Starting about five years ago, gluten-free diets became all the rage. People who weren’t even sure what gluten was were cutting it out of their diet, most likely to be trendy or fashionable.

But maybe these people were onto something? Is it possible that we should all be giving up gluten, even if we don’t suffer from celiac disease?

Go with Your Gut

A study done by researchers at Columbia University and published in the medical journal Gut, found that even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten protein from wheat, rye, and barley can trigger an immune system response that causes similar symptoms to the disease.

This is why so many of us complain of bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and/or “brain fog” when we eat wheat products. The researchers determined that while only a certain percentage of the population has celiac disease, many of us have gluten sensitivity. This means when we eat gluten, damage occurs to the epithelial cells that form the tissue lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as well as activation of the immune system in response to microbes that originate in the GI tract. (Did you know that 80% of the immune system is in the GI tract?)

The Link Between Gluten and Depression

Beyond gut health, it seems that gluten may also impede our mental health.

In a study, patients diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity were put on a gluten-free diet for a few days. Then they were asked to eat a food item containing wheat gluten.

The results?

While the subjects did not complain of any GI upsets, a whopping 90% of participants reported feeling more depressed after incorporating the gluten into their diet.

While the researchers aren’t exactly sure why gluten effects the mood to this extent, some are suggesting the protein somehow depletes the brain’s stores of serotonin.

Certainly more studies are needed, but for now it would appear that gluten can have a significantly negative impact on gut and mental health even for people who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease.

Are you or a loved one suffering with depression that is not related to gluten sensitivity? If you’d like to explore treatment, please be in touch so we can discuss how I may be able to help.