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  • Dr. Vikki Petersen D.C, C.C.N

    Is Depression Really a Chemical Imbalance?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Spring 2009 Issue. NOTE: This article is from a back issue of our popular subscription-only paper newsletter. Some content may be outdated.

    Is Depression Really a Chemical Imbalance? - Depression can be triggered by gluten. Image: CC PDM 1.0--maheen49
    Caption: Depression can be triggered by gluten. Image: CC PDM 1.0--maheen49

    Celiac.com 06/06/2020 - Patients with depression are told they have a chemical imbalance.  If someone else in their family is also depressed, the “gene card” is played.  “Your depression is genetic”, they are told.

    I have been in practice for over 20 years and I find the above data to be false.  Consistently we find patients who are suffering from depression and anxiety to be gluten sensitive.



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    How could a food cause depression?  Let’s take a look:

    After the digestive tract, the system most commonly affected by gluten is the nervous system.  It is thought that depression can be caused by gluten in one of two ways, inflammation and protein absorption.   

    The first is through the inflammatory changes caused by gluten.  A gluten sensitive individual’s immune system responds to the protein gliadin.  Unfortunately, that protein is structurally similar to body proteins, including those of the brain and nerve cells.  A cross reaction can occur when the immune system “confuses” body proteins with gliadin proteins.  This is called cellular mimicry and the result is inflammation where the body is attacking its own tissues.  When inflammation happens in the brain and nervous system, a variety of symptoms can occur, including depression.  Research shows that patients with symptoms involving the nervous system suffer from digestive problems only 13% of the time.  This is significant because mainstream medicine equates gluten sensitivity almost exclusively with digestive complaints.

    In a study examining blood flow in the brain, 15 patients with untreated celiac disease were compared to 15 patients treated with a gluten-free diet for one year.  The findings were amazing.  In the untreated group, 73% had abnormalities in brain circulation by testing while only 7% in the treated group showed any abnormalities.  The patients with the brain circulation problems were frequently suffering from anxiety and depression as well.

    In addition to circulation problems, other research looks at the association between gluten sensitivity and its interference with protein absorption.  Specifically the amino acid tryptophan can be deficient.  Tryptophan is a protein in the brain responsible for a feeling of well-being and relaxation.  A deficiency can be correlated to feelings of depression and anxiety.

    Our society is too willing to accept “chemical imbalance” as an explanation for their symptoms.  Instead of getting to the root cause of the condition, we simply swallow a pill—a pill that in the case of anti-depressants has very dangerous and sometimes lethal side effects.

    The frequency with which we are able to successfully taper patients off their anti-depressants is considered “unbelievable” by many mainstream doctors, yet we do it regularly.  How is that possible?  We actually diagnose the root cause of the depression.  Frequently the culprit is gluten.



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  • About Me

    Dr. Vikki Petersen D.C, C.C.N

    Dr. Vikki Petersen, a Chiropractor and Certified Clinical Nutritionist is co-founder and co-director, of the renowned HealthNow Medical Center in Sunnyvale, California. Acclaimed author of a new book, "The Gluten Effect" - celebrated by leading experts as an epic leap forward in gluten sensitivity diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Vikki is acknowledged as a pioneer in advances to identify and treat gluten sensitivity. The HealthNOW Medical Center uses a multi-disciplined approach to addressing complex health problems. It combines the best of internal medicine, clinical nutrition, chiropractic and physical therapy to identify the root cause of a patient's health condition and provide patient-specific wellness solutions. Her Web site is:
    www.healthnowmedical.com


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  • Related Articles

    Jefferson Adams
    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.
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    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.
    Source:

    World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jun 14;16(22):2780-7. PMID 20533598


    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 01/09/2012 - Women with celiac disease face a higher risk for depression than the general population, even once they have adopted a gluten-free diet, according to U.S. researchers.
    A team of researchers recently used a Web-mediated survey to assess a range of physical, behavioral and emotional experiences in 177 U.S. adult women, who reported a physician-provided diagnosis of celiac disease.
    The team was led by Josh Smyth, professor of biobehavioral health and medicine at Pennsylvania State University, and included members from  Syracuse University and Drexel University.
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    Perhaps unsurprisingly, many women with celiac disease suffer from disordered eating, given that the management of celiac disease requires careful attention to diet and food, Smyth said.
    "What we don't know is what leads to what and under what circumstances," Smyth said. "It's likely that the disease, stress, weight, shape and eating issues, and depression are interconnected."
    The findings are forthcoming in the journal of Chronic Illness.
    Source:
    http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2011/12/28/Celiac-ups-depression-risk-for-women/UPI-75401325131984/#ixzz1iQynze9k.


    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 05/29/2014 - Many people with celiac disease report symptoms of depression, which usually subside upon treatment with a gluten-free diet. But a new study out of Australia suggests that gluten can cause depression in people with non-celiac gluten-sensitivity.
    Current evidence shows that many patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) continue to have gastrointestinal symptoms on a gluten-free diet, but say that avoiding gluten makes them feel ‘better'. So, why do people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity seem to feel better on a gluten-free diet, even if they still have gastrointestinal symptoms? A team of researchers wanted to know if this might be due to gluten’s effects on the mental state of those with NCGS, and not necessarily because of gastrointestinal symptoms.
    The research team included S. L. Peters, J. R. Biesiekierski, G. W. Yelland, J. G. Muir, and P. R. Gibson. They are affiliated with the Department of Gastroenterology, Central Clinical School of Monash University at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, the Department of Gastroenterology at the Eastern Health Clinical School of Monash University in Box Hill, and the School of Health Sciences at RMIT University in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
    For their double-blind cross-over study, they looked at 17 women and five men, aged 24–62 years. All participants suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, but not from celiac disease, and their symptoms were controlled on a gluten-free diet. The team gave the participants one of three random dietary challenges over 3 days, followed by a minimum 3-day washout before moving to the next diet. All participants got all three diets over the course of the study.
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    They found that gluten ingestion was associated with higher overall STPI state depression scores compared to placebo [M = 2.03, 95% CI (0.55–3.51), P = 0.010], but not whey [M = 1.48, 95% CI (−0.14 to 3.10), P = 0.07]. They found no differences for other STPI state indices or for any STPI trait measures, and they saw no difference in cortisol secretion between challenges. Gastrointestinal symptoms were similar for each dietary challenge.
    Short-term exposure to gluten specifically induced current feelings of depression with no effect on other indices or on emotional disposition. Moreover, the team saw no gluten-specific trigger of gastrointestinal symptoms. Such findings might explain why patients with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity feel better on a gluten-free diet despite the continuation of gastrointestinal symptoms.
    Source:
    Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014;39(10):1104-1112.


    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 03/18/2020 - Researchers are still debating the extent to which celiac disease might cause brain damage. Some research has indicated that celiac disease can trigger changes to brain white matter, among other potential issues.
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