Celiac Disease and Depression Linked in Women, Study Finds


Sometimes we all need a little cheering up

Many women (and men) report feeling great after they finally learn they have celiac disease and begin adhering to a gluten-free diet. It normally takes years, still, for a diagnosis — so it makes sense that after so long feeling awful, people would be pretty happy.

However, many people on a gluten-free diet feel stressed when they realize just how often gluten lurks in the world around them. Anyone who’s been on the diet long enough, I guarantee, has had at least one day where they throw their hands up in the air and sigh at the hassle of it all.

A new study published in Chronic Illness sheds a little extra light on the subject of mental health and celiac disease in women, and the results are notable.

The study involved a web-based survey of 177 women with doctor-diagnosed celiac disease. Most were compliant with the gluten-free diet. According to the abstract, the extensive survey assessed, “dietary compliance, illness symptoms, psychiatric functioning, and disordered eating.”

Despite adhering to the prescribed diet, many of the survey participants reported an impaired quality of life. A substantial percentage, albeit a minority, “met criteria for the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders: 37% (n = 65) met the threshold suggesting depression, and 22% (n = 39) for disordered eating.”

The US National Library of Medicine provided an analysis of the study, going over precisely those findings.

I’m not sure whether or not the findings surprise me. Sticking to the diet is hard. And the joy of learning new foods, well, sometimes I’d trade all the millet in the world for a month of never having to think about what I eat.

One thing to take away from the numbers, though, is the indication that being gluten-free can be tough — so you probably shouldn’t do it alone. There are support groups (for example via the Gluten Intolerance Group or the Celiac Sprue Association) all across the country, and they can be great resources for moral support, up-to-date information, recipe ideas, and even (sometimes) free samples from companies eager to feed you.

There are also a lot of places you can go on the web, if you’re feeling shy or there isn’t a sufficiently local support group for you. Celiact.com has published a list of the top 30 gluten-free blogs, and yours truly is honored to be among such esteemed company (and such good reading!). There’s even a social networking site just for gluten-free people, with more than 11,000 members: Gluten-Free Faces.

Where do you go when you’re feeling the gluten-free blues?

3 thoughts on “Celiac Disease and Depression Linked in Women, Study Finds”

  1. I wonder how it could be determined that women with Celiac are mentally ill and have an eating disorder, because 177 women answered a questionaire online. Sure sounds fishy to me. A gluten free diet should not be called an eating disorder. And Celiac is not usually considered a mental illness. Very strange study, I suspect.

  2. Maybe we are just depressed that people in the medical community are confusing an autoimmune disease with a mental disorder.

    Personally, I found that the fatigue, depression, and confusion WENT AWAY after a few months being gluten free, so it was the gluten reaction that had caused it, not the GF diet.

  3. I can agree with the disordered eating. I do not think they mean an “eating disorder” like anorexia or bulimia. I feel that I have disordered eating after being diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease. Sure, I eat gluten-free things; however, I now think I am privileged to eat more of those things in light of not being able to eat whatever I want. I am not a healthy eater just because I am gluten-free. I will buy gluten-free oreos and justify eating more because “I don’t always get to do this”. I think my mind has become disordered in regards to eating. I take food with me everywhere, “just in case” I will need it. It definitely messes with your comfort and security, in my opinion. You are no longer guaranteed food you can actually eat at any given restaurant or friend’s house. The disease has definitely messed with my view on food and eating.

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