What Your Hands Can Tell You About Your Food

If you've read any of my stuff or hear me talk at all then you know I recommend eliminating (or dramatically reducing) gluten from your diet. I have a lot of patients who ask me if I'll test them for Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Yes, I'll test them but I often recommend against testing for gluten sensitivity.

Why would I recommend AGAINST testing for gluten sensitivity?

Simple. It doesn't matter if they are sensitive to it or not. Gluten has been associated with numerous other medical problems including things like Multiple Sclerosis, Schizophrenia, Parkinson's Disease, and Alzheimer's Disease to name a few. Many of these conditions don't show up for decades. Therefore, I believe it is prudent to reduce gluten exposure in order to reduce the risk of these illnesses.

Some people are more sensitive to gluten than others. Symptoms manifest differently in different people.

So, how do you know if you are gluten sensitive?

One thing you can do is take a look at your hands for Braly's Sign...

Braly's Sign was first described in 1953 by an English Gastroenterologist, Dr James Braly. The majority of Celiac patients have a short 5th finger and this is Braly's Sign. (J Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 2000; volume 31 (Suppl.3):S29. NEJM, August 18, 1999).

In short (pardon the pun), the tip of the 5th finger (pinkie finger) is shorter than the crease of the last joint of the 4th finger (ring finger).

This test is merely an association and NOT diagnostic. If you have it then it doesn't mean that you necessarily have gluten intolerance. The converse is true as well. Not having Braly's sign doesn't mean you don't have gluten intolerance. I just found the association interesting!

Dr Chad Edwards Celiac Gluten Braly's Sign You can see an example of Braly's Sign here. Notice that the pinkie finger is shorter than the distal IP joint crease depicted by the red line.

Of course, the best option for checking for gluten intolerance is to simply cut it out completely for 30 days and see how you look, feel, and perform.

If you are looking for medical therapy for Celiac Disease or Gluten related issues then visit us in our clinic! Give us a call at Revolution Health & Wellness Clinic or visit our website.

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Comments

  1. Funny… my fingers are not short like that.

  2. Sheri Brinkmeyer says:

    Thoughts on if you have this sign on one hand but not the other? Trying to convince my husband to go GF with me as I am GF for my infant.

    • You should avoid gluten half of the time! Just kidding!! That is a tough one. My best recommendation would be to try to convince him to cut it out for 30 days and see how he feels. He may find it completely worth the effort!

  3. Karen Burkimsher says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information! I did a wee bit of research to find that Dermatitis Herpetiformis is also related to gluten consumption. Apparently, it is often misdiagnosed as contact dermatitis, eczema and even scabies!!! It appears complications of DH, can result in not only thyroid disease, but intestinal lymphoma, osteoporosis, diabetes and lupis erythematosus. Genetic mutations may create the overactive immune response which gluten appears to activate. One has to wonder when, why, where and what caused these genetic mutations to occur? Meanwhile, a simple blood test ( IgA antibodies) will confirm DH/gluten.
    Check out DH and let me know what you think! I thought it was Very Interesting…Thank you!!!!! Please keep me posted.

  4. cynthias says:

    I am greatly gluten intolerant but my small finger is about the height of my first is at or above my first crease on my next finger.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I was tested for gluten sensitivity, and it was negative. My pinkies are longer than the crease in my ring fingers. This has given me “food for thought” on my daughter’s behavior issues though…

    • By ‘tested’ I presume you mean blood testing? Most people do better without gluten regardless of testing results. You may find it helpful but you may not.

  6. @ Melissa – Weird. I don\’t have a shorter pinkie than the crease of my ring finger. More gluten for me! ;-)

  7. Robin AKA GoatMom says:

    I\\\’ve never heard of this before and my 5th finger is even or a hair above my 4th finger crease. I eat home ground flours and products made from them and limit intake as excess grain goes to my belly. I\\\’ve never felt I\\\’ve experienced any gluten sensitivity. Overall I follow Weston Price, avoid all rancid fats, eat scratch homemade, grass fed, organic/home grown, raw milk.

