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Gluten & depression


By: The Food Coach

Making the headlines this week has been a study linking consumption of gluten with depression in patients without coeliac disease.

Current evidence suggests that many patients with self-reported non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) retain gastrointestinal symptoms on a gluten-free diet (GFD) but continue to restrict gluten as they report 'feeling better'.

Researchers set out to investigate the notion that a major effect of gluten in those with NCGS is on mental state and not necessarily on gastrointestinal symptoms. Twenty-two subjects (24-62 years, five male) with irritable bowel syndrome who had coeliac disease excluded but were symptomatically controlled on a GFD, undertook a double-blind cross-over study. Participants randomly received one of three dietary challenges for 3 days, followed by a minimum 3-day washout before crossing over to the next diet. Challenge gluten-free food was supplemented with gluten (16 g/day), whey (16 g/day) or not supplemented (placebo).

Gluten ingestion was associated with higher overall depression compared to placebo. Gastrointestinal symptoms were induced similarly across all dietary challenges. Short-term exposure to gluten specifically induced current feelings of depression with no effect on other indices or on emotional disposition. Such findings might explain why patients with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity feel better on a gluten-free diet despite the continuation of gastrointestinal symptoms.

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