Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity, And Depression

By: Laura McCutcheon (Taylor's Mom)

When it comes to GlutenAway, Taylor is the voice and driver of this blog and everything social media. In the past I haven’t contributed much when it comes to content unless it was something that I truly feel will benefit his followers – advice on parenting, social situations, etc.

In the past four years, I have had five people in my life try to commit suicide. Three with pills and two with a gun. This past week, someone I knew well and worked closely with took her own life. She was an incredible human being – giving, bright, driven and loved by so many. She was well known in the professional community. No one saw this coming. I am left shocked and saddened. Left wondering how I can help or if there is something that I can do.

Depression in general needs to be addressed in this country as a true medical condition. More importantly, the stigmatism behind mental health illnesses needs to be addressed and confronted head on. I thought if there's anything I can do, I can bring awareness to the connection between Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivities, and depression and help those who are diagnosed or coping with this illness.  To help them know that they are not alone, that there is some scientific medical reasoning behind it, and that there is no shame in reaching out or talking to someone for help.

Being Diagnosed
After being diagnosed with a life altering disease there are a lot of emotions we can go through.  I am a firm believer that most of us go through the seven stages of grieving.  I know I did.  It took me almost a year to come to grips with the reality that I did in fact have celiac disease and that I was going to have to take control of my diet in order to be “normal” again.  I was fortunate enough to have those in my life be supportive but I still felt isolated and alone.  I didn’t understand why this has happened to me.  I was frustrated with the changes that I was being forced to make and how most people thought they understood what it was like but they didn’t have a clue.

Through the eight years that I have been gluten free, I have learned that attitude and perspective Is everything.  I can’t say that I have learned this on my own but by Taylor’s example.  He not only has Celiac Disease but also a rare adrenal disorder, a cardiac condition and other serious health problems but he always takes his diagnosis’ head on.  He is grateful to know and understand what he has, how to manage it, and that he is alive.  He has taught me that I need to look at Celiac Disease in a different way.  I have a disease where diet is my medicine.  I can be healthy and feel better by changing the food that I eat.

The Social Side of Living Gluten Free
I was the only one in my house at the time trying to eat gluten free. Gluten free food absolutely sucked at the time and no one knew what the heck gluten was.  I felt isolated, alone and like a total weirdo.  I hated the fact that every time I went out to eat I felt like a nuisance.  I have never been one that likes to get attention and the fact that this disease and my diet was always a topic of discussion when I tried to do anything social made me feel like a burden.  I felt angry, frustrated and helpless for a long time.

There is nothing wrong with this frustration or anger.  You’re human and allowed to feel these things.  Something would be wrong if you didn’t.  Learning how to manage and deal with your dietary restrictions and limitations will take time and it does get easier or better.  You will learn which restaurants are easier to eat at without getting glutened, find awesome dishes that are gluten free to bring to parties, and friends who are empathetic and understand your condition and disease.  Allow yourself time to adjust and absorb the changes in your life while making a conscious decision to try to look at it from a more positive perspective.  It does get easier, it just takes time.

The Medical Reasoning
Here is what the experts have to say about the true science behind the link between Celiac Disease and depression.
  • The risk of developing depression is 1.8x more likely with people with celiac disease in comparison to the general population.
  • 90% of the bodies supply of serotonin levels is found in the digestive tract.  Serotonin is a chemical manufactured in the brain and when at healthy levels we feel balanced and happy.
  • Depression can be linked to non-celiac gluten sensitivity (see related article here)
  • When the intestines are damaged, more substances are able to pass through the gut and into the bloodstream.  Some substances have an impact on brain function.
  • Damage to the intestines can cause vitamin deficiencies.  Deficiencies in tryptophan and B6 have been linked to cause depression.

In Conclusion
It is very clear that depression, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity go hand in hand.  Science backs it up and we all know that it is very real. There is a huge community out there that understands, empathizes and is living with the same disease and emotions as you. If you are struggling, feel alone or you need help, do not hesitate to reach out and talk to someone.  Engage yourself in ways that will embrace, encourage growth, and offer a positive perspective for your gluten free lifestyle.  Most importantly out of all, know that you are not alone.

In Memory Of Lex McAllister

Lex McAllister and Laura McCutcheon
If you're in need of immediate help, call 911, your doctor or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.8255
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  1. Laura, I am so sorry for your lost. What a young and beautiful soul!

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss! Thank you for writing this. All of what you shared is how I feel or have felt as well. Hugs to you!