Nervous breakdown

Mark related this story of near neurological disaster from wheat. Note that a neurologist failed to properly diagnose this potentially FATAL CONDITION from wheat, with the correct wheat- and gluten-free path revealed by a practitioner of neurological Functional Medicine.

About a year ago, I noticed that I was walking to my left a little bit. This lasted for 2 days. I then started to feel tingling sensations in my legs. Eventually I started to lose the feelings in my legs when I was walking. My legs and brain were not communicating properly.

I was incredibly frightened. My mother had just passed away 5 months prior after a 20-year bout with Parkinson’s disease. I have heard that this can be hereditary and thought I may have this dreaded disease.

I immediately began searching for alternative treatments on the internet. I became acqainted with adult stem cell advancements. I jumped from link to link and listened. It was then I believed that I had multiple sclerosis. I made an appointment with a neurologist. I had MRI’s from my lumbar spine to my brain. There were lesions found (scar tissue). The doctor wanted me to begin to inject pharmacueticals. I told him I was more interested in the regenative side of medicine and wasn’t keen on living my life on pharmacueticals.

I did more research and found out about Functional Medicine. I went to a neurologist who also practised Functional Medicine. He is the one who told me about the book Wheat Belly. When my test came back, I was very gluten-sensitive. So I go from a recommendation of pharmacueticals to taking all natural supplements and eliminating gluten.

Occasionally I will have an episode that lasts for 5 seconds and then disappears. But I used to have them 3-6 times a day. All I did was take supplements and eliminate wheat.

Given what we know about this process, i.e., probable cerebellar ataxia from wheat gluten (actually gliadin), there are likely many, many thousands of other people just like Mark who struggle for years without a correct diagnosis, prescribed antidepressants, drugs for neuropathic pain, or just resigned to a future of increasing disability, inability to work or exercise, walkers, wheelchairs, diapers, and eventually complete reliance on others for conducting even the most basic daily activities like emptying bowels and eating.

To keep it in perspective, we are talking about a food that we are told to eat MORE of, a food that is actively pushed on schoolchildren (even without testing nor warnings that 1% of those children have celiac disease), a food that is unlike any other in its potential to affect mind and brain in both reversible and irreversible ways in people with celiac disease, in people with genetic predisposition to cerebellar ataxia, as well as the other 99% of us without these conditions.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. greg sweet

    his story speaks of my experience,I am still fasinated on how my mind came back totally and in better shape than any time I can remember,unfortunately the damaged relationships never returned.

  2. Wil B

    In his story Mark mentioned “functional medicine,” which is an interesting term that I hadn’t come across before. And after doing some Googling of the term, it seems to be referred to by some as a form of “alternative” medicine, and mostly in derisive terms. I’m guessing the derision comes primarily from conventional practitioners who are just “talking their own book.” Dr. Davis, maybe you could find a moment to address the matter and provide us with your own definition. My own view is that truly “functional” medicine would have to be the opposite of the “dysfunctional” type of medicine that characterizes so much of the current system. So with a better and clearer definition, perhaps we could eventually have more of the functional type and much less of the dysfuntional. :-)

    To Mark I would say “bravo” for telling the first doc that you were “more interested in the regenerative side of medicine and [not] keen on living [your] life on pharmacueticals. ”

    • Dr. Davis

      I regard the functional medicine community as the new champions of health. They tend to not rely on hospital procedures, or drugs, or other conventional notions of healthcare. They instead rely on an understanding of nutrition and biochemistry.

      I am not part of this community, but find myself often rubbing elbows with them, as we have converged in our thinking in many ways.

  3. Kelly

    Hi Dr davis, I can totally relate to this. My tingling in my legs started 3 yrs ago. Drs told me its peripheral neuropathy, caused by alcohol abuse. So I quit drinking and 3 mons go by and it started to recede. I drank mostly beer and wine. But I wasn’t out of the woods, I tried eat heathly and fell into the organic wholegrain trap. I was on my own and my np was getting worse, started losing my balance and my mind, I was so scared of being confined to a wheelchair. I loved my toast with coffee, but I wondered if it could be the bread. Which is why I picked up your book, finally my eyes were opened.

    I’ve been wf since july 2, I feel really good. Except I still have pn, but its not moving up my body like before. I affected my mind and body in ways that I still don’t know. I’m sure it affected my fertlity and my ability to feel the big O.

    Thank you Dr you saved my life, those migraines I started getting have also disappeared, along with the tendinitis, and carpel tunnel in both wrists, thankfully I never had the recommended surgery.

    I am still pretty upset about not being diagnosed as gluton intolerant.

