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Depression and celiac disease: Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature

Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature

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All About Gluten, Coeliac Disease, Depression & Anxiety

It is quite common for people with coeliac disease or another form of gluten intolerance to report depression among their symptoms.

Back toGluten & disorders

Depression, apathy, irritability and anxiety are among the possible psychological effects of untreated coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.   

Most people find that these symptoms dissipate when they switch to a gluten free diet, but this might not be the case for everybody. There is some evidence that gluten itself, as well as coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, can be a cause of depression in some people. 

What is the link between gluten and depression?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten, which is identified mistakenly by the coeliac patient’s immune system as a dangerous invader. The antibodies produced by the body to attack gluten cause damage to the lining of the small intestine, prompting a wide range of possible symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation, chronic fatigue, joint pain, anaemia, and depression and anxiety.  

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which is caused by a different immune system reaction to gluten and does not lead to intestinal damage, includes depression as one of its more common symptoms. 

The treatment for both of these conditions is a gluten free diet, which, in most cases, will alleviate and eventually eliminate the symptoms.   

Is it coeliac disease or gluten that causes depression?

Many studies have established a link between coeliac disease and symptoms of depression. In fact, several mental illnesses, including attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia have also been linked to coeliac disease.  

Some researchers have suggested that higher-than-average incidences of depression and other mental health issues in coeliac patients may just be a result of having a chronic health problem. But there is also evidence to support the idea that depression could be trigged by coeliac disease. The damage to the intestinal mucosa impairs the absorption of nutrients.  

When a person does not absorb enough iron, they may get anaemia, which is common among coeliac patients and often the reason they are diagnosed as gluten intolerant. Similarly, deficiencies in folate and vitamin B-6 occur among people with untreated coeliac disease, two nutrients that play a role in mood and neurotransmitter health. Studies have shown that supplementing vitamin B-6 can improve mood symptoms in coeliac patients.  

In short, gluten may trigger depression in coeliac patients due to the malabsorption of certain key nutrients. 

Depression and a gluten free diet


Can a gluten free diet cause depression and anxiety? There is no known direct connection between gluten free eating and depression. Most coeliac patients and people with NCGS will find their symptoms, including depression, lift as they stay gluten free. A study from 2011 by Penn State University researchers found that women who stuck to their gluten free diet more strictly had fewer depressive symptoms, although all coeliac women studied suffered from higher rates of depression than the population at large. 

It is true that embarking on a strict gluten free diet can be daunting, especially when eating outside the home. Also, many people experience bouts of depression when they make a mistake and get ‘glutened’. In such cases, it is difficult to ascertain to what extent the depression is a direct symptom of the autoimmune reaction or despair or demoralisation caused by the unwanted situation.   

The importance of a correct diagnosis

Coeliac disease is severely underdiagnosed, with more people believed to have the condition without knowing it than those who have been diagnosed. This means that there is likely to be a proportion of undiagnosed coeliac patients amongst those who are suffering from depression. Depression seems to be an even more common symptom of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, a condition which is even harder to diagnose as there is no blood test to detect antibodies, as is the case with coeliac disease.  

Tips on managing depression in coeliac disease

The best treatment for coeliac disease and all of its associated symptoms, including depression and anxiety, is to adopt a gluten free diet. However, trying to figure out exactly what foods you can eat and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can be stressful, especially at the beginning. It is important to seek qualified professional help from a doctor and a registered dietitian, if this is available to you.  

Go easy on yourself. The transition to a gluten free diet can be hard to master, but you will learn and eventually it will become second nature. There is a lot of healthy, wholesome food that you can still enjoy. It is a good idea to seek out a support group so you can share your concerns and feel understood by others who are working through the same set of problems.  

And, if you feel depressed, don’t soldier on alone. It is vital to talk about it, to your loved ones, and to a professional if the symptoms persist.  

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How to Identify Your Gluten Intolerance

Gluten has literally become a dirty word these days. All around they are talking about its harm and that you need to stop eating foods containing it. In fact, only those who do not digest it well need to give up gluten. And here’s how to understand it.



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There are different degrees of gluten intolerance, each with different symptoms.

Contents of the article

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten intolerance is called celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which gluten damages the small intestine. According to statistics, 1% of people suffer from it.

A milder form is gluten sensitivity: there are symptoms, but there is no harm to the intestines. As a rule, it is diagnosed after discarding the variant with celiac disease. So if you are experiencing the symptoms described below, check if you can continue to use gluten.

Symptoms of gluten sensitivity

Some people may have a milder form of gluten intolerance that is not related to the autoimmune disease celiac disease.

Pain and cramps in the abdomen

Or bread or cakes. Abdominal pain after foods with gluten is the most common symptom of indigestion of this protein. True, it can be difficult to understand why exactly the stomach hurts. A detailed food diary will help you find out.



Most often this happens due to overeating of legumes or hormonal imbalance. And here again, a diary will help – and attention to what you ate.

Poor concentration

Gluten sensitivity can be neurological and reduce the ability to process information and focus on a problem.

Bad mood and depression

Or it often changes, signs of depression appear. This can also be affected by gluten. People with gluten intolerance appear to be more prone to anxiety and depression than people without any comorbidities. For example, in one study, up to 40% of people with gluten sensitivity stated that they regularly experience anxiety.

Memory worsens

Many patients who have found gluten intolerance complain about this.

Diarrhea and constipation

If diarrhea and constipation occur too often, it may be a sign that you have a gluten intolerance. More than 50% of people with gluten intolerance suffer from diarrhea and about 25% from constipation.


Many people with gluten intolerance suffer from headaches and migraines. This has been confirmed by some studies.


Constant fatigue can be a sign of some disease. People with gluten intolerance are especially prone to fatigue.

