George Krucik, MD, MBA
Gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, is an autoimmune disease passed genetically through families. Symptoms for this illness range from moderate gastrointestinal discomfort to neurological difficulties. Neither MayoClinic.com nor the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center lists frequent urination as a common symptom of gluten intolerance. However, understanding of celiac disease and its affects is still developing, and several potential links exist between gluten intolerance and frequent urination, including co-occurring interstitial cystitis, neurogenic bladder and autonomic neuropathies.
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About Gluten Intolerance
Gluten intolerance is a hereditary illness in which your body has an autoimmune response to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some grains, particularly rye, barley and wheat, or crossbreeds of these grains. The autoimmune response occurs as gluten enters the small intestine, resulting in symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea. MayoClinic.com reports that vitamin deficiencies that “deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment.” (see reference 1)
Interstitial cystitis is a painful bladder condition that affects the lining of your bladder. A symptom of interstitial cystitis involves the nerves in your brain responsible for telling you when to urinate getting confused, resulting in frequent urination. One theory is that autoimmune conditions cause interstitial cystitis, but causal theories remain unproven. The Interstitial Cystitis Association reports that gluten might be responsible for aggravating interstitial cystitis, and that patients commonly identify having both conditions.
Autonomic neuropathy is generally a chronic condition that develops insidiously over time. Neuropathy presentations vary from person to person, potentially affecting numerous functions of your body. Autonomic neuropathy affects the renal system in some cases, leading to increased bladder urgency and frequency, incomplete bladder emptying, bladder incontinence and nocturia. The causes of autonomic neuropathies are many, including vitamin deficiencies caused by conditions such as gluten intolerance. According to PubMed Health, autonomic neuropathies might occur in as many as 50 percent of adults with celiac disease and do not respond to a gluten-free diet.
A neurogenic bladder occurs when the normal function of the bladder is interrupted by the nervous system. This might lead to an inability to fully empty the bladder or spastic bladder, both leading to increased frequency in urination. Your nerves and muscle must work in concert to promote proper emptying of the bladder, and when disease or illness interrupts this ability, neurogenic bladder might result. There are numerous causes for this condition, including neuropathy, traumatic injury and diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease.