Are You Anxious?
Did you know that gluten can prompt anxiety in certain people? The psychological implications of ingesting gluten in those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are not well known by the general public. Yet celiac experts report a connection between eating gluten and experiencing mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, mood disorders, cognitive problems and even autistic behaviors. In extreme cases, some patients have even experienced hallucinations triggered by gluten consumption.
Why bring this up now? The tragic news about Whitney Houston leads me to talk about this topic once again. The cause of her untimely death is still unclear, but early indicators—at this point still speculative—suggest that her history of addiction, specifically to prescription drugs and alcohol, may have played a role. The family of drugs I’m hearing on news reports is the benzodiazepines or "benzos," often prescribed as a “quick fix” for anxiety.
I am not suggesting that Whitney Houston was gluten sensitive or a celiac. I am suggesting that people with anxiety (including those with panic attacks) should try other treatments before swallowing benzos, a group of medications that cause troubling side effects, including dangerous dependency. Safe and effective frontline treatment for anxiety includes cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation and breathing techniques, meditation, exercise—and, yes, nutritional counseling and dietary intervention.
When I worked as a psychotherapist, I routinely recommended that patients suffering from unremitting anxiety and/or depression, particularly those who also reported a history of digestive problems or anemia, be tested for celiac disease. Getting correctly diagnosed and starting the gluten-free diet was a huge step toward their emotional recovery.
Do you have anxiety or other emotional issues? Have your symptoms eased up since you’ve been on the gluten-free diet? Please share your story with us.
Note: Medical experts strongly advise that people be screened for celiac disease before embarking on the gluten-free diet.