Unfortunately that knowledge has not arrived at the doorstep of many doctors whom are stuck in the historical description of celiac disease as a disease that presents with a patient who is dramatically underweight, has abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloating. No wonder we diagnose a mere 3% of our celiacs in this country! Many doctors flatly refuse to even test patients who do not present with classic symptoms.
What this means for our population is that children with autism, teens with anorexia, depression and anxiety plus adults with a host of similar neurological problems will continue to suffer due to the underlying root cause remaining undiagnosed. What is the cause? Gluten.

Back in 2000, a study titled “Agnormal regional cerebral blood flow in childhood autism” was published in Brain. This was a complex study that actually mapped out the areas of the brain that received insufficient blood flow in autistic children. What was so fascinating was the correlation between the regions affected and the type of behavior most afflicting these autistic children. Various abnormalities including theory of mind (inability to understand other people’s mental states) abnormal responses to sensory stimuli (they don’t want their feet to leave the ground, noises bother them dramatically, normal grooming is overwhelming for them, etc.) and the obsessive desire for sameness (activities need to be done exactly the same way, in the same order, at the same times, etc.) had a direct correlation to the parts of the brain suffering from lack of blood flow – called hypoperfusion.

How does this relate to gluten and celiac disease? In 2004 a study was presented in the American Journal of Medicine titled “Regional Cerebral Hypoperfusion in Patients with Celiac Disease”. This research revealed hypoperfusion in individuals with untreated celiac disease. This group revealed a loss of blood flow to a particular area of the brain (the frontal lobe) that was associated with increased instances of anxiety and depression. When evaluating celiacs who were untreated against healthy normal controls, the evidence was clear: “No blood flow abnormalities were found in the healthy control subjects. Of the 15 untreated celiac patients, 11 had at least one area of hypoperfusion in the brain region…while only 1 of 15 celiac patients on a gluten-free diet had hypoperfusion… high levels of anxiety were common in the untreated celiac patients (11/15)…depression was more common in untreated celiac patients (10/15).”

This makes it clear that when you have a negative reaction to gluten and you continue to eat it, you are putting your brain at risk. Lack of blood flow to the brain was seen consistently in untreated celiacs and it was also not seen in the healthy normal control group. And the best news was that it also not a major issue in the treated celiac group- meaning those celiacs who were following a gluten-free diet.

The takeaway here is that gluten is a known initiator of poor blood flow to the brain and the area of the brain affected seems to correlate to the behavioral and mental symptoms experienced by the patient. Based on the autism research it seems a prudent idea to screen autistic children for gluten intolerance as soon as the autism diagnosis is made. What do you think? What about those with depression and anxiety? The 2004 study results are quite compelling. Lastly there was a study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics also in 2004 that stated they found similar blood flow alterations in untreated celiac who suffered from anorexia nervosa. Would it be a good idea to screen those suffering from anorexia for celiac disease?

I’d like to hear what you think.

I hope this was helpful and I equally hope that this information will help to diagnose someone who is suffering with one of these conditions due to gluten intolerance and its affect on blood flow to the brain.
If you or someone you know is suffering, please consider calling us for a free health analysis. We are here to help!

Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally.

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! C
all 408-733-0400.

I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP

IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Brain 2000, 123, 1838-1844. “Abnormal regional cerebral blood flow in childhood autism”. Researchers out of Tokyo, Japan.
American Journal of Medicine, “Regional Cerebral Hypoperfusion in Patients with Celiac Disease” , March 1, 2004, pp. 312-317.
Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2004 Issue 20, pp. 821-824
Pediatrics, Kieslich, M., Vol. 108 No. 2, August 2001.

Lancet Neurology, 2010; 9: pp. 318-30

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