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Gluten Tied to Schizophrenia 04/29/2009 - A team of researchers based at UK's prospective University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) have found a link between gluten and schizophrenia. According to their latest findings, proteins found in the gluten of wheat, rye and barley might play a role in triggering schizophrenia in people with a genetic risk for the condition, or in worsening symptoms in people who have the disease.

The research team has been looking into the role played by gluten in schizophrenia and diabetes, as well as hunting for connections between the two disorders. Their research showed that the bodies of certain schizophrenia sufferers could not properly processes gluten, which led to tissue damage.

As a result of these and other findings, researchers now consider genetic risk factors, together with environmental triggers, to be central to development of both schizophrenia and diabetes. Gluten is one such example.

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According to senior researcher and reader in genetics, Dr. Jun Wei, more than one-third of all people with schizophrenia show "high levels of antibodies against wheat gluten," and may experience some improvement in symptoms with a gluten-free diet.

Though the studies are still in their early stages, the hypothesis is encouraging, because, as noted by head of UHI department of diabetes and cardiovascular science, Prof Ian Megson, if it is correct, "a simple change in diet might prevent these some individuals."

The research is part of two comprehensive studies at UHI into the connections between schizophrenia and diabetes, and the role played by gluten, and is supported by a £300,000 grant from the Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain (SAGB).

It would be interesting to see more research done on the connection between celiac disease and schizophrenia, as other studies have indicated that there is a link.

Source: BBC News welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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9 Responses:

Carol Lynde
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said this on
02 May 2009 7:13:02 AM PDT
I have believed this all along. I have seen what gluten does to a very dear relative of mine.

Terrie Martin
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said this on
02 May 2009 4:53:48 PM PDT
I found an article years ago, with information on vitamin therapy and schizophrenia, it was fantastic, this should be looked at as a real cure, or a type care management. The medical community is so very slow to get the necessary resources out. What a shame for the people with this terrible problem.

Jack Frost
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said this on
03 May 2009 10:40:20 AM PDT
My Mother had schizophrenia and never recovered.

Rebecca Paul
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said this on
03 May 2009 3:01:17 PM PDT
I was amazed to read this article! My mother and two of her sisters are celiacs and have schizophrenia. I am also a celiac and fortunately have had no symptoms of schizophrenia, but suffer from depression and anxiety, another possible connection to celiac disease. I hope the doctors are paying attention to this issue.

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said this on
03 May 2009 4:35:49 PM PDT
Interesting concept. I have type 1 diabetes (32 yrs.) and 2 yrs. ago was diagnosed with celiac disease however, not schizophrenia, thankfully. I suppose when hypoglycemia occurs, it may appear that way until the sugars are up! There is a link between diabetes and celiac disease due to the gastro track/digestive common areas however, I never heard of the schizophrenia link. I work in a field of mental health and autism (biochemical disorders) where step one to our patients is removing gluten and, often times, casein, the protein in milk products. I'll be very interested to follow this story when the ongoing research described is completed.

Mark Carlson
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said this on
03 May 2009 5:28:57 PM PDT
Wouldn't it be nice if our health care system was actually 'health driven' rather than 'profit driven'? Scientific research has already shown that nutrition and mental illness often go hand in hand. For instance, the little known illness called Pyroluria, which is a simple nutritional deficiency, contributes to mental illness (and may be related to celiac disease). Just think - if we could just adjust a few nutritional deficiencies, many of these people could be cured or at least helped.

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said this on
04 Aug 2011 11:06:17 AM PDT
Two days without gluten or milk and I've stopped hallucinating and I actually feel like being nice to people. If you try to tell a doctor that you don't want their Risperdal and that their pills can't fix the problem they automatically say your psychotic for disagree with someone who has a MD. Anyone with schizophrenia who is tired of living in hell should try this, a 1/3 success rate is better than most meds. Why did science discover a hundred different anti-psychotics before this?

