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Mental Health Disorders and Celiac Disease EP058

An estimated 50% of Americans are on some type of psychotropic drug. Half of the US population!

What is causing such widespread prevalence of mental health disorders? Prescription anti-depressants and sedatives don’t solve the underlying problem…  So how do we get to the bottom of this?

The Gluten Free RN contends that there may be a connection between mental health and undiagnosed celiac disease. Today she explains how several disorders (anxiety, depression and paranoia, among others) have been linked to gluten, discussing how a leaky blood-brain barrier can lead to hypoxia, an inflammation of the brain.

Nadine walks us through the best research in mental health disorders and gluten sensitivity, sharing two landmark studies that emphasize the gut/brain connection and characterize celiac disease as primarily a neurological disorder. Nadine offers her insight around working with schizophrenic patients and the increasing number of children suffering from anxiety. Listen in to understand how gluten impacts your mental health, and learn how to eliminate brain fog, get off prescription meds, and enjoy a higher quality of life!

What’s Discussed:

The connection between gluten and hypoxia

  • Leaky blood-brain barrier leads to inflammation of brain, decreased oxygen flow

The shocking statistics around Americans and psychotropic drugs

  • Estimated 50% of US population on psychotropic medication

The potential relationship between mental health disorders and undiagnosed celiac disease

  • High instance of depression, anxiety, fatigue and paranoia
  • May have difficulty sleeping, headaches or seizure disorder
  • Nearly all experience brain fog

The health consequences of undiagnosed celiac disease

  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Damaged immune system
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Neurotransmitter disruption

The findings of the landmark Cooke study in 1966

  • Ten of 16 patients with celiac disease had severe progressive neuropathy
  • All 16 had severe malabsorption

The conclusion of an editorial published in Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry

  • Celiac disease, NCGS is primarily neurological

How a gluten-free diet can resolve gastrointestinal and psychiatric symptoms

  • Celiac disease can manifest as depression, anxiety or psychosis
  • Research published in International Journal of Celiac Disease demonstrates gut/brain connection

Nadine’s experience with schizophrenia patients

  • Majority are gene positive for HLA-DQ2, HLA-DQ8

The increasing number of children diagnosed with anxiety disorder

  • May be caused by undiagnosed sensitivity to gluten

The concept of food as medicine

  • Body may read gluten as toxic, must remove from diet


‘Gluten Sensitivity as a Neurological Illness’ in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry

‘Psychiatric Complications of Celiac Disease’ in the International Journal of Celiac Disease

‘Genetic Hypothesis of Idiopathic Schizophrenia: Its Exorphin Connection’ in Schizophrenia Bulletin

‘Markers of Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Disease in Bipolar Disorder’ in Bipolar Disorders

‘Neurologic and Psychiatric Manifestations of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity’ in Psychiatric Quarterly

‘Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Celiac Disease’ in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment

Connect with Nadine:



Contact via Email

‘Your Skin on Gluten’ on YouTube

Books by Nadine:

Dough Nation: A Nurse’s Memoir of Celiac Disease from Missed Diagnosis to Food and Health Activism

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

Celiac Disease, Suicide, Morbidity and Mortality EP038

People are suffering. From a feeling of hopelessness. From depression and anxiety. Add to that a despair that no one supports them, and you have a desperate individual at an increased risk of committing suicide.

This topic hits close to home for Nadine, as she lost a nephew to suicide in 2007. Ian struggled with addiction issues, and he took his life at the age of 19. Because her family is predisposed to celiac disease, Nadine wonders if undiagnosed celiac disease may have been partially to blame for her nephew’s issues. Today she explores the mental health disorders that are associated with gluten getting through the blood-brain barrier. She also explains how undiagnosed celiac disease puts patients at an increased risk for morbidity, and stresses the fact that celiac disease can—and will—kill you if it goes untreated.

Listen in as the Gluten Free RN tells her own story of improved mental health on a gluten-free diet. She also covers the types of cancers that might be prevented by going gluten-free, the connection between AFib and celiac disease, and how dermatitis herpetiformis affects patients. Listen and learn the best diet to help you get better, faster, and why medical professionals need to pay more attention to the intestines!

