What is the go with the effects on thought patterns after gluten exposure? I have been reintroducing small amount of gluten as I am about to go into a recruits course and will undoubtedly be exposed throughout.
I am wondering if anyone is well versed in the mechanisms involved and how it alters ones psychological side as well as that general puffiness and dull ache of the stomach.
I don't know the answer, but here are my thoughts/speculations.
For someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a gluten exposure does or could do a number of things:
* increases inflammation in the gut, and then, systemically
* washes out bacterial populations, cutting down on the nutrients you get from those guys
* reduces absorption of the foods you eat, in part from foods moving through you too quickly (assuming you get diarrhea), but also from damage to the intestinal lining
* messes with your immune system (probably mediated by reduction in gut bacteria, but also mediated by your immune system thinking you have an invader, the gluten)
* disturbs serotonin production, which occurs largely in the gut (however, I am not sure whether central nervous system serotonin is only made in the raphe nuclei while peripheral nervous system serotonin in the gut, or whether the gut-generated serotonin makes it to the brain).
How does this mess with your head?
If you buy the serotonin hypothesis of depression, and the serotonin created in the gut affects the brain, then that's one way.
The systemic inflammation scenario involves inflammatory cytokines which can cross the blood brain barrier and disrupt normal functioning in the brain (the details of which I'm foggy on).
And the nutrient issue could also come into play if you're at borderline levels, such that a slight dip could cause disruption. I'm especially thinking of the b-vitamins, such as b12 and folate, that are known to be important for neural function.
So those are some mechanisms I can come up with.
You might want to look into the psychological affects of carbohydrate malabsorption. A lot of work has been done in that area regarding fructose, but fructans in wheat can have the same affect. If you are not gluten-intolerant (screening for celiac is important) and wheat gives you issues, this might be the mechanism. So we shouldn't always look towards gluten when having issues with wheat.
This isn't related to gluten specifically, but it makes the connection between inflammation (which can be caused by gluten) and depression. It explains a theory of the biological mechanism, called the Pathogen Host Defense or PATHOS-D theory. The theory posits that "the genes that predispose us to depression also protect us from infection." Chronic inflammation (indicating an ongoing immune response in the body/brain) is closely linked to depression. PATHOS-D asserts that depression is a consequence/side effect of a genetically rendered 'trigger happy' immune system, which itself has survival value. In other words, the potential for depression is present in individuals who have sensitive and reactive immune systems which is good for survival in some cases because you fight off infection before it can damage your system, but bad in other cases because the immune response interferes with brain functioning, causing depression. This would explain why depression, a hereditary phenomenon with social disadvantages but biological advantages, has been positively selected in the evolutionary process. It also suggests that reducing inflammation (e.g., no gluten) will alleviate depression.
Emily Deans, "Depression: A Genetic Faustian Bargain with Infection?" http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2012/03/depression-genetic-faustian-bargain.html
I am so grateful to have found this question - because whilst I have no answer as to mechanism, at least I know that I am not alone in this and that I am not in fact losing my mind.
I have followed a gluten free diet for c.18 months, having finally identified an ongoing rash as dermatitis herpetiformis. It works, the rash has mostly disappeared. I am compliant, but realise I need to be even stricter w.r.t restaurant cross-contamination and avoid things like the Whole Foods salad bar - I have foolishly ignored the fact that utensils are shared between non-GF items etc. This I believe must be what triggered a current attack.
The DH makes this unambiguous for me; the rash has reappeared and I know I have been exposed to gluten. I have also been almost incapacitated by a desperate, awful, chronic depressive episode, complete with suicidal ideation. I have retained just enough sanity through this to recognise the possibility of a link between the two, which makes it more bearable. It will pass.
I know this thread is old but I stumbled on it and others probably will too. With that in mind, I just want to add to Sarah's comment above. I have been on a gluten free diet for about 3 years, and it's become very apparent that when I am exposed to gluten, one of symptoms of the reaction is a sudden onset of severe depression that gets me frighteningly close to having suicidal thoughts. I am usually considered a very stable and well bslanced person. This comes like clockwork about eight days (+/- a day) after eating gluten. It only lasts that day, and it's something I now expect, and so I usually just know to wait it out and not act on anything too deep and emotional. Its really frightening if you don't know what's causing it.
A big part of how you tolerate gluten will be how you expect to tolerate it.
I have binged on crazy stuff on an otherwise clean diet many times. When I thought that I was going to suffer for the next week, I did. When I thought that I could easily handle it, I did.
Paleo should make you stronger, not weaker. Hypochondria is the disease that kills most paleos, I imagine.
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