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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Anxiety and Depression in Adults with Celiac Disease on a Gluten-free Diet

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Anxiety and Depression in Adults with Celiac Disease on a Gluten-free Diet

    Celiac.com 07/13/2010 - More and more, researchers are showing connections between inflammatory diseases, like celiac disease, and complex disorders, such as anxiety and depression. There's also a good amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that people with celiac disease have higher rates of anxiety and depression than the general population.

    A study of the German population is the first to show that female adults following a gluten-free diet for celiac disease show higher levels of anxiety than do members of the general population.

    The researchers are recommending that female celiacs on a gluten-free diet be screened for anxiety. The researchers included W. Häuser, K. H. Janke, B. Klump, M. Gregor, and A. Hinz of the Department of Internal Medicine I of the Klinikum Saarbrücken, Winterberg in Saarbrücken, Germany.

    The team set out to examine levels of depression and anxiety between adults with celiac disease following a gluten-free diet (GFD), and in control subjects drawn from the general population.

    For their study, the team used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale to measure levels of anxiety, depression, and likely anxiety or depressive disorder, in 441 adult patients with celiac disease recruited by the German Celiac Society. They then conducted the same assessments on 235 comparable patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), either in remission or with slight disease activity. They did the same for the cross-sample control group of 441 adults from the general population.

    The team used regression analysis to test possible demographic and disease-related predictors of anxiety and depression in celiac disease. Demographic predictors included age, sex, social class, and family status. Disease-related predictors included latency to diagnosis, duration of GFD, compliance with GFD, thyroid disease.

    The team found that female gender (P = 0.01) was the main predictor (R(2) = 0.07) of anxiety levels in patients with celiac disease. Female patients had a higher risk for a probable anxiety disorder (OR = 3.6, 95% CI: 1.3-9.4, P = 0.01)  Patients who lived alone (OR = 0.5, 95% CI: 0.2-0.9, P = 0.05) enjoyed a lower risk of anxiety disorder. None of the demographic and medical variables for which the team screened predicted either depression levels or risk for a probable depressive disorders.

    Patients with celiac disease showed anxiety levels of 6.6 +/- 3.4, and those with IBD, anxiety levels of 6.9 +/- 3.7, both higher than the general population's level of 4.6 +/- 3.3 - (both P < 0.001). Depression levels were similar for people with celiac disease (4.2 +/- 3.4), IBD (4.6 +/- 3.4) and the general population (4.2 +/- 3.8) (P = 0.3). Rates of likely anxiety disorders in people with celiac disease were 16.8%, and 14.0% for IBD, both higher than the rates of 5.7% in the general population (P < 0.001). All three groups showed similar rates of probable depressive disorder (P = 0.1).

    Their results provide strong indications that adult women with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet suffer higher rates of anxiety than persons of the general population. They encourage clinicians to provide anxiety screens for adult women with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet.


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    Guest kirstenandkevin@gmail.com


    I know I am feeling Blue in regards to my celiac. My family eats normal and we have active social lives but I feel like just not eating at all because the only things I can eat seem to be either gross, or too expensive to buy, or the same boring thing I eat day after day. So I feel like just starving myself or giving up. I hate the feeling! I don't have or know celiac friends so I am struggling through this alone and its not fun. I have a dinner to attend today, and tomorrow and I will have to bring all my own food and I don't want to eat... I don't feel like eating at all.

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    I am just starting a gluten free diet to see if it will help before I do all the expensive testing. So far I am seeing amazing results. I have incredibly high anxiety levels and they have subsided dramatically. Also my gastrointestinal problems are going away in a hurry. This may be the best thing I ever do for myself.

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    Anxiety attacks can happen to anyone. Exercise is one other thing that you can do to improve your mental state. Exercise helps to increase the serotonin levels in your brain's chemistry. These serotonin levels enhance a sense of well-being. Finding an exercise routine and sticking to it will enable you to better your day-to-day anxiety levels. It will also help you to feel better about yourself and your body in general.

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    I'm a male diagnosed with social anxiety disorder after I quit school because of it, I've also suffered with depression for most of my life. I recently discovered I have celiac too.

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    Due to malabsorption in the gut, and diagnosed with celiac after years of anxiety and depression (GAD), I recently came across articles related to 5-MTHFR Deficiency. Folic acid as we all know it, is not metabolised properly by some individuals. Latest research is showing that we need the more active form folic acid - and bio-identical form of folinic acid. Unfortunately, the high dose form of this folate is only available in certain countries in high doses - the product is called Deplin. Battling with anxiety and depression and celiac including borderline iron deficiency all relates back to inefficient absorption. It's not easy exercising when your high homocysteine levels cause chronic fatigue and very low energy which makes you more susceptible to inflammation.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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