*DISCLAIMER* I am not a health care professional, this post’s content is from my own experiences and research. Please seek medical advice if you are struggling with your mental health and/or Coeliac Disease. There is no shame in asking for help.
Earlier this week was World Mental Health Day and as well as thinking about those who struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, it got me thinking about how Coeliac Disease can negatively impact your mental health.
“Depression and related mood disorders are reported to be associated with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. One study found that major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and adjustment disorders were more common in a group of CD patients compared to controls” – Neurologic and Psychiatric Manifestations of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity by Jessica R. Jackson, William W. Eaton, Nicola G. Cascella, Alessio Fasano, and Deanna L. Kelly in The Psychiatric quarterly 83.1 (2012): 91–102. PMC.
“Anxiety, depression and fatigue are common complaints in patients with untreated celiac disease and contribute to lower quality of life. While aspects of these conditions may improve within a few months after starting a gluten-free diet, some patients continue to suffer from significant psychological morbidity. Psychological symptoms may affect the quality of life and the dietary adherence.” – Psychological morbidity of celiac disease: A review of the literature by Fabiana Zingone Gillian L Swift, Timothy R Card, David S Sanders, Jonas F Ludvigsson, Julio C Bai in United European Gastroenterology Journal (Nov, 2014)
Several studies have shown an increased rate of depression in those with Coeliac Disease, which is often but not always alleviated by beginning a gluten free diet (see the linked articles above for more information on the studies).
Nobody seems exactly sure why the two are linked, but some have suggested that the malnutrition suffered during the illness plays a part. Others see the shock of the diagnosis and the lifestyle changes it brings to be the main catalyst.
The change that comes with Coeliac Disease can be difficult to adjust to – it effects your entire life. You can’t eat out at your favourite spots anymore, family meals can be hard to organise, your favourite snacks are no longer safe, your favourite comfort foods are off the menu. On top of all of that you have to worry about cross contamination and the continuous stigma from non-Free From-ers.
It can be hard to overcome those initial feelings that your life is worse, and whilst we all have moments of feeling left out, wishing we could eat certain foods, it does get better. You get used to the food, find new favourites and find places that you can eat near you.
Most importantly you need to find a community of people who are in the same situation. Facebook is a wonderful resource for this (Facebook groups such as Gluten Free and Me, Coeliacs in the UK, Gluten Free UK etc.) but you can also join Coeliac UK and find people through them.
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