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The Overlooked Connection Between Celiac Disease and Mental Health

Celiac disease affects more than just the gastrointestinal tract - it can also have a huge impact on your brain and mental health.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. While celiac disease is primarily known for its gastrointestinal symptoms, it can also have significant effects on mental health.

The Link Between Celiac and Mental Health

Unraveling the lesser-known aspects of celiac disease reveals a surprising connection between this autoimmune disorder and mental health. While celiac disease is commonly associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, its impact extends far beyond the gut. There is an incredibly intricate relationship between celiac disease and mental health, having a profound influence on symptoms of mental health - including anxiety, depression, panic attacks, low mood, and poor body image. By exploring the influence of nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, and the gut-brain axis, we unlock the key to understanding how functional medicine can optimize both physical and mental well-being.

“While celiac disease is commonly associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, its impact extends far beyond the gut.”

Celiac May Be at the Root of Your Mental Health Symptoms

Unveiling the intricate relationship between celiac disease and mental health, we discover a compelling interplay that goes beyond the surface of "just GI symptoms." One notable aspect is the potential for nutritional deficiencies to arise due to impaired nutrient absorption. Deficiencies in vital nutrients such as iron, vitamin B12, folate, zinc, and magnesium have been linked to mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. The immune response triggered by celiac disease also leads to chronic inflammation, which is associated with a range of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and neurocognitive disorders.

Another large piece of the puzzle is the gut-brain axis, a dynamic communication network between the gut and the brain. In celiac disease, disruptions in this axis can occur, causing alterations in gut microbiota and increased intestinal permeability, commonly known as "leaky gut." These disruptions may influence brain function and contribute to mental health challenges.

Harnessing the Power of Functional Medicine in Celiac Disease

Fortunately, functional medicine offers a comprehensive approach to addressing the connection between celiac disease and mental health. It starts with accurate diagnosis and adherence to a gluten-free dietary approach, which is essential for managing celiac disease and alleviating associated mental health symptoms.

Nutritional support plays a crucial role in optimizing mental health for individuals with celiac disease. Functional dietitians can assess and address common nutrient deficiencies by implementing targeted dietary interventions and recommending individually tailored herbs and supplements to help restore gut function. This approach aims to replete nutrient levels and alleviate mental health symptoms driven by autoimmunity.

Inflammation reduction is another key focus of functional medicine. By advocating for an anti-inflammatory style of eating rich in whole foods, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, it is possible to mitigate inflammation and support overall mental well-being.

Gut health restoration is also paramount in this approach. This encompasses strategies such as optimizing fiber intake, exploring pre- and probiotic-rich foods when applicable, and addressing gut dysbiosis or leaky gut issues. These approaches aim to rebalance the gut microbiota, nourish the gut ecosystem, and improve overall gut function. By implementing these targeted strategies, we support not only digestive health but also promote improvements in mental health symptoms.

Worried About Going Gluten Free?

Trust me, I know it can be incredibly scary to think about a world with no gluten for the rest of your life. When I work with my recently diagnosed clients, this is always their biggest fear. How will I eat out at restaurants? Will I have to bring my own food to parties? Can I ever drink beer again? Fortunately, we live in a world where being gluten free is so much more accessible than it was 20 years ago. You can name any food and I can almost guarantee you there is a gluten free swap. Pizza, beer, cookies, crackers, bread, bagels - you name it! Even most restaurants are catching on these days. With celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity increasingly on the rise (thanks to better testing and greater awareness), it is truly a wonderful time to be gluten free.

You Got This!

Being diagnosed with celiac is not just as simple as removing gluten from your plate. Any autoimmune driven condition comes with many individual nuances and requires keen attention to nutritional and biochemical individuality. By ensuring accurate diagnosis, adhering to a gluten-free dietary approach, providing nutritional support, reducing inflammation, and promoting gut health, functional medicine practitioners offer a pathway to relief from mental health symptoms. Together, let us embrace this comprehensive approach and unlock the key to a healthier and happier life, where celiac disease no longer holds back your mental well-being.


About Your Practitioner: Brittany Adelman is a licensed Registered Dietitian specializing in the profound connection between nutrition and mental health. If you are interested in learning more or working with a Functional Nutrition provider, please contact to schedule a 15-minute introductory consult or connect with me on Instagram @the.mind.dietitian.

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