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cdog7

Gluten And Religious Impulse

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Ok, I don't want to be controversial here, and I'm not trying to make any general statements about religion. But I used to be a very religious, spiritual person before all my celiac symptoms really caught up with me. All those severe health problems hit me right as I was going through a divorce too, which I'm sure affected my outlook. But still, sometimes I'm just astonished by how different I am personality-wise since going gluten-free. As in, I just don't make the connections I used to make, mentally, and I don't believe in any higher power of any kind - and I don't know if I'd ever be able to believe again.

It's actually a bit sad sometimes, because I had some really beautiful personal moments in spiritual contemplation. And now I wonder if I was just tripping on gluten! My spirituality was very much based on my personal experiences, what I felt and envisioned, and the connections I drew between everyday events around me and something larger going on. Now, I just can't buy that, and I don't experience these things anymore. I feel like psychology, imagination, denial and escapism explain everything I felt - and maybe also the connection between celiac and schizophrenia I've read about. I mean, religion was very much a mystical pursuit for me, almost hallucinogenic (if not actually at times), and I have schizophrenia in my family. I've even worried that I was borderline schizophrenic at times because of my spirituality, just knowing how it would sound to someone else.

Again, I hope this doesn't offend anyone. I guess I'm just wondering if this sort of thing has happened to anyone else

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Hey cdog,

The short answer to your question is yes. I've been there, and am sort of there still in regards to my spirituality. I think my experience may have been slightly different than yours in that while I was sick from gluten, I actually had many doubts in my faith, and didn't really want anything to do with it. A lot of it was probably from being in a bad mood and angry all the time - angry that I didn't feel well, angry that God didn't answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to. Once I went gluten free, the anger subsided a lot, and I've been able to think much more clearly. Granted, it's only been about two months, but the difference is so night and day, it's hard to believe. It's only been since then that I've been able to seriously think about what I believe again. And I think that's the important part, is that now that I can think clearly, I can now really consider what I think and believe.

In regards to my faith, I have been trying to do things to get it back. It absolutely feels different now, I won't lie. But it's still there, however small it feels right now. I do have a number of friends who are of the same faith as I am, and I think that has helped, too. I think private spirituality is a bit of a myth, and that any kind of spirituality needs a community of people with the same beliefs. So I would encourage you to think about seeking out some kind of faith/spiritual community if that's what you are seeking. And don't be afraid to ask questions. I think it's good that you're examining the mystical portions of your experience, and trying to determine what you think and believe about that. (My faith is not highly mystical, so I can't really speak to that too much.) Just because you question it does not mean you will ultimately change your position. I know that when I have asked questions in the past, I actually became stronger in my faith than when I started.

I hope this helps!

And don't be discouraged that you're in a different place than you were previously. It may be a sign of growth and maturing, which would be a good thing!

My PM inbox is always open!

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Hi cdog:

I'm very interested in celiac as a possible cause of sz. My son is dx'd with sz, and we're trying a gluten-free diet to see if it helps his symptoms. How long after you went gluten-free was it that you felt this change in your personality and spirituality?

I'm sorry to hear that you feel like you've lost something important to you. I do believe that our receptivity to religious experience depends on our brain chemistry. I remember hearing of a man with epilepsy who had intense mystical experiences. He refused treatment for the epilepsy because it interfered with these religious experiences.

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Thanks all for the replies. It's really interesting to me, and it makes a lot of sense really, that if gluten has neurological effects on us, removing it from our diets can basically change the way we think. That seems to be what happened with me. While I was sickest, searching for a diagnosis, I was pretty depressed too, and lost a lot of my enthusiasm for religion/spirituality, though I still made some efforts. I was just so fatigued and ill there was not as much I could put into anything. I was also suffering brain fog. I had many physical symptoms, including the classic ones, as well.

Going gluten-free began to correct these within a couple weeks. I started to feel better in days, but within a month I was losing weight (lots of bloat), energetic, thinking clearly, normal bathroom trips, no more constant pain, even the dark circles under my eyes were gone. And I think it was the thinking more clearly that coincided with this change. But I think it just took me longer to fully realize how my thinking had changed, beyond just feeling less 'foggy'. I had to actually interact with that subject before I could understand what had changed. At first I thought I was just getting cynical, because of what I had been through. And I still don't know how much my other life events changed me versus the celiac changes.

But weeks after my dx I tried going to some services with my mother. It felt strange, and I had a hard time putting my finger on why. I felt like I was just going through the motions. I tried to get back into it, but it felt empty and weird even to pray. It took some time to investigate my feelings and thoughts, and to come to terms with such a dramatic change. Something I had previously always 'felt' and a state of mind I could previously just conjure up at will were now absent. Honestly it was a lot like finding out that someone you've known for years is a hallucination - but no one really tells you, you just suspect it, and then you see it. So I think if I get back into any religion again it will have to be from a different point of view, and a different approach. But yeah, it was disturbing in a way to get to a place where these visions were no longer self-evidently real to me - it was something that took some work to get used to. I can imagine that anyone trying to recover from schizophrenia would need even more time to adjust - the basic cognitive changes can begin soon, but the full recovery has to include a sort of reintegration into life.

