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The Gluten-Mood Connection

By Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

There are many studies supporting the gluten-mood connection – anxiety, social phobia, depression and even schizophrenia have been linked to gluten.

15 Comments to
The Gluten-Mood Connection

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  1. The one caution I would mention is that if an individual wants to get tested for Celiac disease, they should do this before they go gluten free (the first part of testing is a blood test). For the test to be accurate the person must be eating gluten, and if the person stops, adding gluten back to the diet for the tests can be an awful experience. Some doctors wont diagnose without the testing done, and when it comes to legal protections for school and work, the official diagnosis can be important.

    Also, if you do find yourself sensitive/ intolerant to gluten, find a good nutritionist who knows what they are talking about. My experience and that of many people with gluten sensitivities is that many of them don’t know a lot about gluten free eating. I was provided with a sheet of paper (that was out of date) listing about 10 gluten free foods and sent on my way. I wasn’t smart enough at that time to keep searching for someone who could help me. It is one thing I regret.

    • Thanks and I agree that getting testing done is important but should not be the only factor in going gluten-free. Also, testing is not always conclusive for celiac disease and many people who I work with have had negative results and been told they can eat gluten. And yet when they eliminate gluten their symptoms (physical and or mental) are gone.

      The other factor is that doing the elimination and then challenge is very powerful for my clients to experience the effects. Most then go on to do testing if they haven’t already done so.

      And yes, finding a good nutritionist to guide you is so helpful as it is challenging.

  2. I spent 22 awful years wearing a Bipolar diagnosis, taking all the meds, Lithium, Lamictal, Risperdal – on and on. Then, thanks to a great endocrinologist, was diagnosed as having Celiac disease. I’m completely psych med free and damn, damn angry about it the years of psych meds and the fiasco I was put through. The neuroleptics left me with Tardive Dystonia. Unbelievable the incompetence of Psychiatrists and the egoism of their beliefs they know it all.

    If there any chance at all giving up gluten will help you out, just do it, it’s not hard considering the alternatives. You don’t need to spend money on all the fancy testing. Just do it. Better than TD.

  3. Good gravy…once again a magical article by someone who is not a medical doctor. A nutritionist, yet. Pu-leeze.

    Yes, celiac disease is real and can cause a lot of problems. But, as the first poster said…get tested!

  4. Very interesting stuff that Trudy shared… I am going to try my son on a gluten-free diet to see if it helps some of his wild mood swings. Thanks for the suggestion. Love, Katherine.

    • Katherine – I encourage you to give it a try. I worked with one young girl who had explosive anger issues and the removal of gluten and junk food ( and getting her iron levels up and the addition of the amino acid tryptophan) resolved the anger issues and her anxiety and depression, insomnia and sugar cravings.

  5. Glad that the effects of gluten are finally being taken seriously. I’ve been gluten-free for months, and while I don’t really notice a change in how I feel (i just have some minor physical issues)I am sticking with it as it’s a healthy way to eat. I do have family members whose issues have been resolved by removing gluten from their diets.

  6. Gluten sensitivity symptoms are many and vague, trying to eliminate gluten to see if symptoms improve is, to my mind, a fools errand as it is really hard to be totally gluten free. So if your symptoms don’t improve you wont really know if it is because you are gluten tolerant (and therefore something else is the problem) or just that some gluten got past your “firewall” …. hope this makes sense!

    • Hi Heather
      You have a good point and yes it can be challenging to figure out and even challenging to be totally gluten-free but it can be done. One of my gluten-free clients was doing really well and then she had a set-back – and when we looked at her food log we were able to figure out that a restaurant meal she had had a few days prior may be the culprit. And sure enough she called the restaurant and discovered that the food did indeed contain gluten. Each time this happens she is better able to recognize that she was exposed to gluten. She also knows what questions to ask when she does eats out (which in my mind, is always risky for the very sensitive).

      But if you are eating real whole food at home, with no risk of potential exposure to gluten and your symptoms don’t improve, I suggest this: dig further and work with a nutritionist to do testing for gluten and gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, barley; do other food intolerance testing (IgG testing) and look at everything else that could affect your mood from a biochemical point of view(like blood sugar control, caffeine, low vitamin D, digestive issues, food quality and getting enough protein like grass-fed red meat, adding in amino acids like GABA and tryptophan, and more)

  7. Undoubtedly there are people who have problems with tolerance to gluten – but this – going “gluten free” has become one more in a series of fad treatments allegedly responsible for all ailments… Just do this one thing and your life will be perfectly healthy. Sure. Schizophrenia gone?? Check. Depression. Check.

    There’s a huge difference between suggesting it responsibly as a possible condition to be ruled out when there are certain symptoms – and announcing that it is the major problem in multiple conditions. irresponsible.

  8. I am the president of Safe Harbor. Our web site – http://www.AlternativeMentalHealth.com – has had over 4 million visits from people looking for alternative treatments in mental health.

    GF diets are life-changing for many people. I know of at least two people with longterm psychotic disorders who heard about gluten and went GF on
    their own without consulting a doctor. Both recovered from their disorders.

    One was attending a Safe Harbor support group and we simply noticed she’d lost a lot of weight (for the better) and she quietly told us about her
    transformation. Others have been diagnosed celiac and found relief. Many have told me how it made a dramatic difference. Many parents of autistic
    children report considerable improvement from GF and casein-free diets.

    Of course, many people try it and get nothing from it (myself included). I think there is plenty of reason to give it a two-week trial if you have
    general unwellness or chronic conditions.

    Dan

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