Few disease are more difficult to treat than those related to the brain and nerves. Since it is the body’s control center, having diseases caused by malfunctions in the brain can have multiple effects on the body. Not only are doctors trying to cure or control the root cause, relief for multiple symptoms are needed.
One of these diseases is peripheral neuropathy. According to recent there are approximately 20,000 million people diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in all its forms. In addition, the data also shows that the youngest recorded age to have peripheral neuropathy is 19 years old.
Researchers have suggested a connection to celiac disease.
But first, what is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the process by which the brain and spinal cord carry and relay messages. The peripheral nerves send messages to the skin, muscles, and internal organs. Once damaged, these neural messages are interrupted, which makes the affected parts numb and painful.
There are generally two types of peripheral neuropathy: polyneuropathy and mononeuropathy. Polyneuropathy directly translates and means that multiple nerves are damaged. Mononeuropathy, on the other hand, means only a single group of nerves is damaged.
Peripheral neuropathy appears to coexist with other diseases as well. It can appear together with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, idiopathic, cancer, chemotherapy-induced, and other diseases.
It can also be caused by the following:
- Kidney failure
- Heredity disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Inflammatory and infections
- Vitamin deficiency
- Idiopathic causes (unknown causes)
Peripheral neuropathy cannot be fully cured nor reversed once it sets in. However, through early detection and early treatments, it can be prevented from becoming worse. Most of the common medications taken for peripheral neuropathy can include over-the-counter pain relievers. These non-steroidal medicines can only alleviate mild pain. For people diagnosed with a worse case, these over-the-counter drugs may not suffice anymore.
Various medicines like anti-seizures, antidepressants, topical treatments, and high dosage pain relievers are taken to alleviate accompanying symptoms. Asides from tablets, electrical therapies, physical therapies, intravenous treatments, and surgery can be done too.
Doctors are still continuing to find ways to broaden the treatments for peripheral neuropathy patients. According to a recent study, a gluten diet can be linked to peripheral neuropathy. The lead author, Dr. Panagiotis Zis, MD, PhD, said that the results show a correlation between the amount of gluten intake and pain felt, but the relationship does not suggest that one causes the other or vice-versa.
In the study, participants had an average age of 70 years old. The participants’ symptoms, gluten-free diet, pain intensity, and their mental health were asked during the study. Approximately 50 percent of the participants had pain associated with their neuropathy.
The study’s results showed that people who had a gluten-free diet were more likely to experience less pain as compared to people who haven’t. After the researchers adjusted the age, sex, and mental health, the results showed that people who followed a strict no gluten diet were 89% less likely to experience pain with their neuropathy.
However, it should be noted that having a diet with gluten-rich food does not cause peripheral neuropathy. These circumstances presented in the study are based on people who have neuropathy and are also gluten-sensitive. Also, some people have both celiac disease and peripheral neuropathy.
Other supporting studies
Another supporting study showed a link between celiac disease (gluten sensitivity) and peripheral neuropathy. The study had 215 participants and 140 of them were tested for antibodies that are associated with celiac disease. The selected 140 participants reportedly had axon neuropathy and idiopathic neuropathy. 34% of the participants showed that they had high numbers of antibodies. For the participants that were suspected of having celiac disease, endoscopies and biopsies were also performed. After the procedure, results showed that 9% of those with idiopathic neuropathy actually had celiac disease.
The study concluded that gluten sensitivity can be inked to a substantial number of axonal and idiopathic neuropathy sufferers. It was also shown that these sufferers do not exactly suffer from any vitamin or nutrient deficiency that may aggravate their situation. Compared to the first study, gluten might not have a causal link to peripheral neuropathy because it suggested that gluten sensitivity is commonly found in people who suffer an axonal idiopathic neuropathology.
Reversing the diet or going gluten-free had actually lessened or diminished symptoms. In addition, the study also suggested that if gluten is found to be the root cause, it is best to consult a doctor to find out if it is not a manifestation of other gluten-related diseases.
With the study’s results, it can be concluded how both gluten sensitivity and peripheral neuropathy have clear relationships. Such findings are essential to those who suffer from both diseases. By simply altering your diet, it can drastically improve your way of living. Apart from the medicines you are taking, you can absolutely cut them down (with doctor’s supervision and consultation) by simply having a strict gluten-free diet.
For people suffering both or those with peripheral neuropathy and gluten sensitivity tendencies, having a gluten-free diet hit two birds at the same time. Gluten sensitivity symptoms may include tingling and numbness. With a diet change, you do not only control the gluten’s adverse effects—you are also alleviating painful symptoms of your neuropathy.
Suffering from peripheral neuropathy should not be a hindrance for you to enjoy life. With a few changes and an effort for treatments and medications, you can definitely overcome it. Asides from relying solely on pharmaceuticals, here are a few things you can do:
- Live a healthy lifestyle: A balanced diet and exercise can greatly improve your health. This solely doesn’t have to physical health alone but both contribute to a more mentally and emotionally healthy state.
- Various therapies: Do not just rely on physical therapies. Explore the alternative and integrative therapies that can help your situation. It is also good to invest in positive therapies to strengthen your mental health.
- Join support groups: This can help you feel less alone and help you feel understood. By doing so, you are supporting your community and yourself realize that peripheral neuropathy won’t and can’t limit you.
Although further research is still needed, the new findings in the various studies are a big step. By identifying the relationship between gluten and peripheral neuropathy, it has opened up a path to determine if celiac disease causes peripheral neuropathy.