- ‘brain fog’
- even schizophrenia!
Many people have reported ‘brain fog’ and anxiety as symptomatic of gluten poisoning and depression is a classic symptom celiac disease. The Mayo Clinic believes that celiacs are at increased risk for dementia and there is research being done into the link between diet and autisma and schizophrenia.
We know that depression is present in a higher percentage of people with coeliac disease than in the normal population, based on Italian studies in 2003 (and many others). You might ask: which came first? Are people depressed as a result of their diagnosis, or is the disease the cause of the depression?
Eating gluten can cause depression
Eating gluten if you are a celiac (diagnosed or not) seems to have an impact not only on your physical health, but also on your mental health. There may be two reasons for this:
- Malabsorption Celiacs eating gluten fail to absorb tryptophan, which leads to a decrease in production of serotonin (the ‘feel-good’ brain chemical), and increasing the risk of mood disorder. Coeliacs eating gluten are also likely to be short on other vitamins as a result of their malnutrition, such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, folic acid and zinc, all of which are needed to help make serotonin from tryptophan.
- The immune response cytokines are produced that may change the body’s ability to regulate mood
Cytokines, signaling molecules of the immune system, have been implicated as a contributing factor for mood disorders such as depression (from Biopsychiatry 2003).
Maes and Smith (Perspectives in Depression 1999) have proposed excessive cytokine secretion due to chronic immune system activation as a fundamental pathology underlying depressive symptoms. Cytokines as such cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, but growing evidence suggests that specific cytokines may signal the brain to produce neurochemical, neuroendocrine, neuroimmune, and behavioral changes.(Kronfol and Remick, Am J Psychiatry 2000). Cytokine activation is known to enhance the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis hyperactivity associated with major depression. (Maes and Smith Psychomeuroendocrinology 1995). … Any such mechanism could be operative in untreated CD and could cause disturbances in brain serotonin function, predisposing the patient to mood and behavioral disorders. (from Psychosomatics 2002)
Being diagnosed can cause depression
And of course having a lifelong condition that requires a lifestyle change is highly likely to trigger depression – whether the condition is celiac disease or some other significant disorder.
So what can we do?
The easy answer is, of course, to avoid gluten, though as we all know, this isn’t that easy.
Once you’ve eliminated gluten from your diet, then your nutrition should improve. Eating a healthy diet – not junk food that happens to be gluten free – will help. Here are some naturally gluten-free foods that contain essential nutrients:
- Meat, fish, beans and lentils for tryptophan
- Avocados, bananas, raisins, currants and sultanas, sunflower seeds and soya for vitamin B6
- A wide range of fruit and vegetables for vitamin C
- Leafy green vegetables, avocados, oranges, almonds and walnuts for folic acid
- Zinc can be found in peanuts, cheese, figs, nuts and seeds, and small amounts in green and yellow fruit and vegetables
Eat all of that lot, and you ought to be producing some serotonin, and feeling a lot better. Plus, of course, removing gluten from your diet will also remove the immune reaction.
Check out this article by Clare Howard in the Peoria Journal Star on Food and Mood.