Gluten Intolerance Associated with Epilepsy & Seizures

on Mar20
by Dr. Vikki Petersen | Print the article |

Seizures & Epilepsy Are As Common As Celiac Disease

Seizures and epilepsy may not seem to be common problems, but you may be surprised to discover that, identical to celiac disease, 1% of the population suffers and with increased age comes increased incidence at 3%. A full 10% of Americans can be expected to suffer a seizure in their lifetime.
It has been clearly shown that gluten affects the nervous system, but what are the specifics as it relates to epilepsy and seizures?

Celiac and Epilepsy Share the Same Genes

A study evaluating celiac disease, epilepsy and calcifications of the brain showed that the same genes involved with celiac were involved with epilepsy, specifically HLA-DQ2 and DQ8. Those suffering were found to have anti-gliadin antibodies (the immune system’s reaction to gluten) in their cerebrospinal fluid. This is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
Gluten creates inflammation of the small intestine that results in a leaky gut.  When gluten leaves the gut and gets into the bloodstream, the immune system of the blood reacts to it as well.  We used to think that few substances gained access to the cerebrospinal fluid, but this study proved that the immune system reacts to gluten wherever it finds it and gluten seems to be able to gain access to all parts of the body.

Early Diagnosis Leads to Highest Treatment Success

The efficacy of commencing a gluten free diet correlated directly with the youth of the patient and the duration of the epilepsy. In other words, the younger the patient and the less time that had elapsed from the initial seizure, the better the outcome of a gluten free diet.  As we so often say, the sooner we can diagnose the better the result and the less damage created.


Cheating with Gluten Can Create Serious Damage

Another study involved 128 patients with celiac disease. They were placed into three groups: those who followed their gluten-free diet, those who occasionally cheated and those who did not follow the diet at all. The group that ate an unrestricted diet containing gluten accounted for 37% of the group. They had been eating gluten for about 11 years since their celiac diagnosis at the time of the study. When the researchers evaluated for short stature and epilepsy with brain calcifications, the occurrence of both was found only in the group consuming gluten in their diet.

Here at the clinic we have been fortunate in gaining an early exposure to several epileptics and as a result have seen excellent results.


Gluten Causes Many Neurological Problems

The facts are that gluten is responsible for a large variety of negative effects on the nervous system.  From migraines to seizures, from depression to ataxia, from ADD/ADHD to schizophrenia, the list is long and unenviable.

The research has been done and continues to be done in expanding numbers – increasing awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance is where we have much work to do.  Tell your friends and family and let’s start making a dent in all the needless suffering!

Please let me know if I can assist you or anyone you know.  I am here to help.
HealthNOW is a destination clinic and we see patients from all over the country as well as internationally.

To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Brain and Development, Volume 27, Issue 3, April 2005, Pages 189-200
Eponyms in Child Neurology “Coeliac disease, epilepsy and cerebral calcifications “

Archives of Disease in Childhood, 1994;70:211-213 doi:10.1136/adc.70.3.211
“Need for follow up in coeliac disease.”

Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page. Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is founder of HealthNOW Medical Center and the author of “The Gluten Effect”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.

The Author

10 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. L Clark


    I am so glad to have found this article. I have been dealing with epilepsy for about 5 years, and my seizures have been semi-controlled over the years with meds. Just over a year ago, I decided to try the gluten free diet as an overall health challenge. Within a week, I started to feel the benefits – no more chronic digestive issues, and no more simple partial seizures. I have had 2 grand mal seizures over the past year – both after eating gluten! I’ve reached out to my doctors to share my experience, but they have not been receptive to it at all.

    It is so encouraging to see more information about the connection between gluten and seizures. Makes me feel like I’m not all alone here. Thank you!

    20 Mar
  2. 2

    Dear Liz,

    I am thrilled to hear of your wonderful results. I’m sorry that you’ve experienced unreceptive doctors and I wish that was atypical – however it is all too common. The research is strong regarding the correlation between gluten and the nervous system and hopefully the knowledge will become mainstream over the next 5 years.

    In the meantime keep up the good work and let me know if you need any assistance taking your health to the next level. You’ve done very well and assisting you with handling any secondary effects of gluten is something I’m happy to help with. Give us a call if you’d like a free consultation: 408-733-0400.