What’s Discussed:

How to define morbidity and mortality

  • Morbidity = sickness
  • Mortality = death
  • People with undiagnosed celiac disease have increased risk for morbidity

How morbidity presents itself in undiagnosed celiac patients

  • Chronic anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Failure to thrive, grow
  • Infertility
  • Thyroid issues
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus
  • MS
  • Sjögren’s

Information from the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • Diarrheal diseases are #1 killer of children
  • Only funded one celiac study
  • 1:19 rate in pediatric patients of Sahrawi descent

The prominent mental health issues associated with celiac disease

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anti-social behavior
  • Suicide

How removing gluten from her diet improved Nadine’s mental health

  • Brain fog went away
  • ‘Got brain back’
  • Embrace all life has to offer
  • Freeing to know cause of symptoms

The grains that contain gluten

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Oats (cross-contamination)

The Paleo diet Nadine suggests for celiac and gluten-sensitive patients

  • Whole food
  • Focus on local, fresh
  • 100% grass-fed meat (no antibiotic, no hormone)
  • Fish and eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • 100% organic fruits and vegetables

Nadine’s experience with celiac disease

  • Multi-system organ failure, seven auto-immune disorders
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Diagnosed by dermatologist
  • Tests negative, but HLA-DQ2.5 gene carrier (both parents)

The connection between AFib and celiac disease

  • AFib puts patient at risk for stroke, sudden death
  • Check for magnesium RBC deficiency
  • Can be corrected with gluten-free diet
  • Resolve without pharmaceuticals

How dermatitis herpetiformis affects patients

  • Extremely painful, itchy skin
  • Manifestation of celiac disease
  • Suicide rate higher in patients with DH
  • Dapsone alone will not heal
  • Must also go gluten-free
  • Prolonged use of Dapsone is toxic to liver (bowel cancer, lymphoma)

The cancers that are potentially preventable on a gluten-free diet

  • Lymphoma
  • Small intestinal adenocarcinoma
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Oral pharyngeal

The genes that indicate a predisposition to celiac disease

  • HLA-DQ2
  • HLA-DQ8

Other disorders that could be mitigated by a gluten-free diet

  • Chronic anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteomalacia
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s
  • MS
  • Type 1 diabetes

How long it takes to receive celiac diagnosis in US

  • 9-15 years

The risks for patients diagnosed with celiac disease in childhood

  • Threefold increased risk of death (suicide, accidental death, violence)

Nadine’s research around celiac testing in autopsy

  • Couldn’t get straight answer from medical examiner (state of Oregon)
  • Study conducted in 1974 concluded that despite systematically positive response to gluten-free diet, some patients ended up with lymphoma

How Nadine periodically gives her system a detox

  • Limited fast (three to seven days)
  • Give organs, immune system a rest

Why medical professionals should give more attention to the intestines

  • Vast majority of signs, symptoms originate in intestines
  • 70-90% of immune system in intestines
  • Homocysteine levels higher in newly diagnosed celiac patients, related to other health issues

The issues that can result from undiagnosed celiac disease

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Appendix removed
  • Gall bladder removed

The definition of refractory celiac disease

  • Intestines don’t heal even on gluten-free diet
  • Sometimes caused by continued exposure to trace amounts of gluten
  • Some patients past point of being able to heal

Why it’s crucial to remove all gluten from the environment

  • Celiac patients should feel safe where live, work and go to school
  • Even trace amounts cause continued symptoms, early death
  • Takes an emotional toll to be hypervigilant, mocked by loved ones

The connection between undiagnosed celiac disease the despair that leads to suicide

  • No hope of getting better
  • Don’t feel supported, believed (celiac is real disease)
  • Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders
  • More vulnerable if undiagnosed and enduring abusive relationship

What happens when gluten gets through a leaky blood-brain barrier

  • Inflammation of the brain
  • Hypoxia (decreased oxygen flow)
  • Low end—brain fog, anxiety, depression, fatigue
  • High end—bipolar disease, antisocial behavior, learning disabilities, schizophrenia

The risks associated with eating traditionally grown fruits and vegetables

  • Glyphosate in Roundup causes leaky gut

The goals of the first six months on a gluten-free diet

  • Remove all gluten
  • Allow villi to grow back
  • Heal inflammation
  • Repair immune system


Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity in Down, Turner and Williams Syndrome

WHO Celiac Disease Study

“Necropsy Studies on Adult Coeliac Disease” in the Journal of Clinical Pathology

“Mortality in Celiac Disease” in Gastroenterology

“The Global Burden of Celiac Disease” in PLoSONE

“The Unknown Burden and Cost of Celiac Disease in the US”  in Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research

“Long-Term Mortality in People with Celiac Disease Diagnosed in Childhood Compared with Adulthood” in the American Journal of Gastroenterology

“Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation in Patients with Coeliac Disease: A Nationwide Cohort Study” in the European Heart Journal

“Increased Suicide Risk in Coeliac Disease—A Swedish Nationwide Cohort Study” in Digestive and Liver Disease

“The Burden of Celiac Disease and the Value of Having It Diagnosed” by Fredrik Norström of UMEA University

“Complications of Coeliac Disease: Are All Patients at Risk?”

