Sheffield scientists find that gluten-free diet could help reduce nerve pain

Gluten-free cakes
Gluten-free cakes

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have found that a gluten-free diet reduces pain in 89 percent of people with a condition called neuropathy.

It’s claimed that going gluten free could help prevent nerve pain in those that suffer from peripheral neuropathy. Sheffield scientists have suggested that a sensitivity to gluten is linked with the disease, causing it’s painful symptoms.

The condition affects the nerves in the body’s extremities, such as the hands and feet, causing them to become damaged. The resulting nerve damage causes weakness, numbness and pain.

According to the NHS, in the UK, it’s estimated that almost one in 10 people suffer from some degree of neuropathy.

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein, found in cereal grains such as wheat and rye. It functions to help foods maintain their shape, acting almost like a glue. It’s for this reason that gluten is found in many baked goods, such as bread and cakes.

Cutting out the protein might be the newest fad diet trend, but gluten intolerance is already well known for causing abdominal pain and bloating.

However, according to new research findings, it seems that we may be able to add nerve pain to the list.

The Sheffield scientists interviewed 60 people who suffered from peripheral neuropathy, and asked about the intensity of their pain, their mental health and if they were gluten free.

They found that those who followed a gluten-free diet were much more likely to have less pain than those who did not. After the researchers were able to account for differences caused by age, sex and mental health status, they found that gluten-free patients were 89 percent less likely to experience pain symptoms.

Researchers also found that gluten may be causing a decline in mental health, as a result of the painful symptoms. People who experienced painful neuropathy also had significantly worse scores on a mental health test.

Scores ranged from zero to 100, with 100 indicating good mental health. People with painful symptoms of peripheral neuropathy scored an average of 76, while those who did not experience pain scored 87. The researchers suggest that a simple change in dietary habits could be the key to ending pain, and improving mental health.

The idea that gluten could be the culprit behind these painful symptoms is not a new one. The study from Sheffield scientists follows on from previous work. In 2015, a study found 32 percent of people with peripheral neuropathy had gluten sensitivity.

A common cause of neuropathy is diabetes, thought to be caused by sugar in the blood damaging nerve cells in the hands and feet. However, when a person has nerve pain, who is otherwise healthy, and has a sensitivity to gluten, it is possible they may be suffering from neuropathy.

The work by Sheffield researchers may have paved the way towards easier diagnosis, and methods to end pain in those who suffer from neuropathy.