  8. Robin AKA GoatMom says:

    I\’ve never heard of this before and my 5th finger is even or a hair above my 4th finger crease. I eat home ground flours and products made from them and limit intake as excess grain goes to my belly. I\’ve never felt I\’ve experienced any gluten sensitivity. Overall I follow Weston Price, avoid all rancid fats, eat scratch homemade, grass fed, organic/home grown, raw milk.

  9. Robin AKA GoatMom says:

    I’ve never heard of this before and my 5th finger is even or a hair above my 4th finger crease. I eat home ground flours and products made from them and limit intake as excess grain goes to my belly. I’ve never felt I’ve experienced any gluten sensitivity. Overall I follow Weston Price, avoid all rancid fats, eat scratch homemade, grass fed, organic/home grown, raw milk.

  10. I have Braly’s sign. I was asked to try gluten free for 6 months and see if it makes a difference. It made a huge difference and I have stayed gluten free three plus years. Every once in a while I will ‘try’ a little snack with gluten and pay dearly for a few days. Not worth it. I am gluten intolerant even though I have not had ‘the medical test’.
    My question is ‘are their people who don’t have Braly’s? Would like to see a show of hands.. LOL

  11. My right pinky is way over the crease of the ring finger but my left pinky is just almost in line with the left ring finger. I have been eating for my blood type B – since October 2011 and can say I feel so much better avoiding gluten products.

  12. Stacy Methvin says:

    I do have Celieac disease and almost died from it when I was 17. Back when the U.S. was unfamiliar with the disease and how to recognize or treat the symptoms. I was sent home from the emergency room after being given two bags of IV fluids and tested for Colitis and Chrons Disease with prescriptions for Sulfur drugs and Tetracycline and Iron pills, seeing that I was Anemic and told to take prenatal vitamins because I was malnutritioned. They still had no idea what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t stop the diarreah and intestinal bleeding. Well, now that I KNOW that human should NOT consume wheat….in any form, I might add….its more easy for me to understand the myriad of diseases and inflamation we suffer from….simply from the gluten that lines our intestines, therefore keeping us from absorbing essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins from our foods.

  13. Tammy Smith says:

    I believe we’re all gluten sensitive . But the end of MY pinkie is actually higher than the ring finger. So in my case, this is a bad comparison. Just an FYI. But I’m still gluten sensitive! :)

  14. Hmmm, I don’t see that everyone has a pinkie that’s shorter than the joint of their 4th digit. I have been diagnosed as Celiac, but never heard about this finger business until I read this – and, my pinkies ARE freakishly short! I’ll have to do some sort of informal survey!

  15. My 5th finger comes right to the joint of my 4th finger, and my male friend’s 5th finger extends WAY beyond the joint of his 4th finger. I do better without gluten in my diet, although I don’t think I’m gluten insenstive. I wonder if gluten sensitivity is more common in women than men?

  16. Robyn Plantz says:

    My hands are different sizes…the left is about 3/8″ smaller than the right. I’ve compared my differences to several friends and the appear significant in comparison. I am gluten intolerant and wondering if this has anything to do with it. Have you heard of others who have this abnormality?

  17. My pinkie is longer than the crease on my ring finger!!!

  18. What if your pinkie is shorter on your left hand and longer on your right hand (as is mine)

  19. I’m not saying there is not some validity to this…

    However, my son and I are two of the most sensitive people I know. We both have pinkies that are longer.

    We have proven celiac friends who don’t have to be as careful as we do.

    Love your stuff btw.

    • Yes, I agree. I certainly don’t use it as my ‘test’. I just found it interesting! Thanks for the feedback!

  20. I checked mine, and my pinkies are not that short, they are actually almost to the 1st joint on my ring finger. But, I’ve thought about cutting some gluten to see if it helps me feel better anyway! :)

  21. This is very interesting. Just chiming in to say that my pinkie finger is longer than the crease on my 4th finger. Apparently I do not have this sign. So we are out here. :) Also, I am apparently on the less gluten-sensitive end of things as compared with others.

  22. I am not saying this may be true for those who’s pinky fingers are shorter. However it is not true in my case. I am most definitely gluten sensitive and my pinky fingers are a least a quarter of an inch higher than the crease on my ring finger.

