Gluten ataxia

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Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: What is gluten ataxia?

Answer


Gluten ataxia is a rare neurological gluten-related condition that triggers an autoimmune response that damages the brain when gluten is ingested. It can cause problems with walking and movement.

Symptoms of ataxia:

  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Unsteady gait
  • Reduced fine motor skills
  • Difficulty with speech and swallowing
  • Involuntary eye movements (1, 2)

Transglutaminase 6 antibodies are a marker when diagnosing gluten ataxia. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to prevent progression of the disease (3).  Like with celiac disease the treatment is a strict gluten-free diet free from wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives.

However, gluten ataxia is very rare. There are also other causes of ataxia such as vitamin deficiencies, specifically vitamin E, vitamin B12, thiamin, or B6. Ataxia caused by nutrient deficiencies can usually be reversed when the deficiency is resolved (2).

To learn more about celiac disease and neurophysical features, watch The Intersection of Neurology and Celiac Disease, a webinar NCA presented with the Harvard Medical School Celiac Research Program in September 2021.

References:

  1. Beyond Celiac. Gluten Ataxia. Beyond Celiac Website: https://www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/related-conditions/gluten-ataxia/
  1. Mayo Clinic. Ataxia. Mayo Clinic Website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ataxia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355652
  1. Hadjivassiliou M, Aeschlimann P, Sanders DS, Mäki M, Kaukinen K, Grünewald RA, Bandmann O, Woodroofe N, Haddock G, Aeschlimann DP. Transglutaminase 6 antibodies in the diagnosis of gluten ataxia. Neurology. 2013 May 7;80(19):1740-5. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182919070. Epub 2013 Apr 10. PMID: 23576621. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23576621/

Reviewed October 21, 2022.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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