Staying Healthy

Is gluten making you depressed?

Is there a link between mental health issues and nutrition?

DepressionIt seems that there is, at least in some cases, and links have been made between gluten – which is of course my main interest here – and:

  • ‘brain fog’
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • dementia
  • autism
  • and schizophrenia

Many people have reported ‘brain fog’ and anxiety as symptomatic of gluten poisoning, and depression is a classic symptom of coeliac disease. The Mayo Clinic believes that coeliacs are at increased risk of dementia, and Michael Gardner, Professor Emeritus at Bradford University is researching the theory that diet is involved with autism and schizophrenia.

Today, though, I want to look at depression, and will come back to schizophrenia and autism another time.

We know that depression is present in a higher percentage of people with coeliac disease than in the normal population, based on Italian studies in 2003 (and others).

You might ask: which came first? Are people depressed as a result of their diagnosis, or is the disease the cause of the depression?

The answer seems to be both.

Eating gluten can cause depression

Eating gluten if you are a coeliac (diagnosed or not) seems to have an impact not only on your physical health, but also on your mental health. There may be two reasons for this:

  • malabsorption

    coeliacs eating gluten fail to absorb tryptophan, which leads to a decrease in production of serotonin (the ‘feel-good’ brain chemical), and increasing the risk of mood disorder. Coeliacs eating gluten are also likely to be short on other vitamins as a result of their malnutrition, such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, folic acid and zinc, all of which are needed to help make serotonin from tryptophan.

  • the immune response

    cytokines are produced that may change the […]

Drinks you can and can't enjoy if you’re gluten free

Recently diagnosed, and wondering what you can or can’t drink?

You know you can’t eat gluten … but what is in your mug? There are many drinks that you can enjoy, whether hot, cold, alcoholic or not.

black coffee

  • water – whether tap, mineral or flavoured should be fine. There’s no gluten in pure water, and we should all be drinking more of this
  • pure fruit juice – no gluten in this – just flavour and vitamins (and, sadly, calories from the sugars). Be careful about smoothies – these are usually just fruit juice and yoghurt, but do sometimes have other ingredients, so just check
  • milk is gluten free. If you’re lactose intolerant, or avoiding dairy for other reasons, try soya milk or rice milk. You may be able to handle goat’s milk
  • probiotic drinks are a new trend. Check them, but they should be fine if you can handle dairy products
  • plain tea is gluten free, as should be any milk or sugar that you add, but be wary of drinks from vending machines, as there may be cross-contact (see Make Mine Gluten Free for a discussion of the difference between cross-contact and cross-contamination)
  • herbal or fruit teas and infusions should all be gluten free
  • plain coffee is gluten free (and so are milk and and sugar) but be careful of flavourings and other additions (e.g. some chocolate toppings to go on cappuccinos, lattes, etc). Again, be careful about using vending machines
  • coffee substitutes, such as chicory blends or decaffeinated drinks may contain gluten. I had an email from the SoyCoffee; people to promote their gluten free coffee substitute – but I haven’t tried it.
  • pure instant chicory is gluten […]

Don’t let celiac disease break your bones

Did you know that people with coeliac disease have an increased need for calcium even when they are on a gluten free diet?

Milk - lots of calciumI didn’t. I thought that simply cutting out the gluten and eating a generally healthy diet would be enough. But according to a dietician I met last week at the local Coeliac Society meeting, coeliacs (and people with dermatitis herpetiformis) have an increased risk of osteoporosis even if keeping strictly to a gluten free diet, and that they therefore need more calcium.

As the mother of a pre-teen coeliac daughter, this is a bit of a worry. Luckily I’ve always given the children lots of dairy products. But what if you’re not keen on dairy products, or are lactose intolerant?

Recommended daily dose of calcium

The standard recommended dose for adults here in the UK is 700mg per day (Food Standards Agency).

However, the UK Coeliac Society is recommending that coeliac adults should take 1500mg per day, and they provide a guide to daily calcium requirements. The guidelines are different in different countries, so you decide what is appropriate for you (ask a dietician if you are in any doubt – I am not qualified to make recommendations).

Age Daily amount
Daily amount
1-3 years 350 400-800
4-6 years 450 800
7-10 years 550 800
11-18 years 900 800-1200
Adults 700 800-1200
Adults with coeliac disease 1500
Pregnant women - 1200
Breastfeeding women 1250 1250
Post-menopausal women 1000 1500

I can’t find specifics for children with coeliac disease, but I imagine it is safe to assume that it is higher than the standard recommendation for children, but lower than the adult recommendation.

There are apparently some further, specific, recommendations in the US which […]

Don’t eat Spelt – whatever the Independent says

The Independent, my favourite newspaper, has – sadly – let me down today.

Every Saturday, it provides a 50 Best feature, which is always interesting – how many of the 50 Best Beaches have I visited? Would I wear any of the 50 Best Women’s Coats, and so on. This week it is 50 Best Food Luxuries, and at no.13, it recommends spelt flour, saying “It’s perfect for the gluten-intolerant”.

No! No!

I quote from the Coeliac UK site:

Spelt is an ancient strain of wheat and research indicates that it is toxic to people with coeliac disease. Spelt is not suitable for a gluten-free diet.

And here I thought you could believe everything you read in the newspaper … Do you think they’d be interested in 50 Best Ways to Live Gluten Free? I’d love to have a go at that!

Skin care for Rosacea

This is slightly off-topic, but I’d like to recommend the Sher System for facial skin care if you suffer from rosacea or acne (middle-aged or the usual!). I’ve been using it for a few years now, and I really do think it helps.

The first few days are tricky, and your skin may feel very dry and tight as it gets used to the new regime, but after that it is great. The system is basically a two stage cleanse, a facial oil (multi-action serum) and then a moisturiser. They have a wonderful concealer/healer cream which hides the blemishes while healing them, and they also offer makeup and suncream as well as a few other products. I like the fact that the system is based on water, and I love the facial oil.

It is expensive, I think, but is well worth it, and the bottles do seem to last a long time.

Bizarrely, the short video link on their site seems to be about the ACCA accounting courses, rather than about the skincare product, and the explanatory video I was sent when I started using the skincare system was of poor quality – but don’t be put off. I expect they have a brand new explanatory video/dvd now, and the instructions are straightforward.

Stick with it past the first few days, and you should see an improvement. I know I did …