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said this on
25 Jun 2012 6:48:33 PM PDT
I have celiac and dermatitis herpetiformis and was able to convince my niece to be tested. Her test came back positive, however no one else in my family is interested in getting tested. My dad has terrible mood swings, alcoholism (there is a link to that as well), trouble relating to people and lactose intolerance. My sister has rhuematoid arthritis, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. and had a doctor tell her that she was crazy and needed to check herself into a mental hospital. Another sister has eczema and short stature, another sister has psoriasis, my younger brother has ADD and my older brother has schizophrenia and alcoholism and has been living homeless for years. He is now incarcerated. My life has changed dramatically since going gluten-free 2.5 years ago. I am convinced that this disease is running rampant through my family as well as many other families, and it is ruining lives. Just in the last 7 months I found my older brother, I hadn't seen him in 18 years, he just disappeared. His life is a mess and I can't help but believe that gluten is just eating his body and his mind. This is a sad epidemic. Having just found my brother I just found out about his schizophrenia. Something needs to be done, I am going to do everything I can to see that changes are made. I'm at the beginning of my journey but I am determined!

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said this on
03 Mar 2013 1:42:51 PM PDT

My son (22) is diagnosed with schizoaffective psychotic disorder. I am very curious about getting him allergy tested and talking him into trying gluten-free. He is in denial, yet he knows he's unhappy. I am wondering how far you have gotten with your research. My older brother and dad showed signs as well when I was growing up. Today, my older brother is mega-obese and hyper when we talk on the phone. I have dealt with depression especially bad as a child. I seem to have a grip on it now. B-12 Methylcobalimin 2000-5000 mcg. a day.

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All Activity Celiac Disease & Gluten-Free Diet Forum - All Activity

The reason they set the limit at 20ppms is that through scientific study, they have proven that the vast majority of people with Celiac Disease do not have an autoimmune reaction to amounts below is a safe limit for most. Also, just because that limit is set at 20ppms, does not mean that gluten-free products contain that amount of gluten. Testing for lower levels becomes more expensive with each increment down closer to 0-5ppms, which translates into higher priced products. Unless you eat a lot of processed gluten-free food, which can have a cumulative affect for some, most people do well with the 20ppm limit.

I'm in the Houston area so I'm assuming there are plenty of specialists around, though finding one that accepts my insurance might be hard. This might sound dumb, but do I search for a celiac specialist?? I'm so new to this and want to feel confident in what is/isn't wrong with my daughter. I'm with you on trusting the specialist to know the current research.

Hi VB Thats sounds like a good plan. Would it help to know that a frustrating experience in seeking diagnosis isn't unusual With your IGG result I'm sure a part of you is still wondering if they are right to exclude celiac. I know just how you feel as I too had a negative biopsy, but by then a gluten challenge had already established how severely it affected me. So I was convinced I would be found to be celiac and in a funny way disappointed not to get the 'official' stamp of approval. Testing isnt perfect, you've already learned of the incomplete celiac tests offered by some organisations and the biopsy itself can only see so much. If you react positively to the gluten free diet it may mean you're celiac but not yet showing damage in a place they've checked, or it may be that you're non celiac gluten sensitive, which is a label that for a different but perhaps related condition which has only recently been recognised and for which research is still very much underway. We may not be able to say which but the good news is all of your symptoms: were also mine and they all resolved with the gluten free diet. So don't despair, you may still have found your answer, it just may be a bit wordier than celiac! Keep a journal when you're on the diet, it may help you track down your own answers. Best of luck!

Run to the nearest celiac disease specialty center if you can. Especially with conflicting doc opinions. Where do you live? Honestly, I test positive to only the DGP and the newest research on its specificity is a mixed bag. My recent scope did not show "active" celiac disease but only a slight increase in IELs. I am waiting for my post biopsy appointment with the Celiac specialist next month. But I've been through a couple of GI'S locally and honestly I feel it was definitely worth going to a specialist. Especially when you have some positive blood work but a normal biopsy the doctors really go back and Forth on diagnosis and never really know for certain. Unfortunately given the above I just said I probably still do not know for certain. Sigh. But I trust the specialist to be at the top of his game on the research and at least I can feel confident and comfortable in what his opinion may be next month.

That's a great list with such great info! Do you eat at Shucks?