Symptoms of celiac disease

Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. This autoimmune disease affects about 1% of the population. It can lead to digestive problems, skin problems, and more.

You lose weight effortlessly

It’s a dream… unless it’s because the intestines are damaged and can’t digest food properly. In the case of gluten sensitivity, you simply start eating less so that your stomach hurts less often, and so you lose weight.

Diarrhea and constipation

Celiac disease can cause inflammation in the small intestine after consuming gluten. This leads to damage to the intestinal mucosa, which contributes to poor absorption of nutrients and the occurrence of diarrhea and constipation.

Pain in muscles and joints

There is a theory that people with celiac disease have a genetically determined hypersensitive nervous system, which can cause them to feel pain in muscles and joints after eating gluten.

Iron deficiency and anemia

Symptoms of anemia and iron deficiency are:

  • fatigue;
  • shortness of breath;
  • headaches;
  • dizziness;
  • pale skin;
  • low hemoglobin.

In the presence of a disease such as celiac disease, there is a violation of the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, which leads to a decrease in the amount of iron absorbed from food.

Skin diseases

Gluten intolerance directly affects digestion, which means that the skin also suffers. Blisters, rashes, and some skin conditions may appear.

  • Psoriasis. This disease is characterized by redness and flaking of the skin.
  • Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease characterized by hair loss.
  • Chronic urticaria is a skin disease that causes itchy, pink or red lesions on the skin.

Numbness of hands and feet

Neuropathy is characterized by numbness of the extremities and periodic tingling in them. Typically, these symptoms occur in people with diabetes or vitamin B12 deficiency, however, some studies have shown that neuropathy can also occur in patients with celiac disease.


Feeling tired is common among people with autoimmune diseases, including celiac disease. There may also be sleep problems, chronic pain and depression. Since celiac disease can be associated with iron deficiency, the body may experience inhibition of the production of red blood cells, which in turn causes fatigue.

Depression and anxiety

People with digestive problems have been shown to be more prone to depression than those without it. Depression and anxiety are common in people with gluten intolerance. There are several theories why this happens.

  • Abnormal levels of serotonin , which is best known as the “hormone of happiness”. A decrease in its level in the body can cause depression.
  • Gluten exorphins – peptides formed during the digestion of some gluten proteins. They can affect the central nervous system, which increases the risk of depression.
  • Changes in the intestinal microbiota. An increase in bad bacteria and a decrease in good bacteria can negatively affect the central nervous system, which also increases the risk of depression and anxiety.

Autoimmune diseases

Having celiac disease increases the body’s susceptibility to other autoimmune diseases, such as thyroid problems, which can increase the risk of developing a depressive disorder.

Wheat allergy symptoms

Wheat allergy is a type of food allergy in which the body’s immune system reacts to certain proteins found in wheat (including gluten).

The skin has become dry and flaky

This is a rather rare symptom, it must be considered in combination with others. In particular, wheat allergy can often cause hives.

Nasal congestion

Nasal congestion and sneezing are the most common symptoms of wheat allergy and Baker’s asthma. In this condition, sensitivity to wheat and other cereals increases with frequent inhalation of bread flour.

Digestive problems

Some studies have shown that wheat allergy can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, bloating, indigestion. All this is the body’s immune response to the allergen.


Anaphylaxis is an acute, life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause swelling, hives, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Adrenaline and medications are usually used to relieve symptoms.


Gluten intolerance can cause many different symptoms. To accurately identify the cause and degree of your gluten intolerance, you need to contact a doctor who will prescribe tests and subsequent treatment.

Celiac Disease: 12 Signs You Should Be Gluten Free


Many have learned the word “celiac disease” relatively recently, but, in fact, we are talking about a disease known since the time of the Roman Empire. The first modern description of the disease dates back to 1888, but it was not until the middle of the last century that scientists managed to discover a link between the disease and gluten.

Gluten or gluten is a protein found in cereals, mainly wheat, rye and barley. Mostly gluten is found in baked goods and various types of pasta. For most people, the daily protein intake is between 10 and 40 grams.

For most, gluten is not dangerous, but in people who are intolerant to gluten, when gluten enters the body, an autoimmune reaction begins, in which the immune system mistakes healthy cells for pathological ones and attacks them, causing damage to the intestines, which, in turn, turn, leads to insufficient digestion of food. The disease causes characteristic symptoms, the most common of which we have listed below.

Bowel dysfunction

Nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea are all common symptoms of celiac disease. It should be noted that due to the fact that these are relatively non-specific complaints, patients are often misdiagnosed (for example, irritable bowel syndrome).

Mouth ulcers

You may be surprised, but this is a common symptom of autoimmune diseases. In this case, we are talking about large painful wounds that significantly impair the quality of life.


One of the main problems in diagnosing celiac disease is the non-specificity of some of its symptoms. One such sign is fatigue, which can have many causes. In the case of gluten intolerance, it develops due to the fact that the body does not receive enough nutrients from food.


To be extremely precise, we are talking about dermatitis herpetiformis – small cysts, most often formed on the skin of the elbow and knee joints. In most cases, the rash disappears completely after ceasing gluten.

Anemia and vitamin B deficiency

Celiac disease causes intestinal damage that impairs the ability to absorb nutrients from food. Anemia that develops due to insufficient absorption of iron can have other causes, but vitamin B deficiency most often indicates gluten intolerance.

Loss of balance and coordination – another consequence of celiac disease is a neurological disorder called ataxia. With the timely rejection of gluten, the symptoms are reversible.

Calcium leak

Osteoporosis, of course, does not develop immediately, but only if the disease remains undiagnosed for a long time. Research has shown that cutting out fiber completely can help your bones regenerate.


The exact relationship between gluten intolerance and depression has not yet been established, but it is known that the risk of its development in patients with gluten intolerance is above average.