Therapeutic diet: Parkinson”s disease may improve with a gluten-free diet

Starting from a clinical case, Italian neurologists describe how some cases of Parkinson”s may be due to an undiagnosed gluten intolerance.

Parkinson”s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder that affects more than 150,000 people in Spain, according to the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN). The cause of the problem is not known and the treatments are not very effective. A study published in the Journal of Neurology , written by neurologists at the Bio-Medical University of Rome, points out that some cases of Parkinson”s could be related to a latent and undiagnosed gluten intolerance .


Scientists detail the case of a 75-year-old patient with Parkinson”s symptoms who improved when he was prescribed a gluten-free diet.

The man had had difficulty walking for a year. He suffered from postural instability and fatigue, which caused changes in his gait. The neurological examination also revealed hypomimia (frozen facial expression), bradykinesia (slow movement), and muscle stiffness. The diagnosis of the disease was made from the results of the UPDRS scale (Unified Parkinson”s Disease Rating Scale / Unified Parkinson”s Disease Rating Scale), magnetic resonance imaging, and single-photon emission computed tomography).

In addition, blood tests also showed the patient a low level of folate (folic acid) and a high level of homocysteine ​​(with normal vitamin B12). Homocysteine ​​is an intermediate product that arises in the course of protein metabolism and is normally rapidly degraded with the help of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid. Otherwise, homocysteine ​​has a damaging effect on the nerves and also on the blood vessels and can, for example, promote the development of arteriosclerosis.

In view of the low folate level, the doctors suspected that there could be latent celiac disease, that is, asymptomatic. The celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the consumption of gluten (protein complex in some types of cereals) triggers an immune response against intestinal mucosa.

This atrophies, which means that some nutrients cannot be absorbed in sufficient quantities and the corresponding deficiency symptoms eventually appear.


Celiac disease usually manifests with diarrhea and abdominal pain, but depression, skin changes, mouth ulcers, fatigue, and anemia can also appear. But there is also an asymptomatic celiac disease, as in the case of some Parkinson”s patients.

A corresponding blood test showed the typical celiac disease antibodies (anti-gliadin antibodies, anti-transglutaminase antibodies, and anti-endomysium antibodies). The results of the biopsy of the duodenal mucosa were also clear: there was latent celiac disease.


The patient was prescribed a gluten-free diet. They did not give him any medicine for Parkinson”s. After three months he returned to the hospital for a follow-up examination, where almost complete resolution of all symptoms was found. On the UPDR scale, he now had only 3 points in Part II (previously 8), in Part III only 8 (previously 19). Due to this improvement, it was decided not to prescribe any medication.

After another 15 months, during which the patient continued to eat gluten-free, further improvement could be observed. On the UPDR scale, I still had 3 in Part II, but only 5 points in Part III (previously 8). No medication was given.

The neurological symptoms, some of which resemble Parkinson”s disease, are not uncommon in celiac disease. Although the intestine is the central point, between 6 and 10% of those affected also experience what is known as cerebellar ataxia, which denotes movement coordination disorders caused by pathological changes in the cerebellum.

In a 2009 study, one-third of 72 celiac disease patients found movement coordination disorders. Vestibular disorders (disorders of the sense of balance) were found in 8%, which can also be expressed in coordination disorders. Two of the patients had also been shown to have Parkinson”s disease.

However, the number of unreported cases could be much higher, since all patients were already on a gluten-free diet, so it was only possible to identify those Parkinson”s patients in whom the diet was not yet able to completely eliminate symptom.


The conclusion of the study is not that the gluten diet causes Parkinson”s disease. It means that Parkinson”s symptoms may in some cases be due to an intolerance to gluten. Which means that when symptoms appear, it is advisable to check for this intolerance.

The connection between celiac disease and Parkinson”s disease or general neurological disorders has not yet been fully clarified, but it is assumed that vitamin deficiencies due to absorption disorders in the gut related to celiac disease along with disorders immune system could be the cause.

Of course, there are many other possible causes of Parkinson”s disease, such as continued exposure to pesticides. So avoid pesticides whenever possible and buy quality organic food.

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