Gluten sensitivity may lead to neurological problems
Patients affected by autoimmune thyroid disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are at a higher risk for having gluten sensitivity and even celiac disease. Intolerance to gluten, regardless of its severity, can contribute to many symptoms and to impairment of quality of life. Beyond the GI inflammation that can result from gluten sensitivity, which in turn can impair absorption of many nutrients and interfere with normal digestive processes in the GI tract, it can also lead to body inflammation and production of inflammation chemicals that can alter mood, emotions, and cognition. In some patients struggling with gluten intolerance, the immune system can also produce antibodies that can target certain parts of the brain, including the cerebellum, which is a part of the brain involved in coordination and motion. When these antibodies attack the cerebellum, a neurological condition can develop, which is manifested as difficulty walking and performing fine motor skills. This neurological condition is called ataxia in which even speech and vision can be impaired. This neurological condition triggered by gluten through reactivity of the immune system resembles, in many ways, ataxia caused by long term alcohol abuse. It is of great interest to find out that heavy alcohol consumption can actually trigger gluten sensitivity in people who have a genetic predisposition to gluten sensitivity, such as patients with autoimmune thyroid disease. In essence, thyroid patients should be aware that heavy alcohol consumption on a long term basis will put them at an even higher risk for exhibiting gluten sensitivity with all of its consequences, including serious ones such as neurological problems.