I don't mean to sound like it's been all bad, losing my religion - actually in some ways it's been a relief. There's a lot less for me to take personally! And I still have strong ethical beliefs and a strong empathy for others - if not more. I just don't engage in the kind of magical thinking I used to. Sometimes I even have moments where I think, 'hey, I totally would have thought this was some Sign, something of deep significance and meaning for me personally before,' - some coincidence or connection I notice, but now I just see it as chance. I hope this helps others who are going through something similar.

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This is really interesting to me. At the peak of gluten catching up to me, I was beginning to experience some psychological symptoms, brain fog, anxiety, depression-- and part of that was some bad juju mystical thinking.

All of it completely went away off gluten. Looking back on it, it seems like a bad dream.

I do feel a decrease in that specific kind of thinking, but for me, it's such a relief. Now my spirituality is much more clear-headed, meditation based, and... simple in a joyful way. I knew, during the hardest times, that something was very wrong, and I didn't know what, and I called out for help. And I do still credit the serendipitous way I found my amazing doctor to some force moved by love.

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This is really fascinating. I notice big personality changes in my daughter when she's been glutened - sometimes that's the first warning sign I get that something is wrong.

I think our spirituality must be influenced by so many factors - personality, family, community, state of health, that inevitably major changes to any of these will change our outlook, and that's probably healthy. We need to be able to adapt to changing situations in life.

Shamans and mystics across many traditions have traditionally induced mystical experiences by fasting, isolation, sleep deprivation and mind altering chemicals, so perhaps we shouldn't be too shocked if gluten intolerance messes with our psyche.

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I have never been a religous person even though I was raised as a Methodist. My parents were the type who went to church every Sunday and participated in pretty much all the church had to offer. They were really into it! They insisted that my brother and I be confirmed. We both protested against it but my parents can be very controlling so we just put up and shut up. After my brother was confirmed we all quit going to church. That was kind of weird.

Now my parents usually don't go to church. Once in a while they will, but not necessarily that same church. They did take my nephew when he asked to go. They went for a few weeks, I think.

My brother turned out to be a very staunch Athiest to the point where he has a Darwin symbol on the back of his car. It wasn't the right color to match the car's trim so he even paints it to match.

Me? I guess I just don't care one way or the other. I don't know that there is a higher power. I don't know that their isn't. I haven't seen any evidence one way or the other to sway me. My big beef with religion is some of the things various churches do that I do not think is right. I don't really want to give too many examples of it but one would be... Forbidding the use of alcohol to the extent of using grape juice for communion. Then to find out that some of the ministers of this church do in fact drink alcohol in their free time. And also tried to give alcohol to minors. I don't really think of myself as a stick in the mud type person but with me, what you see is what you get. If I say I don't do something, then I don't do it. Not here, not there, not anywhere.

My MIL was a very devout Catholic. When I was visiting, I would go to the church with her. She went every day. Even though I can not say I do or don't believe, she felt this was important and I just went along with her.

Then she became very ill. Long story that I won't get into. I am not sure that they ever did come up with what all is really wrong with her. But they did find cancer, some strokes, and a form of Parkinson. She did not get good medical care, IMO. Anyway...

At one point she turned away from religion. She figured if there were really a God he wouldn't let her suffer like she did. This opinion deepened when my FIL died quite rapidly after being diagnosed with cancer. Again, bad medical treatment, IMO. We had been staying there and knew he was ill. He complained of back pains and couldn't keep any food down but was sent to a chiropractor. Anyway...

MIL wanted nothing at all to do with religion for a very long time. It was a very sore subject with her. Nuns would visit weekly and although she was polite to them while they were there, she would get very upset after they left.

Eventually she was put in a nursing home where they hold weekly church services. She would not go at first, but now she does. We don't really talk about religion much. Used to be a subject that she would bring up at least hourly. Now she rarely brings it up.

So I do believe our life's circumstances can affect our beliefs. I also believe everything happens for a reason, although that reason may not be clear to us at first or even in our lifetime. I also believe that nobody is perfect, even though some people appear to be. We all have problems that we have to deal with. It's just that some of us have more obvious problems than others.

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Interesting. I have become stronger in my faith. I am a Christian born and raised in the Christian Reformed church. I think that I have become stronger in my faith because I am not so tired and in pain. I can devote more time into devotions and prayer. I also am able to do these things with more clarity and focus because I am not distracted by all my physical pain.

We all handle life changes differently...if we all reacted the same then this world would be perfect and I think we can all agree this world is not perfect! I hope I do not offend you in return, but I will be praying for you in a renewed faith.

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I, too, am a Christian and being in constant pain (fibromyalgia, herniated discs, etc.) for the past few years has made me rely on myself less and on God for everything. I have grown stronger spiritually and have learned so much about myself and God's character which can happen when you go through difficulties. This pain truly has caused me to persevere and be reflective, building my character. It has also given me different interests I did not have before. It has forced me to slow down and take stock of what really is important. So, in spite of all this maddening pain, it has been worth it to me. I still would not switch my life with another person. :D

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I'm not coeliac but have been gluten free with my daughter for about 6 months or so now. We are both religious and spiritual people. I don't want to say anything controversial either so won't expand on that but in my darkest hours I know I'm not alone :)

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