Gluten Ataxia

What is it?

Many celiac disease or gluten intolerance sufferers may not know about gluten ataxia as it's not something that is constantly in the media. So what is gluten ataxia? Gluten ataxia is a somewhat mysterious neurological condition related to gluten sensitivity, and while it is rare, it is a serious medical condition where it exists. As it's a progressive disease it can cause permanent damage to the cerebellum (part of your brain) if not treated promptly, however, many people struggle with symptoms for years because of the difficulty in diagnosing it.

It's also important to note that often there are no gastrointestinal symptoms, so celiac disease may not even be suspected for some considerable time. And as there are currently no universally recognised medical tests available for its diagnosis, it can be an upsetting and stressful time when symptoms first start to appear and begin to impact normal, daily life. Testing for celiac disease is the usually first step.

Some of the symptoms of gluten ataxia:

  • Abdominal pain and/or gas
  • Bladder control issues
  • Bloating
  • Clumsiness
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Double vision
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Nerve damage to arms and legs/loss of muscle control
  • Problems swallowing
  • Reflux
  • Slurring of words or trouble speaking
  • Tingling in extremities
  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Weightloss

Medical dissent

Not all neurologists agree that gluten ataxia exists, and at least one small study could find no link between anti-gliadin antibodies (celiac disease) and cerebellar (gluten) ataxia. Despite this, many gastroenterologists and/or celiac experts say there is good evidence why celiacs could have neurologic problems, like gluten ataxia. However, when celiac disease diagnosis and gluten ataxia symptoms present together, then it is much easier to confirm.


Once gluten ataxia has been confirmed the only solution is to follow a rigorous gluten free diet for life. Even small amounts of gluten, from either falling off the diet or cross-contamination issues, can set a sufferers health back and lead to further deterioration.

It is important for a person with gluten ataxia to stabilise their symptoms, especially as significant damage is normally already present before diagnosis, and rarely is a full recovery made. Therefore, following a strict gluten free diet is essential.

References/further information:

This page is not to be taken as medical advice:

No information on this page or website should be taken as medical advice. If you suspect you may be suffering from gluten ataxia symptoms you must consult your General Practitioner, Pediatrician, Registered Dietician, Celiac Disease specialist, or Neurologist.

There is also a wheat allergy information page.