The Effects of Gluten On The Brain: A Celiac’s Guide

Celiac disease is a condition that affects many people across the globe. It has been estimated that approximately 2 million people have celiac disease in the United States alone. Meanwhile, in the UK it is believed to impact 1 in 100 people.

The Effects of Gluten On The Brain A Celiac's Guide

Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding surrounding the condition and how it affects people. This guide aims to change that! We cover everything you need to know about how gluten can affect the brain.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a condition whereby the immune system targets its tissues whenever gluten has been consumed. This can result in sufferers experiencing several unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

People who have celiac disease try to avoid gluten so that they do not have these problems. Gluten is found in a broad range of foods, which makes it quite problematic to avoid. 

Among the foods that contain gluten are bread, pasta, cereal, pastries, and wheat products. Since these can be quite important parts of a person’s diet, it can be difficult to cut gluten out of one’s lifestyle.

Thankfully, as awareness of the disease is becoming more widespread, a variety of gluten-free alternatives have emerged on shop shelves.

If you believe that you might have celiac disease, it is worth getting it checked out by a doctor.

How Does Gluten Affect the Brain?

As well as some of the aforementioned symptoms, many celiac disease sufferers report neurological symptoms. These are symptoms that affect the brain. Namely, many people with this disease reportedly have headaches.

Here are some of the neurological symptoms that you may experience from gluten consumption:

Headaches

Headaches and head pain are common symptoms among those with celiac disease. If you manage to purge gluten from your diet, you will likely notice a significant drop in the number of headaches you have. 

Research has found that ¾ of celiac disease sufferers do not experience headaches anymore once they have given up eating gluten.

There are also ways of managing this symptom. You should try to drink plenty of fluids, namely water. Moreover, you should get plenty of sleep and try to relax when you have a headache.

If you are experiencing a headache caused by gluten consumption, you can also use over-the-counter medicines to relieve your pain.

Depression

Studies have shown that people with celiac disease tend to have much higher rates of depression. Frustratingly, the reason for this is unknown. Hopefully, more research will be done to find out why celiac disease sufferers have depression.

One theory is that this depression is caused by nutritional damage, resulting in people feeling depressed. Another theory claims that gluten has a direct impact on the brain. 

Yet, neither of these theories has been proven, so they should not be treated as anything other than speculation. In truth, it is not known why people with gluten intolerance have higher chances of developing depression.

If you continue to have depression after you have removed gluten from your diet, you must consult with your doctor. They can provide treatment options based on the severity of your depression.

For instance, if you have mild depression, it might be recommended that you increase your levels of exercise. Meanwhile, if you suffer from severe depression, you will likely be given antidepressants and therapy.

Anxiety

Anxiety is an intense feeling of worry. Like depression, it is unknown why celiac disease triggers the brain to become anxious. If you experience anxiety after you have eaten gluten, you should seriously try to remove this structural protein from your diet.

As with depression, there are various treatments that you should pursue if this continues after abandoning gluten.

Vertigo

Many people mistakenly believe that vertigo is the fear of heights. Instead, it is a feeling of dizziness. Usually, this is caused by inner ear issues, resulting in sufferers having a sensation of dizziness.

People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease may experience vertigo. In fact, it is a fairly common side effect.

Migraines

Migraines are a type of headache in which a person feels a throbbing sensation on the side of their head. If you have gluten intolerance or sensitivity, you will likely have a migraine from time to time.

This is because roughly a third of celiac disease sufferers experience migraines.

ADHD

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a condition whereby people seem overly active. Consequently, they may struggle to relax.

Many people experience a serious reduction in their levels of ADHD once they have altered their diet. 

If you believe that you or your child has ADHD, it is worth visiting a doctor to get a diagnosis. This is because the ADHD could be caused by this gluten intolerance or it might be coming from something else.

A doctor might be able to hypothesize what is causing this condition.

Brain Fog

Brain fog is an informal term for a sense of mental confusion. If you suffer from brain fog, you will experience forgetfulness and confusion. In addition, you might find it tough to focus or concentrate. 

If a celiac sufferer eats something containing gluten, they will have brain fog. To avoid this symptom, you should not eat any gluten after being diagnosed with celiac disease.

Not much research has been done on this symptom. Yet, a surprisingly large number of people suffer from it.

Epilepsy

Lastly, epilepsy is a result of unusual brain activity. As a result, you can end up having seizures.

While the connection between epilepsy and celiac disease has not been overly documented, it is nonetheless an impact that it can have on the brain. This is because celiac disease patients have a noticeably higher chance of developing epilepsy.

Some people have theorized that this gluten intolerance might be causing seizures in epilepsy sufferers. Yet, this has not been proven.

The Effects of Gluten On The Brain A Celiac's Guide (2)

How Does Gluten Affect the Body?

Now that you know how gluten intolerance can affect the brain, you should also be aware of how your body can be impacted.

You should bear in mind that everyone experiences different symptoms when it comes to celiac disease. This is because all bodies are different. Therefore, while some people might have stomach pain, others will not.

Gluten affects the body of people with celiac disease by attacking their tissues. This is because the immune response mistakes the gluten, causing the T-cells to launch an attack. The lining of the small intestine will become damaged during this response.

This can cause a plethora of reactions, like rashes, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Can Celiac Disease Be Treated?

Yes, this condition can be treated!

The most common method of treating this condition is to refrain from eating foods that contain gluten. While this can be strenuous due to the large number of foods that contain gluten, it is becoming more and more achievable to have a gluten-free diet.

It should take a week or so for you to experience any health changes after you have stopped eating gluten. Unfortunately, it can take much longer for this for your digestive system to entirely recover.

If you are feeling uneasy about beginning a gluten-free diet, you should consult with your doctor. They will be able to recommend ways of avoiding foods that feature gluten.

Tips for a Gluten-Free Diet

More supermarkets are selling gluten-free alternatives. There are also lots of online retailers that stock gluten-free foods.

While some of these products might not taste exactly like the real deal, they taste similar enough that you can still have a pleasant eating experience.

Plus, there are lots of foods that don’t contain gluten. You can use these as substitutes for foods that feature gluten. For instance, if you plan on serving pasta alongside your chicken, you can swap the pasta for some rice.

While it can be stressful to avoid gluten, it is worth making these lifestyle changes if it means that you don’t have to endure the aforementioned neurological and physical symptoms. 

You can even make small changes if you don’t immediately want to commit to an entirely gluten-free diet. However, if you want your symptoms to abate, you should make this dietary commitment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need Gluten?

No, the body does not require gluten. This is because it doesn’t contribute any nutrients that will benefit the body. Consequently, it is possible to live without it.

How is Gluten Intolerance Diagnosed?

One way of testing yourself for gluten intolerance is to use an at-home testing kit. These kits are not always accurate, so they cannot always diagnose food allergies.

The best way of getting a diagnosis is to get your doctor to conduct a blood test.

Final Thoughts

Celiac is a serious condition that can be unpleasant. You might have not only symptoms that impact your body but also some that affect your brain. 

Though it has been unrecognized for years, celiac disease is becoming more of a well-known condition. This awareness means that people with gluten intolerance can access gluten-free alternatives.

Joshua Damie

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