Individuals with coeliac disease often experience "brain fog" in addition to intestinal problems, but a new study shows that adhering to a gluten-free diet can lead to improvements in cognition that correlate with the extent of intestinal healing. The Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics findings indicate that ridding the diet of gluten may help address problems that coeliac disease patients can experience related to attention, memory, and other mental tasks.
Senior author of the study Dr. Greg Yelland, said: “The study outcomes highlight the importance for individuals with celiac disease of maintaining a gluten-free diet not just for physical well-being but also for mental well-being."
Coeliac disease (CD) is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that affects at least 1% of the adult population in many countries, and a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet (GFD) is the only recommended treatment. While the disease is primarily an intestinal disorder that is histologically characterised by intraepithelial lymphocytosis, crypt hyperplasia and villous atrophy, there is increasing support for a broader concept of a systemic inflammatory disease. Support for this view comes from clinical observations of extra-intestinal manifestations such as dermatologic, hepatic, osteologic, endocrine and neurological signs. Reported neurological manifestations include amnesia, ataxia, acalculia, epilepsy, chronic neuropathies, confusion and personality changes. Some of these severe neurological symptoms can improve upon treatment with a GFD.
The study indicates that cognition is impaired in people with untreated CD. Cognitive function improves after commencement of a strict GFD, and this improvement is correlated with a normalisation of histopathological markers of disease severity.