Gluten and depression – a personal account

BBQCatherine Rose does not look as though she suffers from depression, does she? Normally ebullient, enthusiastic, chatty, energetic, joyful – 'black cloud days' could sometimes snuff her right out. And still can, if she allows her gluten sensitivity to affect her nutrient absorption.

From time to time I become "two dimensional". Everything upsets me, stresses me out or makes me feel worthless.

What started out over 10 years ago as negative reactions to things I couldn't explain or justify, transformed to " black cloud days " and then eventually full on depression. For weeks I wouldn't leave the house, I wouldn't speak to anyone and I'd just stare at the wall and occasionally cry. I'd eat nothing, then anything and everything to try and find the joy I normally find in food. But it wouldn't work. This was the start of my own downward spiral.

I'd start to question my I wasn't "myself": the happy, cheerful, bubbly, generous, optimistic, (and slightly odd) person that most of you know. Why couldn't I access myself?

Gradually I tried therapy, I tried meds, I tried homeopathy and I have most recently tried counselling. I've worked out my triggers now so can avoid them or at least not allow them to overwhelm me. I understand myself more now and so I am strong enough to cope if a black cloud comes my way (which they still do!)

I know now I must exercise and nourish my body correctly. I take time out either in a bubble bath or practising yoga. I spend time in the fresh air with green space around me. I force myself to get up and get out even when all I want to do is hibernate. I tell myself I am strong, beautiful and brave. I consciously find joy in everything I do if my subconscious is letting me down. And I let myself know that it's OK. Being depressed is OK.

I have amazing family and friends (after discarding the ones that drained my soul and pushed me further down the spiral) who understand when I'm a bit "cloudy " and give me what I need to be me again: an opportunity to shine, a scented candle, a song, a hug, or just a person to be next to so I don't feel alone.

At my darkest moment I thought I'd never be myself again. I couldn't understand how anyone could ever love me if I hated myself. But knowing now that I've survived my worst day is a massive boost. I am strong. And a chemical imbalance is not going to destroy the person I am and love, it will only challenge me for a period. I got this. I’m ok.”

A few months ago I shared this sentiment on social media. It was a brave choice for me to share my experiences with my friends. Most of my friends didn’t know I’d gone through anything like this and I was scared that expressing what depression and anxiety are like for me would make me seem odd or maybe I wouldn’t express it in the right words. However, I’ve had such a wonderful reaction from my everyone.

My friends have been opening up to me and talking about it but also bringing their own experiences with this issue to me. One of the things I learnt was how closely linked depression and anxiety are to Coeliac disease and non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity. And that is why I’m taking the deep breath and sharing this even further than my friends.

Around 10 years ago, when I began to feel these emotions (or lack thereof) I got passed from doctor to doctor to see what was wrong with me. After seeing a light therapist, a homeopath and a psychiatrist, I went to see a psychophysiologist. Psychophysiology looks at the connection between the physical and the mental states and the impact one has on the other. Through various tests, she noted that my brain activity was quite low which was causing me anxiety, panic, lethargy and depression. The cause of this, she believed and later proved with tests, was that nutrients and oxygen were not getting to my brain as they were not being absorbed from my food. In short, I had issues with malabsorption.

It was suggested that I cut out gluten from my diet to see if repairing the villi in my gut would rectify this problem. After following a gluten free diet for only 3 weeks, it was shocking to me that this small change could impact me so much. Recent studies have shown that the risk of a coeliac developing depression versus the general population is 1.8 times more likely due to the gut sensitivity.

Whilst it was great to understand the underlying cause of my condition, it has not cured it. Depression may always rear its ugly head but now I have another string to my bow in understanding it and being able to manage it. I now eat super clean when I feel a bout of it coming along. I crave junk food but force myself to nourish my body back to physical and mental health. It’s amazing the impact diet has on the body. Aren’t human beings just fascinating? If you want a bit more info, the book Gut by Giulia Enders is pretty useful.

I have not told anyone this full story before, especially on such a public platform but hopefully it can help others notice that there may be more to their condition, emotions, or feelings than meets the eye. It may be worth being checked for coeliac disease and really noticing the impact that your diet and physical wellbeing can have on your emotional state.

Please do feel free to contact me for any more info or just to vent or share. It helps to talk. You’re not alone.

Peace and Love x


Click here for more articles on the causes of coeliac disease.


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