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 at Columbia University and published in the medical journal Gut, found that even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten proteins can trigger an immune system response that causes similar symptoms to the disease.
Maybe 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. Eating gluten can also activate the immune system to attack microbes that originate in the GI tract. The immune system response treats healthy bacteria as though they are foreign. (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 ate a gluten-free diet for a few days. Then they tried a food item containing wheat gluten.
While the subjects did not complain of any GI upsets, a whopping 90% of participants reported feeling more depressed after incorporating gluten into their diet.
While researchers aren’t exactly sure why gluten effects 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.
Final thoughts on Gluten
So, is it worth going gluten-free? That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. It may be worth a short-term trial to see if your symptoms decrease. Going gluten-free may seem like a daunting task initially, however, if you’re considering trying it, know that you’re not alone. Mind Spa is here to work through the transition and to treat any symptoms not caused by a gluten-sensitivity.