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Gluten Free Diet & Bipolar Disorder

By Jennifer Andrews

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. It is most specifically associated with celiac disease in which the protein causes inflammation of the villi lining the intestinal tract. People with this disease must avoid gluten completely or risk severe health conditions stemming from malabsoprtion of nutrients and malnutrition. Symptoms of celiac disease and gluten intolerance typically involve digestive upsets, but signs of psychological problems have also been linked to gluten. Consult with a physician if you are experiencing any mental or physical health issues to discuss treatment options.

Psychological Disorders

According to, clinicians have been examining the association between gluten intolerance and mental health for the past few decades. Signs of psychological disorders in celiac disease sufferers and people with gluten in-tolerances often present as depression, paranoia and mental fog. Furthermore, people with celiac disease are more likely to have a family history of psychiatric disorders versus those without the disease.

Gluten and Mental Illness

Depression is a treatable illness that presents as changes in mood, behavior and feelings. Bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive disorder, is a medical illness related to depression that is characterized by variable mood swings from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. According to the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness, studies have revealed a possible association between malabsorption of nutrients and malfunctioning of the brain. A study published in the journal "Hepatogastroenterology" found that depression was higher in people with celiac disease. However, a gluten-free diet did not improve symptoms in subjects, suggesting that an overall decrease in quality of life was a significant factor.

Bipolar Disorder

There is no significant scientific evidence to prove if a gluten-free diet can relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports findings that show low red cell folate levels in both celiac disease and depression. However, significant folate deficiencies were not as evident in people with bipolar disorder. Yet, bipolar disorder can vary in frequency and intensity of its high and low periods to reflect depression. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, people with bipolar disorder experience more depressive, or low, episodes versus high manic states.

Gluten-Free Diet

A gluten-free diet involves abstaining from any foods and sources of gluten that could adversely affect your health. Although there is no hard evidence that eating gluten free will benefit people suffering from bipolar disorder, making healthy lifestyle changes could reduce negative symptoms to help stabilize mood. Adopting healthy eating habits by eating well-balanced meals centered around fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats can improve moods, decrease anxiety and alleviate stress levels by maximizing intake of essential nutrients. Processed foods high in refined sugars and fat, whether gluten-free or not, should be avoided as they cause energy levels to fluctuate and increased irritability due to hunger cravings.

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