A condition called cerebellar ataxia is one manifestation of wheat’s effect on the human brain. This illness usually affects adults, average age of onset 48 years, though children can be affected, too. Symptoms consist of incoordination, falling . . . and incontinence.

The typical situation involves a man or woman in their late 40s or early 50s who begins to experience difficulty walking a straight line, or feels like they are drifting to one side. Frequent stumbling when there is no obstacle is common. This is due to degeneration of the cerebellum (visible on an MRI or CT scan of the brain), the part of the brain responsible for coordination and other (evolutionarily) primitive functions. Eventually, nervous system degeneration leads to impaired control over bladder function and the sufferer begins to wet him- or herself, i.e., incontinence.

This is a recently appreciated phenomenon with much of the work originating from Sheffield, England, the Mayo Clinic in the US, and China. See here, for instance.

There’s more to the effect of wheat on the human brain. Other phenomena include:
–Carpal tunnel syndrome
–Seizures–especially temporal-lobe seizures
–Myelitis–inflammation of the lining of the spinal cord
–Psychiatric disease–depression, changes in personality, even psychosis or paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations
–Gait disorders–i.e., difficulty walking
–Impaired reflexes, e.g, in the ankles

Among the more recently described syndromes is gluten encephalopathy–dementia from wheat. The UK and US groups have described this condition. Because brain tissue has limited capacity for healing and regeneration, symptoms of cerebellar ataxia and other forms of wheat-induced neurologic degeneration usually improve slowly with meticulous elimination of wheat and other gluten sources.

Perhaps you’d like a diaper with that croissant?