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

The SPECT brain imaging of most of the celiac disease patients studied shows abnormalities that are usually the most severe on the front of the brain. This increase in abnormalities is seen in gluten-free diets. The frontal region of the brain is important for brain functions that control attention, impulse control, organization, and problem solving. These problems in the brain result in short attention spans, irregularities, delays, short-term memory problems, anxiety and depression.

Not surprisingly, these are common symptoms reported by Sprue patients and improved non-celiac gluten sensitivity with GFD. ADD, schizophrenia, alcohol and drug addiction problems and depression, all related to gluten in some studies, have also been associated with functional impairments in the front of the brain seen on SPECT scans. Although SPECT imaging reports on celiac disease are limited there are some very interesting findings that make sense to those of us who are familiar with the effects of gluten on the brain.

The most dramatic report I received was from a 1997 report on newly diagnosed celiac diease patients with schizophrenia that caused abnormal symptoms and SCEK scans to be reversed on a gluten-free diet. She presents a diagnosis of schizophrenia, diarrhea and a steady weight loss. Endemic antibodies are positive and villous atrophy is present in intestinal biopsies. SPECT checks were performed before and after the gluten free diet. Before GFD, the scan confirms abnormal blood flow to the front lobe of the brain. With GFD schizophrenia symptoms resolved, bowel lesions resolved and SPECT scans normalized. Recently in 2004, Usai et al. reported 34 celiac patients of which 70% had SPECT abnormal. Again the most common disorder is the front of the brain and less severe on the gluten-free diet.

SPECT is a single photon computerized tomography. It is a combination of a CAT head scan of nuclear medicine by injecting radioisotope material taken by the brain according to blood flow and metabolism. A 3-D scan is performed that represents the metabolism or activity of the brain. Daniel Amen MD is one of the world's leading experts on SPECT brain imaging. You can take a free online brain system quiz at which can help. His detailed and good suggestions for nutritional intervention for the brain are also worth considering. More collaboration with neuroscientists and gastroenterologists is surely needed to delve deeper into the association of weak and gluten-free brain functions. SPECT imaging technology seems to be one of the interesting tools for us if we can get funded research. We will continue to explore further intestinal connections.


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