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Gluten Sensitivity and Parkinson's Disease

Researchers have known since 1966 that gluten sensitivity can cause neurological problems of many kinds. One common issue is cerebellar ataxia, that is declining ability to know where you are in space that creates difficulty with all motor functions. One has more and more trouble walking, standing in one place, talking and finally begins to lose higher cortical function too like memory and personality.

Parkinson's Disease (PD) is usually a rapidly progressing motor malfunction. In this case, the brain loses ability to control movement resulting in tremors and rigidity. A primary area affected is an area called the basal ganglia that is a center for much dopamine activity.

Parkinsonian Syndrome(PS) is similar to Parkinson's Disease but is much slower in its progression. The causes of PS are more varied than PD.

Four different structures are primary when it comes to understanding PD, the substantia nigra, putamen, globus pallidus and finally the subthalamic nucleus (STN). In the past most of the research centered on the substantia nigra and taking L-Dopa targets this area. Recent research has focused on the STN as this appears to be an important switching area. Key to the STN is the conversion of glutamate to GABA by an enzyme called GAD or glutamic acid decarboxylase.

According to researcher neurologist Marios Hadjivassiliou in the UK, GAD is too often a target for antibodies stimulated by gluten in the diet. Gluten as you know is the storage protein of wheat, rye barley and also corn and oats.

Gluten is important because it activates the same genes that target a poorly matched transplanted kidney. This is the reason why a gluten sensitive person can cause so many different kinds of issues because just about any tissue can be targeted for destruction by the resultant antibodies.

PD is controlled by different genes. A few people have a genetic pattern that has been shown to be causative all by themselves without any help from other genes. Most with PD have a genetic pattern that needs other contributing factors. In those cases gluten sensitivity may very well be one of the contributing factors. Even in the case of having the more rare genetic pattern that causes PD by itself, if gluten sensitivity is overlaid, it will help accelerate the problem. Being gluten free will most likely help the success of other treatments.

In the case of PD, it is possible that the switching mechanism of the STN (sub thalamic nucleus) is being damaged by the antibodies targeting the GAD.

What should a person do? It isn't that hard to check genetics and take an inventory of wheat stimulated antibodies that could be affecting the GAD and the STN and therefore contributing to PD or PS. For that we recommend a genetic test from Enterolab and Array 3 from Cyrex Labs.

Cyrex Labs Array 3 List

Gluten Resources: Gluten Sensitivity Testing

Gluten Resources: Cyrex Lab Procedures

More research will be coming in the next decade but if you are dealing with some devastating like Parkinson's Disease you don't have time to wait. Get checked for possible gluten reactions now. If you come back gluten sensitive, we will help you make the transition to a gluten free diet. It isn't that hard and the payoff can be dramatic.