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How a Gluten-Free Diet Can Help the Body and Mind

The brain-gut connection continues to fascinate researchers, as more and more evidence shows how intricately the body systems are connected.

For those with celiac disease, eating items like vegan gluten-free bread provides relief for many effects of gluten sensitivity, including mental health. This gluten-free bread has nourishing anti-inflammatory ingredients like flaxseed that are full of omega 3s that nourish and protect the body.

Scientists are discovering that a gluten reaction condition indicates that a gluten-free diet also helps relieve many symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.

Depression and anxiety have long been connected with inflammation, and researchers go more in-depth in these fascinating studies. 

Ways Gluten Affects the Brain and Mental Health

The main way that gluten sensitivity causes symptoms in people is because the body has an allergic reaction. Inflammation affects the body in many ways. It can cause “brain fog,” mental health symptoms, and other cognitive or memory disorders.

Scientists in the publication Frontiers in Psychology noted that better nutritional balance could improve mental health symptoms, including anxiety. Gluten was one of the ingredients they recommended removing from the diet.

Those living with gluten disorders may also experience stress and other mental conditions not directly connected with gluten's effects on the body.

Studies Showing Associations Between Gluten and Mental Health

People living with celiac disease were shown to have a higher occurrence of anxiety than those without. Also, those living with family also had more anxiety. There could be more reasons for this, but the stress of having to be aware of whether or not someone can eat gluten, and if it is in the food around them, may wear on someone’s nerves.

There also could be physiological components to gluten allergies and mental health symptoms.

Participants sticking to a gluten-free diet showed improvement in symptoms of anxiety. After a year, 35 participants had a decrease in mental health symptoms.

Gluten Sensitivity and Depression

There are many types of gluten sensitivity, and not everyone who is gluten sensitive has celiac disease. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 20 million people in the United States, or 6% to 7% of the population, have some form of gluten sensitivity.

Celiac Disease and ADHD

One study wanted to see the correlation between ADHD and celiac disease. In a study that consisted of 67 people diagnosed with ADHD, 10 of them had celiac disease. That is nearly 15%, or more than 230 times the rate as the population.

Gluten And Schizophrenia

The first studies that examined the possible link between gluten and schizophrenia occurred during WWII. During those times, wheat consumption in Scandinavian countries decreased while it increased in the United States.

These studies looked at populations that typically had little to no wheat consumption, but were then introduced to it via westernization. It showed an increase in cases of schizophrenia where previously there were none.

People with schizophrenia typically exhibit high levels of inflammation. Also, studies show they benefit in many ways from following a gluten-free diet. These benefits include improved attention, reduction in gastro-intestinal symptoms, enhanced overall function, and reduction in the severity of symptoms.

Some scientists suggest that early detection of this association can be done with blood tests and examining these pathways, specifically, the gluten antibodies in the blood. By doing this, it can potentially lessen psychotic effects and symptoms.

Celiac Disease and Mood Disorders

Research shows that celiac disease is 17 times more likely in those diagnosed with bipolar disorder than those without it.

Because of these discoveries, some scientists suggest that individuals previously diagnosed with psychiatric or mood disorders may actually have gluten sensitivity. This includes panic disorders, anxiety, and other conditions.

Connection Between Gluten Reaction, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia

The blood-brain connection was examined in a series of studies with very interesting findings. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — but not celiac disease — react to gluten in distinct ways. Specifically, they had inflammation, unusual levels of protein absorption, and high antibody levels. After a year of eating gluten-free, significant improvements were seen.

Most of these studies exploring the connection between mental health and gluten sensitivity are fairly recent and have occurred within the last decade. However, conventional medicine approaching mental and physical health from a holistic, nutritional perspective has already demonstrated effectiveness, and it can help many people who are either misdiagnosed or not given adequate treatment.

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