  23. Melissa, my pinky tip sits higher than the crease as described above, it is about 2mm higher, so sorry you are not correct.

    • Sorry Melissa- I note now that you are referring to those you know- not the population at large so I am obviously not in a position to comment on the people you know!

  24. Patricia says:

    Oh my – yes, my autistic kids, and myself are both shorter. Hubby’s is longer. Very interesting – thanks!

  25. My left pinkie is even with the crease, and my right pinkie hits about 1/8″ above the crease. So, then, not EVERYONE…

  26. What if one hand is different to the other? As it is in my case

  27. Melissa F says:

    Interesting!, my pinkie is just slightly longer and I don’t have a problem with gluten that I’m aware of. Healthy whole grain breads feel very nourishing to me.

  28. This is interesting, but misleading I feel as someone who has had the blood tests done for Celiac, and gluten sensitivity (and tested positive) and I know from personal experience that I cannot eat Gluten, it has horrible affects on me. But my pinkies are not shorter than the crease (as depicted in your photos). I believe this could mislead people to believe that they don not have a problem with wheat when they really do.

    • Certainly this isn’t 100% and I nearly universally recommend eliminating wheat for a variety of reasons so I do agree with you. My intent wasn’t to mislead to be sure. Simply to bring up the topic for conversation.

  29. Melissa S. says:

    So, what would it mean if one hand the pinkie falls below but on the other hand it is above?

    Looking at my pinkies I’m starting to think I must be in the abnormal group.

  30. Kiersten Dyer says:

    Mine is even with that crease. What does that mean?

  31. Kari Metzger says:

    OMG! I can’t believe this – but this is a major joke in my family, and I am actually allergic to wheat! (only recently have I gone paleo!) Is this a coincidence? Seriously, how can pinkies tell this? if there is actually scientific basis to this study, then I WISH I had found out about 20 years ago!!!!!

    • I certainly have no explanation. There are other medical conditions where the length of the fingers suggest the disease such as a short 4th metacarpal in Turner’s Syndrome or short 4th & 5th in hypoparathyroidism. I’m not sure of the exact numbers on those though.

  32. My pinky is significantly longer, but I am gluten intolerant!

  33. I can’t find either of the articles you reference – can you provide a direct link?

    Thanks!

  34. Any chance you could post the link to the actual journal article? I couldn\’t find it or any mention of it when I searched.

  35. Any chance you could post the link to the actual journal article? I couldn’t find it or any mention of it when I searched.

  36. Melissa says:

    Interesting info. I’m open to things like this, more than most, however, everyone and I mean everyone I know has a shorter pinkie than the crease of their ring finger, so that makes it seem a little, well, unbelievable.

    • Thanks for the comment Melissa! I can tell you that this sign is fairly common and I do not intend to suggest that everyone with Braly’s sign has Celiac.
      However, I see gluten intolerance a lot… A LOT! Most people are NOT Celiac but most people do benefit from removing/reducing gluten from their diet. I certainly haven’t done any studies on it. Just interesting.

    • Mine little fingers are not shorter, clearly an eighth of an inch above the joint there…It surprises me really, as I’ve been experimenting with avoiding foods with gluten, thinking that may be my problem. I haven’t noticed an improvement in digestion issues, however, but I assumed it would take awhile and I haven’t been too consistent. It seems complicated to prepare food for a family, that includes teenagers, for too many days of gluten-free foods. They love their pasta and carry- out pizzas, crackers with soup and lots of bread! I can’t seem to keep up and trying new varieties of products that they don’t like. It has made them skeptical as well as I don’t believe I can afford to keep trying things that they won’t eat. Does anyone have a simpler version than what I must be attempting? (Gluten-free for a family? or do you prepare separate foods?

    • Melissa, my pinkie fingers are NOT shorter. I have never heard of Braly’s sign but I will now check it out with people I meet and know!

    • I’m sorry, Melissa, but you very WRONG!! I know MANY people whose pinkie is not shorter then crease of ring finger!! Myself included. Careful when you declare everyone is like that! :)

    • @ Melissa – Weird. I don’t have a shorter pinkie than the crease of my ring finger. More gluten for me! ;-)

    • Actually, mine is at level..

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