Feeling Blue? Gluten Might Be Clouding Your Mood!

Anxiety and depression are debilitating conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. Many health experts are now pointing to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as a potential trigger for these mood disorders. According to The Gluten Effect’s author, Vikki Petersen, sensitivity to gluten has been linked to a surprisingly diverse array of autoimmune issues within the nervous system.

In this article, we will delve into the ways gluten affects your brain and mood and how a gluten-free diet may improve mental health for those struggling with anxiety and depression.

How Gluten Affects the Nervous System

When you have a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, your immune cells may attack the protein gliadin found in this substance. In turn, your body might become confused and begin to attack similar proteins in nerve cells, leading to harmful inflammation in the brain and nervous system. This inflammation can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as cognitive decline, memory loss, and in some cases, dementia.

However, more commonly, this type of inflammation leads to depression. According to Dr. Petersen, many people believe that those sensitive to gluten only suffer from gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. In reality, almost 90% of individuals with nervous system inflammation from gluten do not experience these digestive problems.

In a study examining 16 adults recently diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, it was found that the participants scored much higher on depression assessments than their gluten-tolerant counterparts. Another study involving teenagers discovered that the majority of adolescents with celiac disease (an autoimmune reaction to gluten) had depressive and behavioral symptoms.

Gluten and Brain Function

Individuals with celiac disease display characteristic changes in their brain function due to gluten consumption. Research has shown that gluten can disrupt blood flow within the brain: 73% of patients with untreated celiac disease showed restricted blood flow, compared to just 7% in patients who were on a gluten-free diet.

Another potential consequence of gluten is a decrease in the body’s levels of tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for feelings of relaxation and well-being. The study involving teenagers found that young individuals with celiac disease who still consumed gluten had lower tryptophan quantities than those on a gluten-free diet. Researchers concluded that limited tryptophan availability could contribute to an increased risk of depression and behavioral disorders among untreated adolescents with celiac disease.

Taking Control of Your Mental Health with a Gluten-free Diet

The consumption of gluten—found in common foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, cookies, and crackers—may initiate physiological disruptions seemingly unrelated to digestion. However, mounting evidence suggests that gluten could play a significant role in the development of anxiety and depression.

If you suffer from these mood disorders and have not found relief through conventional treatments, consider pursuing a gluten-free diet under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Eliminating gluten from your meals may help alleviate the inflammation affecting your brain and nervous system and improve your mental health in the long run.