Can You Have A Blood Flow Problem In Your Intestines 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 imaging of the brain in most of the few researchers of patients with celiac disease reveals abnormalities that are usually most severe in the frontal regions of the brain. Improvement of these abnormalities is seen with a gluten-free diet. The frontal part of the brain is important in brain function that controls attention, impulse control, organization and problem solving. Problems in this part of the brain cause short attention spans, disorganization, procrastination, short-term memory problems, anxiety and depression.

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

The most dramatic report I have found comes from a 1997 report of a newly diagnosed celiac patient with established schizophrenia whose symptoms and abnormal SPECT scan reversed on a gluten-free diet. He came with an established diagnosis of schizophrenia, diarrhea and weight loss. Endomysial antibodies were positive and villous atrophy was present on intestinal biopsy. SPECT scans were performed before and after the gluten-free diet. Before the GFD, a scan confirmed abnormally reduced blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain. When the symptoms of GFD schizophrenia disappeared, the intestinal lesion disappeared and the SPECT examination became normal. As recently as 2004, Usai et al. reported on 34 patients with celiac disease, of whom 70% had an abnormal SPECT examination. Again, the abnormalities were most pronounced in the frontal regions of the brain and were less severe on the gluten-free diet.

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

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