Gluten sensitivity and epilepsy: a systematic review

J Neurol. 2019 Jul;266(7):1557-1565. doi: 10.1007/s00415-018-9025-2. Epub 2018 Aug 23.


Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to establish the prevalence of epilepsy in patients with coeliac disease (CD) or gluten sensitivity (GS) and vice versa and to characterise the phenomenology of the epileptic syndromes that these patients present with.

Methodology: A systematic computer-based literature search was conducted on the PubMed database. Information regarding prevalence, demographics and epilepsy phenomenology was extracted.

Results: Epilepsy is 1.8 times more prevalent in patients with CD, compared to the general population. CD is over 2 times more prevalent in patients with epilepsy compared to the general population. Further studies are necessary to assess the prevalence of GS in epilepsy. The data indicate that the prevalence of CD or GS is higher amongst particular epileptic presentations including in childhood partial epilepsy with occipital paroxysms, in adult patients with fixation off sensitivity (FOS) and in those with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) with hippocampal sclerosis. A particularly interesting presentation of epilepsy in the context of gluten-related disorders is a syndrome of coeliac disease, epilepsy and cerebral calcification (CEC syndrome) which is frequently described in the literature. Gluten-free diet (GFD) is effective in the management of epilepsy in 53% of cases, either reducing seizure frequency, enabling reduced doses of antiepileptic drugs or even stopping antiepileptic drugs.

Conclusion: Patients with epilepsy of unknown aetiology should be investigated for serological markers of gluten sensitivity as such patients may benefit from a GFD.

Keywords: CD; CEC; Celiac; Coeliac; Epilepsy; Gluten.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / methods*
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • Glutens / adverse effects*
  • Humans


  • Glutens