Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease in which the fatty myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged due to inflammation, leading to demyelination and scarring as well as a broad spectrum of signs and symptoms. MS affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other effectively. There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis. MS is not considered a hereditary disease. However, a number of genetics have been shown to increase the risk of developing the disease.
Research in the field of MS is non-conclusive. But there are some interesting facts that I would like to point out to you in this article about the link between MS and celiac disease and gluten intolerance. One study in Spain examined the data from 72 patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and 126 of their first-degree relatives in comparison with 123 healthy control subjects from the same area. Researchers were looking for indicators of celiac disease. Like celiac disease, MS is an autoimmune condition. Also like celiac disease, there is a genetic component and to some extent it runs in families. As I have explained before, autoimmune diseases are when the body attacks itself. No one knows for sure why this happens or what triggers it, but environmental factors and stress seem to play a role.
In the control group, 2.4% tested positive for tissue IgA antibodies, an indicator of celiac disease. Amongst MS patients, 10% tested positive and 11.1% showed mild or moderate villous atrophy upon biopsy another sign of celiac disease and or gluten intolerance. Furthermore, 32% of their first-degree relatives tested positive for signs of celiac disease. It was also shown that the average age of onset of MS was younger in celiac patients than non-celiacs.
From this data they concluded that if you or a relative suffers from MS, you should get tested for celiac disease as soon as possible, keeping in mind that you need to be tested before you go on a gluten-free diet, or the antibodies will not be present in your system.
The study did not look into whether or not untreated celiac disease could lead to MS. It did mention that those subjects who were found to have celiac disease were immediately placed on a gluten-free diet and improved considerably both with respect to the gastrointestinal and to the neurological symptomatology during follow up studies.
Another study on the prevalence of celiac disease in multiple sclerosis was published in the journal BioMed Central where they analyzed 72 MS patients, who had the Relapsing-Remitting form of Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS), characterized by intermittent episodes of relapses and prolonged remissions, which make up 80% of MS cases.
They detected positive tissue transglutaminase 2 (tTG-2), a blood marker for celiac disease, in 7 MS patients (10%) and mild or moderate villous atrophy in duodenal biopsies, in 8 MS patients (11.1%). Villous atrophy, or flattening of the nutrient-absorbing villi in the small intestine, is indicative of celiac disease. And the overall prevalence of celiac disease in MS patients was between 5-10 times higher than the frequency found in the general population. Again, all the celiac patients were put on a gluten free diet and all of them improved considerably both with respect to gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms in the follow-up period. Then, they tested the MS patients’ 126 first-degree relatives and found that 23 out of the 126 first-degree relatives (32%) had celiac disease.
One of the most fascinating things I found out during my MS research is the similarities of symptoms to Celiac disease and gluten intolerance; digestive problems and malabsorption issues standing out farthest in my mind. Here are some interesting malabsorption issues in MS patients….do they sound familiar?
One symptom of MS is a magnesium deficiency. One of the causes of magnesium deficiency is a diet high in grains, such as wheat. Wheat has phytic acid which binds magnesium making it unavailable to the body. Wheat is an arid crop. It does not grow in tropical countries. MS is also uncommon in tropical countries. However, wheat is a staple food in many of the countries in which MS frequently occurs. Gluten intolerance has also been implicated in MS, and MS does occur more frequently in countries with high gluten diets. Gluten intolerance can lower absorption of minerals like magnesium. Perhaps not coincidentally, MS is uncommon in Asian countries like China and Japan, where the main starch is rice.
A vitamin D deficiency has been shown to cause an MS-like condition in mice. Many people with MS have also been found to be low in vitamin D. And studies in the U.S. and Hungary show that people with MS have low levels of uric acid. One causative factor in gout and uric acid production is molybdenum, an essential mineral. Molybdenum is needed to aid in converting purines to uric acid. Molybdenum deficiencies are an established cause of uric acid deficiencies. Interestingly, molybdenum supplements are not advised for people with gout because molybdenum may raise uric acid levels. In addition, a low intake of molybdenum can cause male impotence, a symptom associated with MS. Recent studies link molybdenum deficiencies to neurological damage. And higher incidences of MS have been noted where the soil is lower in molybdenum.
Iron deficiency anemia has been observed in patients with MS. If high iron levels contribute to gout, then it is possible that low iron levels would contribute to MS. One study noted that hospital patients with MS have low levels of zinc and iron. The conclusion was that the MS patients were at risk for poor nutritional status but it is possible that perhaps people with poor nutritional status are at risk for MS.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies and MS share features of soreness and weakness of the legs and arms, difficulty in walking, diminished sensory perception, difficulty in speaking, memory loss, jerking of limbs, fatigue and paralysis. One study found around 40% of the people tested with MS to be suffering from malabsorption problems which would, of course, lead to nutritional deficiencies. So again, malabsorption could be playing a role here, by preventing the absorption of Vitamin B12 in the body, these symptoms become prevalent.
Again, my goal is always to gain awareness. Although studies show that a gluten free diet cannot cure MS or Celiac disease for that matter, it CAN alleviate or obliterate the symptoms, resulting in a better quality of life. Who wants to be in pain all day? YOU deserve better. If you or someone you love suffers from MS, try a gluten free diet for 6 months. With all of the products, information and resources out there, gluten free living is easier than you think! Here is a great recipe that I designed in my kitchen. It is my attempt to refabricate the old ‘Quaker Oats granola bar.’ I made these for my nieces in California and put a dark chocolate bar in the middle layer instead of the jelly and I heard they were fabulous!
Mom’s PB & J Granola Bars
½ cup honey
½ cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups gluten free oats
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
Toast oats on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
In a small sauce pan over low heat, melt together honey, peanut butter, vanilla and brown sugar.
Add toasted oats to the peanut butter mixture.
In an 8 X 8 baking dish, press half of the oat mixture onto a parchment lined dish.
Spread preserves evenly over oat mixture.
Spread the other half of the oat mixture on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Let cool completely before cutting.
Makes 12 bars.
Loan Foth on Gluten Free Dogs Terry Whitaker Flint… on The Stink on Onions Celiac & Gluten… on Gluten Free Living in a Gluten… Terry on Liver Disease in Celiacs Judy Berlinger on Boo, Hamen!
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