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Do You Fret?
July 21, 2010
A new German study confirms what celiac experts already know: There’s a link between anxiety and celiac disease. Like many symptoms of this vastly under-diagnosed (and often mis-diagnosed) condition, the psychological fallout has yet to be widely known and understood by the psychiatric community.
As a psychotherapist, I worked with a number of university coeds who entered therapy because of general anxiety, a heightened sense of unremitting apprehension. These young women were living on low-fat, vegetarian diets composed primarily of salad, dairy, soy--and lots of wheat. What to do? If the usual cognitive-behavior intervention and relaxation techniques don’t help calm the anxiety, a therapist will suggest medication. That’s okay--but what about suggesting a screening for celiac disease?
I talked with Stefano Guandalini, MD, about this. (Click here to read this interview.) He’s medical director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and one of the world’s leading experts on celiac disease. He said: “Awareness is lacking … in regard to [the link between celiac disease and] psychiatric disturbances. Hallucinations, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation—they’re all associated with celiac disease. It’s well documented in medical literature.”
Would Dr. Guandalini recommend that anyone with psychiatric symptoms that persist regardless of treatment be screened for celiac disease? His answer: “Yes.” And: “Fortunately, these symptoms, including depression, anxiety and hallucinations, promptly regress on a gluten-free diet.”
When it comes to raising celiac awareness, we’ve got our work cut out for us. Has anxiety been part of your journey with celiac disease? Spread the word.