    • Dr. Davis

      I believe you have found the answer, Kelly. Key point: More than any other organ system, the nervous system requires many, many months, even years, to heal. So sticking to the wheat elimination approach pays off, though over a very long time.

      It took years for wheat to damage your nervous system; it takes years for it to heal. But your experience, unfortunately, is the rule, not the exception. This is one reason why I blow my horn about issues like this over and over again!

  4. Jeff

    Dr. I just had a conversation with my father who is following Dr. Esselstyn’s recommended diet. Basically only grains and vegan. No meats or oils of any type. It’s almost exactly the opposite of yours. People rave about its effectiveness as well. How does this make sense? If you are right then he must be very wrong. And vice versa.

    Can you please address this?

    • Dr. Davis

      I don’t pick on the message of people like Dr. Esselstyn, Ornish, etc., as they are fighting the same battle as we are: Trying to best understand how to use diet effectively. If there are enemies, it is Big Food, Agribusiness, and Big Pharma, not these people.

      However, there are a long list of reasons why the approach advocated by these people, I believe, is dead wrong, including the Ornish diet made me develop diabetes around 23 years ago. I am no longer diabetic having done the opposite of what Dr. Ornish advocated.

      There are plenty of other reasons. You might consider looking at the hundreds of posts on this and related issues on my Heart Scan Blog.

  5. Robin

    I was just thinking about school children’s diets the other day. Children are not allowed to take anything with nuts in it for lunch lest nut-intolerant children get hold of it. What percentage of such children are there? I think even at 1% there would still be a nut ban. I was wondering if schools would prohibit food containing wheat for the same reason. Um … yeah. Right.

    • Tanya

      I was pondering this just the other day! I’m sure the percentage of celiacs or even wheat-intolerant kids is much higher than the percentage of nut-allergic ones! But then they’d have to get rid of the vending machines and a good-sized chunk of their cafeteria’s menu.. ‘wheaty’ stuff is cheap to make & easy to serve… what if they cleaned up the menu & got rid of wheat, how many so-called ‘special needs’ kids who seem to be slow learners are just brain-fogged from eating wheat that’s toxifying them? And kids falling asleep at their desks…

    • Dr. Davis

      You are starting to appreciate the incredible inconsistencies in nutritional thinking when it comes to schools, Robin!

  6. smgj

    Wheat and other grains was a large part of my cubital syndrome. (Pinky, ring fingers and the outer part of my hands goes cold and unfeeling.) I’ve had increasing problems with this a couple of years until it culminated in a diagnosed hashimoto’s (an illness that also is strongly associated with celiacy/gluten intolerance) one and a half year ago.

    I found a very knowledgeable practitioner that is aware on the gut/thyroid axis and he got me on an elimination/challenge diet. The Wheat/rye/oats and barley challenge showed beyond any doubt that grains cause me internal edema which pinches my cubital nerves and my ear-nasal tube and thereby causes sinus/middle ear problems.

    18-20 years with unnecessary sinus problems at last… gone. I have no wish to go back to those “healthy, whole grains”…

    • Dr. Davis

      Good for you, smgj.

      Unfortunately, like many others, you had to learn the hard way over many years that wheat should not be consumed by any human!

  7. Loekie

    I had the same, last year I started to feel tingling sensations in my right feet. My right knee had also problems. I became scared because my grandpa had A.L.S. I started the diet in february this year and slowly my leg became better and better. At this time I still feel something is not quite right with my right leg sometimes but the problems with walking are gone.

    • Boundless

      Salt is not the villain it’s portrayed to be by conventional diet wisdom, whose acolytes are grasping at straw men to explain why their advocacies are failing. Seek iodized salt that’s fairly fresh. I no longer pay any attention to avoiding salt content in my food.

      Soy, on the other hand, is avoided by most readers here (me too), and is on Dr. Davis’ “Limited” list:
      Concerns include GMO, phytoestrogens and simple soy allergy.

  8. Louise

    Hello Dr. Davis. Got a question about cholesterol ….have a friend that has gone wheat free and got her blood work done her cholesterol is high. She was wondering if this has to do with eggs…I told her that she needs to increase her fiber intake (apple, flaxseed) walking helps. I didn’t see anything mentioned on your blog for cholesterol. What is your insight on this??? Thank you. Louise

    • Tanya

      I am curious about this too. I had my cholesterol tested a couple of months ago and my total cholesterol is a bit high, but my doctor says he is not worried about it. My ratio of HDL/LDL is perfect according to him, and my triglycerides are nice & low. I do eat alot of eggs as I know someone who keeps free-range chickens (I’ve been known to go through 2 dozen a week, not every week, though, I had no money for any other source of protein at the time!) Should I be concerned? Also are eggs an inflammatory food?

