There has been much talk recently about the gluten free fad and how a large percentage of the general population thinks that they have a gluten problem. Jimmy Kimmel’s video interviewing people on the street who ate gluten free but couldn’t actually explain what gluten was certainly didn’t help matters. (See the Jimmy Kimmel video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdJFE1sp4Fw&feature=kp). Add in headlines that don’t tell the whole story about new research on Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS – sometimes referred to as gluten intolerance) and the public loses sight of the fact that for many, a gluten free diet is actually a medical necessity. Gwen Smith, editor of Allergic Living Magazine, does a great job of summarizing these issues in her article, The Gluten Free Diet Deserves Respect: http://allergicliving.com/2014/06/24/the-gluten-free-diet-deserves-respect/.
For the approximately 1% of the North American population with Celiac Disease and the approximately 6% who have NCGS, eating gluten can have serious consequences. While the gastrointestinal damage and subsequent damage to other body systems due to nutritional deficiencies (i.e. osteoporosis), is well documented for Celiacs, some of the more subtle effects of gluten have been under-recognized. For many years, both Celiacs and self-diagnosed NCGS sufferers have reported a variety of mood changes after gluten ingestion. A recent study shows that depression was reported in NCGS sufferers after being given gluten even when those reporting did not know if they got the gluten or the placebo. This explains why people without Celiac often report simply feeling better on a gluten free diet even if they have no gastrointestinal symptoms.
While we still don’t know why gluten causes those mood changes, there are a few theories. You can read more about it here: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/glutenintolerance/fl/Depression-and-Gluten-Sensitivity.htm.
This is certainly validation for many different people over the years who believed that gluten caused their mood to change whether they were Celiac, gluten sensitive or even the parents of autistic children. Science is now catching up to these anecdotal reports as the effect of gut health on all body systems is finally recognized. But educating the public has really just begun.