    All the best,
    Dr Vikki

    20 Mar
  3. Jennifer Zeikus


    Dear Dr Vikki,
    Thank you so much for your information here. My now 11yo daughter had a seizure(GTC) in April 2012 shortly after waking up. She had another one 9 days later. She had food poisoning 2 weeks prior and I thought maybe that was the culprit. Her blood test after the 1st seizure showed elevated immunoglobins, and her MRI showed calcification, which the doctors dismissed. We went to Children’s Hospital in Denver which showed she was having multiple absence seizures during the sleep deprived EEG test and after hyperventilating. They said that she also had ‘slowing’ in her R temporal lobe and asked if she had any trauma in early childhood. The only traumatic situation was when she was not allowed to use the bathroom in Kindergarten. After that she regressed in her toilet training b/c she was not allowed to use the toilet during the day and she would come home screaming in pain after holding it and then started wetting the bed after being fully potty trained at 2 yrs. old., along w/ other signs of PTSD. I took her out of school after speaking w/ the teacher, principal, superintendent, school board, and my husband writing a letter to the editor of our local paper w/ no action or remedy, only denial.

    The doctors at Children’s Hospital in Denver put her on zarontin w/ such horrible side effects that we were instructed to abruptly take her off them after 18 days, w/ no weaning, which worried me. I had warned them that she was sometimes depressed about the bathroom issue. After that, I started her on a modified ketogenic/Atkins diet which did not include wheat, rice, or potatoes. But, it called for synthetic sugar, which I didn’t like. For two weeks, she had no seizures and seemed much more alert. I had left a box of Ritz in the cupboard. She ate some and IMMEDIATELY had a grand mal seizure. So, now I have her on a gluten free diet, and so far, knock on wood, no more seizures.

    In years past, I had suspected wheat gluten intolerance and had asked her doctor about it repeatedly. They doubted that since she was otherwise healthy, and would not test her. At the most recent visit, I asked again if this could be gluten intolerance or celiac disease. The reply was that if she didn’t have constant diarrhea or extreme weight loss that it wasn’t the case, which coincides with what others have experienced.

    After looking at your website and FB page, I have become enlightened b/c she has at least 16 symptoms of gluten intolerance/Celiac disease. I don’t want to put her back on a gluten containing diet for fear of another seizure in order to test her since the intestine biopsy can also have a false negative.

    I am also worried that some intestinal worms (as far as I know they were pinworms, but they could have been tapeworms) that her brother got from a dirty preschool playground may have gotten through her intestinal wall and affected her nervous system. We did treat that w/ months of anti wormer (Vermox I believe), and I was always sneaking flax into smoothies, yogurt etc. Unfortunately, that was at the same time when she was not allowed to use the bathroom in Kindergarten. So, all that lovely stuff was forced to stay in her intestines for extended periods of time, most likely weakening her intestines along w/ her renal system. They denied that they did this, but I have an affidavit from the teacher that she did not let them go to the bathroom. Now, I homeschool.;)

    In November 2011, she had median nail dystrophy, which can be a sign of thyroid disease. The doctor thought it would be extreme to test her thyroid. So her symptoms are; 1.excema on arms, 2.lactose intolerant, 3.odd gait, which made me think she had MS(she’s a dancer though), 4.lethargy, 5. depression, 6.anxiety, 7.rapid decline in eyesight w/in 4 mos. following 6″ growth spurt, 8.seizures, 9.median nail dystropy, which is a symptom of, 10.thyroid problems, 11.sclerosis symptoms(clenching of hands esp. while on the anti seizure meds- could have been a side effect), 12.spotting on teeth, she has no fillings ( the dentist recommended taking her off fluoride b/c he thought it was from too much fluoride-we have well water), 13.breathing difficulties similar to an allergic reaction, mostly after she had a seizure, 14.calcification on MRI, 15.high immunoglobin in blood test right after 1st seizure, 16.maternal grandmother has ALS, maternal great aunt has Parkinson’s 17. I have spotting on my teeth.

    Pheww! That’s quite a bit of information. But, I thought if anyone could help, you could. We live in Gunnison, Colorado. A trip to California wouldn’t be out of the question, but would certainly be a trek. As you can see, I’m not too impressed by my local doctors, the school system or the tendency for neurologists to be shills for the pharmaceutical companies. I was so naive! Thanks again for your fabulous resources, and I hope that this is the beginning of seizure freedom for my daughter.

    Jennifer Zeikus

    20 Mar
  4. 4

    Hello Jennifer,

    I wanted to get an update from you on how your daughter is progressing. Please let me know if we can be of any assistance.

    Dr Vikki

    20 Mar
  5. Jennifer Zeikus


    Dear Dr. Vikki Peterson,
    Thank you!! Since she has been gluten free she has had NO seizures and her skin, nails, and gait are returning to ‘normal’. Thanks again for your resources! We couldn’t have done it without them or you.

    The Zeikus family :)

    20 Mar
  6. Ivana


    Hello from Prague, Czech Republic.