      Thanks Dr. Davis for any insight on this!

      • Dr. Davis

        Louise and Tanya–

        Please refer to the chapter in the book, My particles are bigger than your particles.

        You will see that risk for heart disease is not about cholesterol, nor the calculated value called “LDL cholesterol,” nor trumped up manipulations of bad information like the HDL/LDL ratio or any other ratio.

        It is about the particles in the bloodstream that cause coronary atherosclerosis, such as small LDL particles that are oxidation and glycation-prone. It is about the postprandial (after-eating) flood of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins that develop after various foods. It is about cultivating inflammatory responses that allow this mix of factors to become established as a mix of fatty, inflammatory materials to become embedded in the wall of arteries.

        When viewed from this more sophisticated perspective, you quickly learn that eggs are good for you and improve these patterns; grains like wheat are exceptionally destructive; and 3) how little most physicians actually understand about the causation of heart disease. This is part of the success of “just take your statin drug and shut up.”

        • Grace

          I am going to have to go back to that chapter and re- read it. I got my bloodwork done a few weeks ago and I don’t know how to intepret the results. Here are what the results showed (12 hours fasting):

          cholesterol 245
          triglycerides 66
          HDL 84
          VLDL 13
          LDL 148

          So I just don’t even know if this is “good” or not. Anyone have any thoughts? Thank you!

          • Dr. Davis

            Triglycerides: excellent!

            HDL: excellent!

            Total and calculated LDL . . . meaningless! The tragedy is that these two values, both nearly meaningless, including what I call “fictional LDL,” are the basis for statin drugs. Note that most of my colleagues have no idea how to interpret these kinds of values in light of the dietary changes we make. Such is the sad state of affairs of nutrition in healthcare.

          • Grace

            Thank you so much for the response, Doctor. It helps a lot! It is going to be interesting to see how my Doctor reacts when I go see him again in January. He’s not much into natural things (I told him I was having good results with probiotics and also with Valerian root when I was having some anxiety issues, he just rolled his eyes at me). So he’ll probably argue with me that my total cholesterol is too high. But he will have to sit up and take notice that my trigylcerides have gone down tremendously. When I had my bloodwork done before I went wheat free, my triglycerides were very, very high. So he won’t be able to discount that so easily as just “anecdotal”. But we will see.

            As an aside, I did eat a little too much sugar (but almost no wheat!) over Thanksgiving. I felt “gross” pretty much right away. Nothing awful, no instant IBS or pain or anything, just an overall yucky/heavy/sluggish feeling. I wanted to go back to my “diet” so badly. I couldn’t even eat the leftovers and made a caulfilower crust pizza for myself on Friday and I was in heaven :-) I felt so much better and it’s so amazingly freeing to not have to have WILLPOWER anymore! Eating real food with low sugar and no wheat has just eliminated my desire for junk and I am beyond thrilled. So thanks again.

          • Dr. Davis

            It truly is a funny thing, Grace, that the healthier we get, the more sensitive we become to the unhealthy, such as sugars.

            Keep it going!

  9. Jeff

    Hi Everyone,

    I’ve been on the Wheat belly diet for just over a week and I wanted to share my experience.

    I was very excited after reading the book but also just skeptical enough to not want to give up all that delicious pizza and pasta (my two favorite foods). Also I’m very thin but I do have Hashimotos.

    So I decided to experiment. I had been having really bad joint pain in my left knee and I told myself that it will be the litmus test. After just a couple of days the pain was about 90% better. I couldn’t believe it so like one of the characters in the book I ate a small slice of bread. Within hours I was in excruciating pain; kneeling and standing up really hurt. Fast-forward to today and it’s almost non-existent.

    I can’t believe how bizarrely wheat affects us! It’s like a bad sci-fi movie.

    Thank you Dr. Davis and I look forward to lots more great results to come!

    • Grace

      I urge you to try the Cauliflower Crust Pizza recipe from the book! You will never miss wheat pizza again! It is now my favorite thing to eat. :-)

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, I did the same thing at first. I was completely skeptical that all the stories I heard were true, until I witnessed it over and over and over again.

      Yes, much knee and other joint pain is caused by modern semi-dwarf wheat. In fact, I’ll wager that wheat has caused more joint pain than just about anything other phenomenon I can imagine.

  10. Jeff

    Dr. Davis,

    There are many people who are predisposed to type 2 diabetes because its in their genes, and they end up getting it even though they weren’t overweight. Do you beleive your diet can prevent (or reverse) diabetes even for these people?

