Going Gluten-FreeApril 23, 2014

Feed Your Head

Can gluten impact your mood? Your thinking? The answer is yes. Celiac experts say that in susceptible people, gluten can affect mood. It can also cause “foggy brain” and can prompt neurological conditions like ADHD and autism spectrum behaviors. Now a groundbreaking study shows that gluten is also linked to schizophrenia.

The idea that gluten could play a role in schizophrenia isn’t new. In the 1960s, American physician F. Curtis Dohan observed an unusual number of patients with schizophrenia who also had celiac disease. Dohan later noted that wheat scarcity in Europe during World War II correlated with fewer hospital admissions for schizophrenia.

Upon further investigation, however, the rate of celiac disease in schizophrenia proved to be only slightly higher than expected.

“Consensus was that 98 percent of those with schizophrenia had no business being on the gluten-free diet -- and the subject was abandoned,” says Alessio Fasano, MD, director of the Center for Celiac Research at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and author of a new book on celiac disease, Gluten Freedom. “It wasn’t until this new entity called non-celiac gluten sensitivity came into the picture that we started taking another look at gluten and schizophrenia.”

Dr. Fasano and his colleagues found that approximately 1 in 5 individuals with schizophrenia have abnormal levels of a newly identified marker of gluten sensitivity. This new marker, known as tTG6, is significant because it’s expressed in the brain, not in the gut like other markers.

“We put a few patients with tTG6 on the gluten-free diet and results were astonishing,” says Fasano. “They could control their schizophrenia without medication.”

For more about the link between gluten and schizophrenia, see “Gluten & Schizophrenia: Can the Gluten-Free Diet Help?” by senior medical correspondent Christine Boyd, in the JuneJuly issue of Gluten Free & More.

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