    I have been diagnosed with atypical epilepsy since 19. Now i am 32 and since then i have been on Tegretol and Depakine to no avail. I have no typical seizures- no grand mals, no petite mals. Only a sort of disconnection, like two eletrical wires would be connected and what would happen would be sparks. That is how i describe what happens in my brain.

    My EEG shows paroxysmal tendencies.
    My MR shows demyelinated lessions. They excluded MS, but vasculitis comes into consideration.

    When i was 14 i was allergic to flour – does that mean i was allergic to gluten?

    Would you be able to tell me if gluten can cause demyelinization?

    I know it can cause inflammation which then can cause calcification in a brain and that can create lessions.

    What would you recommend me to do?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer me.


    Ivana Preiss

    20 Mar
  7. Bat Sheva


    Question: Can gluten affect an autistic child thats got a fragile neoro system (diagnosed with abnormalities and absent seizures predominantly on the left side of the brain), without having celiac disease? or is there ALWAYS celiac disease involved before gluten affects someone neurological?


    20 Mar
  8. 8

    Yes gluten is known to cause absent seizures (we’ve had personal experience with children and seizures and one-for-one have found a gluten sensitivity) and not just in celiac sufferers. There can be a gluten sensitivity present and that’s enough to cause neurological inflammation and a variety of symptoms including seizures. There are also other factors that could create a fragile neurological system and we work with those as well.

    We would be happy to help. If you’d like, consider calling us for a free health analysis – call 408-733-0400. We are a destination clinic and treat patients from across the country and internationally.

    Dr Vikki

    20 Mar
  9. Carol


    This might be long. I am hoping after I give you some back ground you can point me in the direction of more resources to back up what you have on your site such as medical journals and research studies. I have a 15 year old daughter who has been suffering with different symptoms since she was young maybe 8 or so. These symptoms that have been going on for the longest are black out vision and unending headaches. Other symptoms are memory issues she just say her brain is not working right. She saw a neurologist when she was 12 or 13 who immediately put her on topomax for her headaches but it didn’t do any good so he upped the dosage and as that happened she cut herself and then started having suicidal thoughts. Se ended up in any outpatient center for this where she was taken off this medicine. She saw a therapist for a while after this but it didn’t make things better. She was released from therapy. She had an EEG by this doctor which showed that her whole brain spiked several times an hour, so he told us she was havin absent seizures. We seeked a second opinion because this doctor when told about the side effects she was having from the topomax he said deal with it and get another med to deal with the side effects.

    The second doctor did a video EEG for three days and saw no signs of absent seizures and there was no difference in it when she had a blackout vision episode. As has also been to a cardiologist and a pull monologist for shortness of breath and chest pain all cleared. The second doctor couldn’t find anything wrong so he discharged her and told us it was all in her head and to see a psychologist hitch we didn’t do because I knew she wasn’t still suffering from depression. She also saw a gastrologist and an infectious disease doctor. She has been tested chronically for lymes disease ate east once a year since she was probably 7/8. Then did nothing but the gastrologist ordered some test s for parasites and did the blood test for celiac but of course she tested negative. Again this doctor saw that ahe had suffered from depression and since all of her tests were negative it must be inherent head so go see a physiologist and get some mess.

    We decided to do private DNA testing. Results were a double hit on one celiac gene and a single hit on two gluten intolorence genes. We took her off all grains except rice. Rice didn’t seem to bother her. We then saw another gastrologist who did and endoscopy which showed erosion of the stomach lining but the biopsy for celiac came back negative. They also tested for a few other things with the biopsy all negative. I know that these biopsies can come back negative for a long time. She then found out her gallbladder needed to come out because it wasn’t functioning.

    Sh has an appointment with another neurologist in 2 weeks which was made at the beginning f June. Yesterday she had tingling and numbness on her whole right side. The school nurse t her to go lay down. Discussion for another place. She is still having nausea and looses her appetite or doesn’t want to eat because she feels nausea. Then when she feels better she eats like there is no tomorrow. I am pretty sure she is not cheating and eating gluten but we discovered that the makeup she was using had gluten in it. She stopped using it about three weeks ago could that gluten exposure be causing these symptoms. Her acne has improved dramatically since stopping her makeup.

    I would like to have som studies to point her gastrologist and neurologist in the righ direct as far as tests they can run on her.

    20 Mar
  10. 10

    Hello Carol,

    You did a great job doing the genetic test and finding both the celiac and gluten sensitive genes present. I’m not sure where you live but we are a destination clinic, meaning that you don’t need to live local to us to receive help. We see patients from across the country and internationally.

    We have helped many patients with symptoms very similar to your daughters. gluten is known to strongly affect the nervous system. If you would like, consider calling us for a free health analysis – call 408-733-0400. We would be delighted to help!

    20 Mar

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