Medical Mondays: Diabetic Neuropathy & Gluten Sensitivity

Ask The Book Doctor!

If you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out the submission guidelines at the bottom!


Q. I’m working on a novel and my main character is a middle-aged police detective who is diabetic. Family members who are diabetic often complain about getting pains in their feet and I figure that since crafty detective work entails being on one’s feet, I’d like to know more about how to integrate these symptoms into my character’s life. Can you tell me more about what causes this type of foot pain and how it is alleviated? Karen B.

A. Diabetes is the single largest identifiable cause of peripheral neuropathy. Sufferers generally complain of numbness and burning because the nerve endings–usually in the feet–don’t work as well. Modernmedications for alleviating the pain include gabapentin and pregabalin. Your character would likely walk with his feet a bit further apart and be somewhat unstable in the dark because he would have trouble feeling his feet.


Q. As the holiday season is upon us, I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of information on TV and in magazines dedicated to gluten free cooking and products for those sensitive to wheat. I don’t recall this being a health issue over the last 30 years, but it suddenly seems like more and more people have wheat allergies today. What’s this all about? Jeffrey S.

A. Gluten sensitivity has been recognized only in recent times. Once thought to be interchangeable with celiac disease, a spectrum of diseases has been identified in which gluten sensitivity is a factor. In addition to the obvious gastrointestinal symptoms, there may be more distant effects, including some that are neurological. Estimates vary, but 5-10% of Americans may be affected. Why are we often allergic to food? We can create antibodies to anything, including to ourselves, such as in autoimmune disease. One theory is that the wheat we eat today is much different than the grain our ancestors consumed. So, although wheat may be nutritious and more productive per acre, it may not be without side effects.

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Attention writers! If you’re working on a book, script, or article and need quick insight or advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, please email your question to I’ll post answers to two questions every Monday on this blog!

Due the volume of requests received, I am not able to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.