The Psychological Impact of Having Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that you can find out more about here. It can affect psychological functioning in many ways, both before and after diagnosis. Anxiety, depression and fatigue are commonly reported prior to diagnosis for many reasons including:

Malnutrition and vitamin deficiency

Damaged gut villi cannot properly process and assimilate a number of nutrients, particularly: Vitamin B, such as B6, B12, & Folate, Iron, Vitamin D, K, and Calcium, causing the body unable to produce monoamine precursors to key neurotransmitters, like serotonin thus affecting mood.

Toxins

The liver may become overworked at expelling toxins which can affect brain opioid receptors.

Immune response

Leads to production of antibodies against own tissue which can cause swelling, or affect joints. Increases stress hormone production.

Secondary condition

Comorbidity of other conditions is more likely when you have celiac disease.

Research also shows celiac can psychologically manifest in the following ways:

Cognitions

You may have brain fog, memory lapses, headaches or attention difficulties.

Affect

You may develop depression, anxiety or irritability and feel low in mood.

Behaviour

Celiac disease can sometimes overlap with hyperactivity, hypoactivity, ataxia or eating issues.

Social interactions

You may avoid social situations as many of these involve eating food together, feel uncomfortable or develop a fear of people.

The adjustment of a new diet when cultures can often heavily circle around dining out, foody experiences and dinner parties can be overwhelming. We eat every day and having to pre-plan what we eat as well as social situations surrounding food can make us feel as if this may be just easier to avoid by staying at home. Having celiac disease can be life altering, but it is increasingly becoming more manageable with increased awareness and variety in gluten free options at restaurants.

Some people even find relief after an official diagnosis as it allows them to be more in control, but the social isolation and habituation of the new diet can lead to depression or feeling lonely, so it is important to be aware of the psychological impact that can potentially occur if you have celiac disease.

For more information, please visit Beyond Celiac.

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