A Significant Reduction In Blood Flow To The Brain Celiac And The Gluten Gut-Brain Connection Seen In Reversible Abnormal SPECT Brain Scans

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Celiac And The Gluten Gut-Brain Connection Seen In Reversible Abnormal SPECT Brain Scans

SPECT brain imaging of most of the few celiac disease patients studied shows abnormalities that are usually most severe in the frontal lobes of the brain. Improvement in these abnormalities is seen on a gluten-free diet. The frontal lobes of the brain are important in brain functions that control attention, impulse control, organization, and problem solving. Problems in this area of ​​the brain can lead to attention deficits, disorganization, procrastination, short-term memory problems, anxiety and depression.

Not surprisingly, these are common symptoms reported by sprue patients and in non-celiac gluten sensitivity that improves with a GFD. ADD, schizophrenia, alcohol and drug addiction problems, and depression have also been linked in some studies to gluten-related functional disturbances in the frontal lobes of the brain seen on SPECT scans. Although reports of SPECT imaging in celiac disease are limited, there are some very interesting findings that some of us familiar with the effects of gluten on the brain understand.

The most dramatic report I found came from a 1997 report of a newly diagnosed celiac disease patient with established schizophrenia whose symptoms and abnormal SPECT scan reversed on a gluten-free diet. He established diagnoses of schizophrenia, diarrhea and weight loss. Endomysial antibody was positive and there was villous atrophy on intestinal biopsy. SPECT scans were performed before and after the gluten-free diet. Before the GFD, scans confirmed abnormally reduced blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain. As the symptoms of GFD schizophrenia resolved, the bowel lesion resolved and the SPECT scan normalized. More recently in 2004, Usai et al. reported 34 celiac patients in which 70% had abnormal SPECT scans. Again the abnormalities were most pronounced in the forebrain and were less severe on the gluten free diet.

SPECT is single photon emission computed tomography. It is a combined molecular medicine CAT scan of the head by injecting radioisotope material taken up by the brain according to blood flow and metabolism. A scan is created that is a color-coded 3-D representation of the brain’s metabolism or activity. Daniel Amen MD is one of the leading experts in SPECT brain imaging. You can take a free online brain system quiz at http://www.amenclinic.com which may be helpful. His detailed and well-researched recommendations for nutritional interventions for the brain are also worth reviewing. More collaboration with neuroscientists and gastroenterologists is needed to explore the link between poor brain function and gluten. SPECT imaging technology appears to be an exciting tool available to us if we can secure research funding. We will continue to explore the gut-brain connection further.

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