“Evidence-Informed Expert Recommendations for the Management of Celiac Disease in Children” in Pediatrics

Connect with Nadine: 



Contact via Email

‘Your Skin on Gluten’ on YouTube

Books by Nadine:

Dough Nation: A Nurse’s Memoir of Celiac Disease from Missed Diagnosis to Food and Health Activism

Photo by Mart Production

Addiction Issues, Celiac Disease and Gluten EP034

Few things are as painful as losing a loved one to an overdose. Addiction is such a powerful demon, and most of us have friends or family who are facing it right now. It is easy to feel helpless, believing that there is little you can do to ease their pain. But what if a diet change could resolve the physical and psychological pain at the root of the dependency? You might be surprised to learn that gluten binds with the opioid receptors in the brain, functioning as a ‘gateway drug’ to other addictions.

Today the Gluten Free RN shares her experiences with addiction and overdose during her 17-year career in the ER, explaining how she made the connection between undiagnosed celiac disease and addiction issues. She discusses the US opioid epidemic and how a mass screening for celiac disease could prevent such widespread substance abuse. Listen as she describes the morphine-like effects of gluten on your brain, the role of the microbiome in dictating cravings, and why gluten may be at the root of the pain that leads patients to self-medicate with dangerous recreational drugs.

The sad truth is that 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Because undiagnosed celiac disease goes hand in hand with addiction, is it past time to get our loved ones tested. Suggest it today — it could save a life.

What’s Discussed:

The recent flood of headlines regarding the US opioid epidemic

How exorphins affect the brain

  • Endorphins release chemical to make person feel good (i.e.: runner’s high)
  • Ingest exorphins, make feel differently (e.g.: good, tired, sedate)
  • Includes food, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and recreation medications (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines)

How Narcan reverses a heroin overdose

  • Binds with opioid receptors

The potential connection between gluten and opioid addiction

  • Gluten binds with same receptors in brain
  • Addiction to gluten, dairy may be precursor to other addictions
  • Many self-medicate with ‘comfort food’ containing wheat and dairy (i.e.: pizza, mac and cheese)

The morphine-like effects of gluten and dairy on your brain

  • Very similar to narcotics
  • Elimination diet causes uncomfortable detox process
  • Can take a few days, several weeks
  • May experience fatigue, depression, abdominal pain, headaches
  • Feel better once body clear of damaging proteins

The substances patients abuse to treat pain

  • Prescription drugs
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Recreational drugs (e.g.: methamphetamine, marijuana)

The symptoms of pain patients may experience due to gluten

  • Autoimmune issues
  • Intractable headaches
  • Psychological, emotional anguish

The data around opioid overdose in the US

  • 91 Americans die every day
  • 32,000 people die annually
  • Numbers likely much higher

How gluten sensitivity may lead to pain med addiction

  • Opioid receptors may be damaged, destroyed by gluten
  • Patient cannot absorb pain meds due to villous atrophy
  • Need stronger meds, higher dose

Common prescription meds for pain

  • Vicodin
  • Percocet
  • Morphine
  • Dilaudid

Why patients turn to heroin for pain relief

  • Less expensive to acquire
  • Easily accessible

How food can act as a ‘gateway drug’ to other addictions

  • Celiac disease causes nutrient deficiencies
  • Magnesium
  • Folic acid
  • B vitamins
  • D3
  • Addictions to alcohol, cigarettes, shopping, etc. seek to fill void
  • Eliminate gluten and heal intestines, addictions resolve

Why Nadine advocates a mass screening for celiac disease

  • HLA-DQ2, HLA-DQ8 gene carriers more susceptible to addiction issues
  • Identification can prevent opioid addiction

How ER departments treat alcoholics

  • Banana bag (liter of saline + multivitamin, thiamin, folic acid and magnesium sulfate)
  • Addresses nutrient deficiencies
  • Prevent the shakes, help patient detox gradually
  • Celiac disease may be underlying issue

The power of the microbiome

  • Tiny bacteria live in intestine
  • Dictate what we eat, drink through cravings
  • Communicate with brain (e.g.: yeast signals need for sugar)

The mental health issues caused by untreated celiac disease that may lead patients to self-medicate

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder


“Here’s How a Key Part of the Opioid Legislation is Not Working” in the Boston Globe

“Gluten Sensitivity May Be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins” in Scientific American

“John F. Kennedy’s Pain Story: From Autoimmune Disease to Centralized Pain” in Practical Pain Management

“Malabsorption of Opioid Medications” in Practical Pain Management

“The Opioid Effects of Gluten Exorphins: Asymptomatic Celiac Disease” in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition

Connect with Nadine: 



Contact via Email

‘Your Skin on Gluten’ on YouTube

Books by Nadine:

Dough Nation: A Nurse’s Memoir of Celiac Disease from Missed Diagnosis to Food and Health Activism