      • Dr. Davis

        Boundless got it right: Provided it is not the Late Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood (LADA), or what Boundless calls “late-onset T1,” the majority of type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable or reversible. There are exceptions such as obese people who have abused their pancreases with excessive carbohydrate intake for so long that they have little residual pancreatic beta cell function to produce insulin, but these people are the exception.

        Given the fact that diabetes is curable or at least certainly can be reduced to a minimum, why aren’t there experts in reversing or controlling diabetes? And why does the American Diabetes Association advocate a diet CAUSES or WORSENS diabetes? And why is the diabetic drug industry enjoy record revenue growth?

  11. waltinseattle

    sounds like a system of what is known as orthomolecular medicine. as for this working for one and that (opposite) working for other s…symptoms may be similar but causes may be different. body types as in aturvedic med play a role..bliod types too…gut bacterisl types also.

    dont look for magic bullets. look experiment and find YOUR BODY’S BEST WAY TO HEAKTH. otgers can only offer clues…not THE answer.

  12. MamaBug29

    I have had issues with stiffness in my fingers for about 4 years now– started with just the pinky and ring, but now others get stiff as well. Sounds similar to what someone else mentioned above. Within the last 2 years my back has “gone out” twice. After the second time a couple months later my left leg and arm started getting strange sensations– kind of a weak/numb/tingly/buzzing type feeling, but no loss is actual function. My neurologist did not seem concerned and blames it on nerve compression. I also had some digestive issues shortly after switching to a less processed, organic diet. I’ve had tons of tests done that all come back normal. I’ve seen 2 chiropractors with little improvement. Now seeing my third that specializes in upper cervical. I am at a loss and really stressed about it since no one can figure it out. Could this be caused by gluten??? The only diagnosed health issue I have is hypothyroidism (hashimotos). Otherwise, I am a 30 year old female, healthy weight and have always been active.

    I’ve had these tests:
    Rheumatoid Arthritis- negative
    Lupus- negative
    Lymes Disease- negative
    B vitamins- normal
    EMG of arms- normal
    Brain MRI- normal
    spinal xrays- nothing overly abnormal
    CBC- normal
    thyroid levels- regulated
    Endoscopy- normal
    Celiac biopsy & blood test- negative (tested when digestive issues began- about a year before these sensations began)

    Is it possible that this could still be gluten related??? Even with negative test results? Can gluten attack the nerves more than the gut??

    Any thoughts would be so helpful! Thank you!

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, indeed, it could be wheat. The negative celiac markers and biopsy make it somewhat less likely, but it can still happen.

      Thankfully, the solution is the very same one everyone else here is following: Eat no wheat! But you’ve got to stick to it at least 6, preferably 12, months to gauge an effect.

  13. shawna

    Thank you Dr. Davis!! I have been wheat free for 4 weeks and went from a 35 inch waist to a 29! I had no idea I had a wheat addiction. I ate what I considered a healthy diet according to the Canada Food Guide.. Wrong!! Thank you for your book, for me it is life changing!

  14. lisa

    I have a 17 yr old son who has suffered severe nerve pain from what they are calling Parsonage- Turner syndrome or brachial neuritis. We have been trying to keep wheat out of his diet to lessen bodily inflammation but we still have pain all the time. HAve you heard of this rare condition?

  15. Bev Carr

    My cousin is 70 years old and was originally one of the “Sprue” babies diagnosed as Celiac when very, very young. He has been off and on in his observance of “gluten-free” eating with more off than on, based on how his stomach feels at any given time. At this point, he is starting to fall unexpectedly a couple of times a week, although fully conscious when it happens. Doctors in his rural, Canadian community do not know what is the problem, but say there is a problem with the communication between his brain and his legs. I just finished your book “Wheat Belly” and a light bulb went on for me. Can you provide any names of MDs who would have the ability and awareness to diagnose this, who live in Canada? My cousin lives in Ontario (2 hours from Toronto). Any help you can provide is so deeply appreciated. They live 45 minutes from the nearest doctor of any type and I doubt (having formerly lived in their area) that rural doctors by and large will be equipped to diagnose this. Any thoughts, suggested contacts or other authors of papers who may be helpful? Who are the leaders in this area?

    Based on chapter 11 of your book, to a lay person, some of the symptoms seem somewhat similar between the various areas impacts wheat impact the brain. Who could help sort out what may be going on for my cousin? He is an extraordinary person who has poured his life and resources into others in unusual ways. I am trying to help him in any way that I can although I live in Connecticut now. Thanks for any input….Bev