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Does Gluten Play a Role in Acute Mania?

Individuals hospitalized for acute mania show significantly elevated levels of antibodies to gliadin, derived from the wheat protein gluten.

Other studies investigating an association between bipolar disorder and celiac disease have focused on bipolar depression.  A study from the Stanley Research Program at Sheppard Pratt in Baltimore specifically looked at gluten sensitivity and mania.

The researchers tested 60 patients hospitalized for acute mania and found they had significantly elevated levels of IgG antibodies to gliadin.  IgG antibodies to gliadin are found to reveal gluten sensitivity and are one of the markers of celiac disease.

While those hospitalized for acute mania tested positive for gluten sensitivity, other markers of celiac disease were not found.

When tested six months after hospitalization, most of the subjects’ IgG antibodies to gliadin had returned to normal, and the individuals no longer met the diagnostic criteria for gluten sensitivity.

Those who’s IgG antibodies to gliadin remained elevated were likely to be re-hospitalized for another episode of acute mania.

Now I don’t know what to make of this.  Many will grasp this research and say, ‘Look!  Gluten causes mania!”  But at best this study only shows a correlation between acute mania and gluten sensitivity, and that sensitivity may be temporary and only occur during manic episodes. No causation is established.

People try to pin all sorts of evil on gluten, and this will only add fuel to their fire.  I have both bipolar disorder and celiac disease, and I’ve been hospitalized for acute mania several times.

I find this study fascinating, but I’m not jumping to conclusions that aren’t warranted by the data. The vast majority of people with gluten sensitivity never have an acute manic episode that requires hospitalization. Hell, these days most people with bipolar disorder never have an episode of acute mania that requires hospitalization.

This study concludes only that, in the cases investigated, acute mania and gluten sensitivity are associated.  When the subjects weren’t manic, they didn’t have gluten sensitivity (or vice versa).

Since the subjects returned to normal on both measures, we only know that they’re not always manic and they’re not always gluten sensitive.

I hope this doesn’t contribute to the chorus of voices condemning gluten.  I have to live gluten free, but my wife doesn’t and she eats the stuff. Yes, we had our daughter tested for celiac disease, and since she tested negative she eats it, too.  I’m not about to deny her pizza and cookies (at least not good ones).

True gluten sensitivity is rare, affecting 6-7% of the population.  Celiac disease and bipolar disorder are rarer still.  So go ahead and enjoy that chocolate croissant.  I sure wish I could.



Does Gluten Play a Role in Acute Mania?

George Hofmann

George is the author of Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis, from Changemakers Books. Visit George's site or join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness

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APA Reference
Hofmann, G. (2019). Does Gluten Play a Role in Acute Mania?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Jul 2019
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