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Nutritional Insights

Is gluten to blame for your neuropathy?

Do you suffer from nerve pain, stinging, or burning sensations to feet, hands, both?  Peripheral neuropathy, or neuropathy, can describe a wide range of disorders characterized by nerve damage to one or more nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord.  Often the root cause of neuropathy is unknown, however the Mayo Clinic has been able to link autoimmune diseases and vitamin deficiencies as some of the potential causes. 

In people with a gluten sensitivity, eating foods with gluten triggers an autoimmune response, much the same way that the antibodies attack viruses.  This leads to intestinal damage and inhibits absorption of nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies.  According to the Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, gastrointestinal symptoms like an upset stomach, may signify that neurological damage has already been done. 

Gluten Free Society calls gluten a "potential neurotoxin".  This seems fitting considering that gluten damage can lead to numbness in the hands and feet, as well as dizziness, loss of balance, tremors, and trouble judging distances, and many more symptoms.  Gluten neuropathy is when the autoimmune response is the root cause of the nerve damage.

One study published in the Muscle and Nerve journal (December 2006) found that participants with neuropathy who followed a gluten-fee diet, showed significant improvement in symptoms after one year.  The control group had worsening symptoms.

But no need to wait one year to see results.  Usually, improvements can be felt as soon as 1 week when going on a strict gluten-free regimen.  In my practice, I have discussed possibilities of gluten allergies and sensitivities with clients, especially with those that have chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, and cases of neuropathy.  They have given positive feedback and saw reduction in their symptoms after eliminating gluten in their diets!

If you suspect that you have any gluten intolerance, the gentlest way to figure it out is by dietary therapy.  Avoid all gluten for 2-4 weeks and keep a food journal, documenting everything that goes in your mouth, your symptoms/reactions for each day.  After a few weeks, slowly re-introduce it and observe any reactions.  Gluten intolerance DOES NOT respond to simple allergy tests like milk or nuts.  Abstinence is key! 

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