Does gluten make tics worse?

There is growing interest in how gluten impacts our health. For those that are celiac or gluten-sensitive, it is a no-go. Should those of us with tic disorders take a similar approach?

Gluten consumption has been linked with an increase in tics. One study looked at a gluten-free diet in people with tic disorders, after a year on a gluten-free diet there was a ‘marked’ reduction of tics in those participating.

I have questioned whether a gluten-free diet would be best for me. My tics seem to vary in severity every now and then, sometimes without an obvious cause.

I have focused more on caffeine and sugar when it comes to reducing tics, however it seems gluten needs to be considered. I know I am not the only one curious to make the change.

An image of various types of bread and some wheat lying on a black table covered in flour

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in many grains. It is used in a wide variety of foods and is also used as a glue to help foods hold their shape.

Some people cannot consume gluten, such as those with Celiac Disease and those that are gluten intolerant.

A list of what foods typically contain gluten is provided by the Celiac Disease Foundation and can be viewed here.

Many more without an intolerance are opting for a gluten free-diet, for a variety of reasons.

Why could gluten have an effect on tics?

For those that are intolerant or sensitive, gluten can have many negative effects.

One doctor believes 6-7% of the population may be gluten-sensitive. He also concluded that 1 in 133 people are celiac (3).

With up to 1 in 100 people having Tourette syndrome, some people with Tourette or tic disorders will no doubt suffer from celiac or gluten sensitivity.

A person holds their stomach whilst sitting down on a chair

Very Well Health states:

‘Gluten sensitivity is a reaction to gluten—a protein in wheat, rye, and barley—that can result in wide-ranging symptoms from gastrointestinal issues, headache, brain fog, neuropathy, and depression.’

Very Well Health: Gluten Sensitivity

It goes on to state that:

‘People who are gluten sensitive test negative for celiac disease but find relief of fatigue, digestive complaints, and neurological issues after removing gluten from their diet.’

Very Well Health: Gluten Sensitivity

It is well known that tics can increase with stress, tiredness and poor diet. Symptoms of gluten intolerance will no doubt affect quality sleep and mood, increasing the likelihood of tics for some.

A study showing correlation

One study found that a gluten-free diet (abbreviated to GFD in the report) reduced tics, OCD behaviours and improved the general quality of life for some of those participating.

‘After one year on a GFD there was a marked reduction in measures of tics (YGTSS) (p = 0.001), and the intensity and frequency of OCD (Y-BOCS/CY-BOCS) (p = 0.001), along with improved generic quality of life (p = 0.001) in children and adults. In conclusion, a GFD maintained for one year in GTS patients led to a marked reduction in tics and OCD both in children and adults.’

Efficacy of a Gluten-Free Diet in the Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome: A Pilot Study (1)

Tourette and OCD often overlap, so it is not unusual to see lifestyle changes affecting both conditions equally.


It can be a great decision for some to cut gluten out of the diet.

Gluten however is not harmful to everyone. Some studies show that it can have benefits for those not sensitive or intolerant.

It is important to know what works for you.

As there is so much to learn about tic disorders and diet, trial and error often is the course that helps us to find what works best.

I hope this post helps you on this course. Gluten is something that needs to be addressed, whether it stays in your diet or not.

Speaking to a specialist and/or nutritionist will help get you on the right track.


  1. Efficacy of a Gluten-Free Diet in the Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome: A Pilot Study: Rodrigo, L.; Álvarez, N.; Fernández-Bustillo, E.; Salas-Puig, J.; Huerta, M.; Hernández-Lahoz, C. Efficacy of a Gluten-Free Diet in the Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Nutrients 2018, 10, 573.
  2. What is Gluten?
  3. Very Well Health: How Many People Have Gluten-Sensitivity?