Celiac Disease And Cognitive Decline

December 20th, 2010 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered a connection between celiac disease, a digestive condition triggered by consumption of gluten, and dementia or other forms of cognitive decline. Theories to explain the connection between celiac disease and cognitive decline include the following:

  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Inflammatory cytokines — chemical messengers of inflammation that could contribute to problems in the brain
  • An immune attack on the brain that may occur in some patients with celiac disease

Study investigator, says that the reversal or stabilization of the cognitive symptoms in some patients when they underwent gluten withdrawal.

For celiac disease patients who have already developed cognitive decline, closely following a gluten-free diet may result in some symptom improvement.

Celiac disease occurs in 1 out of 133 people and predominantly affects Caucasians. Symptoms can include intermittent diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, or no gastrointestinal symptoms at all. It can also manifest in weight loss, fatigue, anemia, general weakness, foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily, osteoporosis or stunted growth (in children only). The condition may also cause symptoms far outside of the gut. Nine out of 10 times, the disease is not discovered due to the vague nature of the symptoms.
– Fred Hutchinson Cancer ResearchCenter

Dr. Keith and Laurie Nemec’s comments on link between celiac disease in cognitive decline.
What we want to draw from this study is that the cognitive decline( that means your mental function, your brain functioning, decline) within two years of the onset of celiac disease symptoms. Onset or worsening of the symptoms that were already there. What they have found is that celiac disease, which is defined as, symptoms including intermittent diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, and one doesn’t even have to have gastrointestinal symptoms although it is a gastrointestinal disease. It could also manifest with weight loss, fatigue, anemia, weakness. All these things are part of the celiac disease.   What we want you to know about celiac disease is it is another manifesting of something that is called maldigestion/malabsorbtion or leaky gut syndrome. With celiac disease people do not tolerate wheat products, or gluten products. Gluten is in wheat, it is in most grains but the key in this is let’s not focus on the celiac, let’s just focus on the maldigestion/malabsorbtion, if we look at it that way we will get a bigger picture. So, the three theories to explain the connection between celiac disease in cognitive decline according to this study, and let’s just call this between maldigestion/malabsorbtion in cognitive decline are these:

  • Nutritional deficiency, and how does that happen. Well if we eat the right food but don’t digest the food, we are going to become deficient and we don’t digest the food when we eat the foods in the wrong form or the foods that are eaten in the cooked form, that are eaten day in and day out. That’s why the number one and two allergies in America are dairy products and wheat products. Why? Because we eat these things day in and day out in a cooked form that can cause reactivity. So this can cause the low level inflammation in the intestinal tract, the leaky gut syndrome, which leads to inflammation in the body, the nutritional deficiency.
  • Inflammatory cytokines. Again, this can go back to the brain and cause the cognitive decline, but what we see is the maldigestion/malabsorbtion is the greatest inroad for inflammation in the body and that inflammation can damage, destroy any cell of any gland, organ or tissue. So one of the greatest causes of all symptoms, conditions or diseases is maldigestion/malabsorbtion.
  • Immune attack on the brain. This is the autoimmune disease where when the body is in a maldigestion/malabsorbtion state, it becomes hyper reactive because with the leaky gut syndrome, large food particles leak through the intestinal barrier, and these large food particles stress the immune system out because your white blood cells which were designed to eat bacteria, virus’s, parasites, candida and cancer cells, now they have to eat these large food particles, your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well if they’re eating your breakfast, lunch and dinner then they are not going to keep up with the cancer cells and the pathogens but also they are working so hard that it stresses the immune system and it goes into a hyperactivity so it starts fighting everything including your own cells, your own tissues. This is the autoimmune disease and what they are finding about it can affect the brain and the cognitive function.

This study also noted that there was reversal of the cognitive symptoms, where the symptoms went away when they just took the gluten out of the diet. But we’ll take it higher than that when you get away from anything that you don’t digest properly, gluten is a huge one. But when you take away dairy products, when you take away nondigestable, hard to digest toxic animal products, and when you get away from the grains that have been cooked, which turn into gluten, all which turn into the maldigestion/malabsorbtion biproduct. All these things will increase inflammation in the body and when you get away from them, you will increase your level of health.

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