It's Just a Fad - Until It Wasn't! What if I told you that there is an association between Celiac Disease (CD) or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and neurologic/psychiatric implications? Would you believe me? To be honest, I would be skeptical. In fact, I was that skeptic and thought the whole gluten-free thing was a fad up until a few years ago…until I realized it wasn’t - the hard way.
For as long as I can remember, I suffered from stomach aches, anxiety, and constipation. These symptoms persisted until I was about 16 years old. By the time I was 19, I was also suffering from severe bloating, acne, debilitating migraines and random hives/rashes. I was constantly thinking, “what’s wrong with me?” Has a medical professional ever told you that it is “all in your head?” To make a long story short, let’s fast forward 8 years, and let me also add severe joint and muscle inflammation and bleeding gums/canker sores to my long list of uncomfortable symptoms. There’s nothing a pill can’t fix. A pill for every ill, right? By the time I was 27 years old, I had been prescribed antidepressants, laxatives, migraine medication, Accutane for my acne as well as Reactine for my random hives. One day, when I finally got so fed up of being told there's nothing I can do and just have to “live with it”, I took matters into my own hands.
I did some research, became my own best doctor and went to see a functional medicine doctor at an Integrative Health and Wellness Centre in Dubai. “You have Celiac Disease and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth),” said the doctor. It’s been 5 heartbreakingly beautiful years since my diagnosis. It’s been a difficult lifestyle change, but all of my symptoms have disappeared except for the occasional mild anxiety in times of high stress and/or random acne flareups when I accidentally get “glutened.” Celiac Disease is an inflammatory autoimmune disease. It is a reaction in the body to a protein found in wheat, rye, barley (grains that are in many everyday foods). This reaction starts damaging and destroying the villi in the small intestine. The villi is responsible for absorbing nutrients into our bodies. The body won’t be able to absorb the proper nutrients it needs to stay healthy and thus, causes an inflammatory response. Inflammation + lack of nutrients = a recipe for physical and mental illness. Yikes!
There are more and more studies that are being conducted that connect Celiac Disease (CD) or NCGS to neurologic or psychiatric implications like epilepsy, anxiety, depression, ADHD, dementia, and even schizophrenia. Untreated CD patients have more symptoms and psychiatric co-morbidities than those treated with a GF diet. Common psychiatric symptoms in untreated CD adult patients include depression, apathy, anxiety, and irritability. Fortunately, several studies show improvement in psychiatric symptoms after the start of a GF diet. Children with CD or NCGS also have increased rates of both neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, Celiac patients are at higher risk of vitamin/mineral deficiencies. A deficiency in vitamins and/or minerals impacts mental and physical health. Vitamin D, B3, B12, Folate, Magnesium and Omega three fatty acids are essential for brain health.
I’ve learned that there is always a root cause to ill health. I dare you to be your own best doctor and never to settle for the conventional ‘one size fits all’ medicine or ‘a pill for every ill' philosophy. Advocate for your health and if you can, try to find naturopathic doctors or integrative doctors that want to help with your healing journey. Please do not to give up. You know your body best; don’t let anyone tell you, otherwise! Our bodies are so amazing and are capable of healing themselves. It is never intentionally hurting us, but rather it wants to protect us. When there is a disruption to homeostatic mechanisms, our body will begin to whisper. If we keep ignoring the whispers, then it will begin to scream! When it screams, chronic disease/illness will (more often than not) occur. So, please don’t ignore the whispers: truly listen to them. Find a medical professional that listens, one that looks for underlying issues and wants to treat the root cause(s) instead of your symptoms. One that wants to restore your body’s delicate balance or homeostasis.
Now, let me ask you one last question….when was the last time you got your vitamin and mineral levels checked?
Melissa Teixeira is a certified elementary school teacher from Canada. She has been teaching abroad at International schools for 9 years. She is passionate about children, integrative health and living a holistic lifestyle! Her goal is to offer coaching sessions to children, teens, and young adults in order to educate, guide and empower students to take accountability for their wellbeing; how to care for their mind and body.
Instagram : holistic.mentalhealth.coach