Dr. Bob on January 20th, 2009

Your nickname is “Olde Fart”

    Because the small intestine of a person with celiac disease is damaged, undigested food enters the large intestines where bacteria convert it into gases (methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen). These gases cause the bloating, abdominal pain and passing of gas that is often associated with celiac disease.

You have a bulging belly and no butt

    Bloating caused by a gas-filled colon causes the distended belly and poor absorption of fats and other nutrients causes body wasting.  Children (and adults) with celiac disease often have the body shape of a starving waif in Africa.

Your friends are a lot smarter than you

    Some people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity suffer cognitive impairment.  Forgetfulness (amnesia) and confusion can increase.  If so, stay away from multitasking!

You have fallen down and you can’t get up

    Some people with celiac disease experience cerebellum atrophy (cerebellar degeneration). The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls muscle tone. Weakness can be the result.

You can’t dance or you dance like a white person

    Celiac disease is associated with gluten ataxia which causess a loss of balance and coordination.  Learning new dance steps can help regain your balance, so don’t give up.

You can’t use chopsticks either

    Gluten ataxia can cause your hands to tremble.  Use heavy utensils instead.

Your headaches are on one side of your head

    Some people with celiac disease experience migraine headaches.  For some, strict adherence to a gluten free diet reduces the incidence of migraines.

Your bowel movements don’t have a little point on each end

    When undigested fat enters the colon, the colon releases water into the waste stream. For this reason, celiac disease often results in loose stools and diarhea. Get the point?

You tend to drop your drink into your lap on airplane trips

    There is that gluten ataxia again.

Your most frequent sentence is “Oops!”

    What can I say?

To learn more about celiac disease, check out these websites:

Dr. Bob on January 19th, 2009

Gluten sensivity can adversely affect a number of important body systems, like the digestive system and the nervous system.  Some people with gluten sensivity experience loss of brain cells from their cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination, and that is involved in thinking and emotional response (1).


Loss of balance and coordination is called ataxia.  Ataxity caused by gluten sensitivity can develop slowly or it can develop very rapidly.  The above MRI image shows “before” and “after” snapshots of the cerebellum (the lower “little brain”) of a person with rapid onset of cerebellar atrophy (shrinkage of the cerebellum) over a period of 15 months before the diagnosis of gluten ataxia (2).

The above MRI images show cross-sectional views through the middle of the brains of people with celiac diagnosed (A and B) with cerebellar atrophy and the brain of a person with cerebellar atrophy, brainstem atrophy and cortical cerebral atrophy (C) (3).

  1. Centre for Neuro Skills:  Cerebellum
  2. Hadjivassiliou et al., Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness, J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry (2002) 72:560-563.
  3. Pellecchia et al., Idiopathic cerebellar ataxia associated with celiac disease: lack of distinctive neurological features, J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry (1999) 66:32-35.
Dr. Bob on January 16th, 2009

Celiac disease is a common autoimmune disease that affects an estimated one in 133 Americans (1) and an estimated one in 150-200 in Europe (2).  People with celiac disease cannot consume wheat, rye, barley, oats or a few other lesser-known grains (3).

Some researchers believe that about one in 10 people with celiac disease also have gluten axatia.  Ataxia is a neurological disorder that causes a loss of coordination and balance (4,5).  Some believe that 40 percent of unexplained ataxias are due to gluten sensitivity, even in the absence of active celiac disease.  A gluten-free diet may reduce the symptoms of gluten ataxia (6). 

  1. University of Maryland Medical Center, Largest study ever finds that one out of every 133 Americans may have celiac disease, ScienceDaily (2003, February 12). 
  2.  Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Celiac disease not as uncommon as once thought, say researchers at Wake Forest, ScienceDaiy (2000, January 28).
  3. Mayo Clinic, Gluten intolerance no longer considered rare, ScienceDaily (2003, December 31).
  4. American Academy of Neurology, Sensitivity to gluten may result in neurological dysfunction; independent of symptoms. ScienceDaily (2002, April 30).
  5. Ataxia Alternatives:  Research and support:  FAQ
  6. Celiac.org:  Gluten ataxia
  7. Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (2002) 72:560-563, Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness
  8. Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (2003) 74:1221-1224, Dietary treatment of gluten ataxia

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