Gluten free bakeries…
Gluten free cereals…
Totally gluten free diets…
You can’t look through a magazine or turn on the TV these days without seeing something about the benefits of going gluten free in your diet.
Going gluten-free is more than just the latest fad diet.
Especially for the growing number of people with celiac disease (aka gluten sensitivity).
If you’re one of those people, you’re probably all too familiar with the symptoms of celiac disease:
- Change in weight
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation (or both)
- General weakness
- Oily, foul-smelling stools
- Stomach problems, cramping, gas, distention, bloating, vomiting
Those symptoms all make sense when you understand exactly what celiac disease is.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that damages the lining of the small intestine. If you have celiac disease, eating foods that contain gluten – a protein found in wheat and other grains – starts a reaction in your autoimmune system that directly affects the small intestine. Without treatment, celiac disease can lead to cancer, anemia, seizures, osteoporosis – any of these can be fatal.
Since celiac disease directly affects the small intestine, digestive issues make perfect sense. But what about these symptoms:
- Burning, tingling and numbness in hands and feet
- Loss of feeling in hands and feet
- Numbness, tingling or reduced sensation in the face and body
The Celiac Disease – Peripheral Neuropathy Connection
At first glance, it’s hard to make the connection between gluten sensitivity and peripheral neuropathy. A recent study discovered that about 10% of people with celiac disease had peripheral neuropathy symptoms before their digestive system issues appeared. For that reason, many people who have peripheral neuropathy symptoms with no other indicators for neuropathy, should be checked for celiac disease as a possible cause of their peripheral neuropathy.
The best thing you can do for yourself is contact a neuropathy specialist, like your local NeuropathyDr® clinician, to undergo the appropriate testing to find out if celiac disease is causing your peripheral neuropathy.
Testing and Evaluation
If you have peripheral neuropathy and/or celiac disease symptoms and haven’t been tested for one or both of these conditions, this is what you can expect.
To determine if you have peripheral neuropathy, your NeuropathyDR® clinician will conduct a thorough neurological examination, electromyography and nerve conduction tests.
If you determine that you have neuropathy and you don’t have any other underlying potential cause, the next step will be to test you for celiac disease. Those tests will include blood tests and possibly a biopsy of the lining of your small intestine.
Living with Celiac Disease and Peripheral Neuropathy
Once your testing is completed, if you have celiac disease your NeuropathyDR® clinician will work with you to manage your condition. In order to manage your celiac disease symptoms you will need to:
- Follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of your life
- Avoid all foods containing wheat
- Avoid other grains that contain gluten (rye, barley and oats – that means no pasta, grains, cereals and many processed foods).
To help cope with your peripheral neuropathy symptoms caused by your celiac disease, you should:
- Stop taking any medications that cause peripheral neuropathy (like statins to lower cholesterol)
- Modify your lifestyle to reduce your pain – like avoiding standing or walking for extended periods of time
- Wear looser shoes
- Soak your feet in ice water
- Take pain medications prescribed by your NeuropathyDR® clinician
- Take safety precautions to compensate for your inability to feel sensation in your feet and hands
- Ask your NeuropathyDr® clinician about special therapeutic shoes that may be covered by insurance or Medicare
Celiac disease and peripheral neuropathy can wreak havoc on your body. Talk to your local NeuropathyDR® clinician to take steps to minimize the ill effects of both your conditions.
For more information on coping with celiac disease and peripheral neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscription to the Weekly Ezine “Beating Neuropathy” at http://neuropathydr.com.