Stuck

Why we can't (or won't) move on from bad jobs, bad relationships, and bad habits, and how we can all move ahead.

Gluten: The Secret Stalker

Wildly misdiagnosed, celiac disease is linked with ADHD and depression.

Depression is one of the symptoms of celiac disease. That's possibly because the disease causes impaired absorption of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin. But psychological distress among celiac-disease patients only stands to reason, given that some of the other symptoms and effects of this incurable condition include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, failure to thrive in infancy, vomiting, short stature, iron deficiency with or without anemia, poor performance in school, delayed puberty, infertility, recurrent miscarriage, osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, tooth discoloration and dental enamel defects, skin disorders, elevated liver enzymes, Down syndrome, Sjogren's syndrome, canker sores, arthritis, depression, nerve and balance problems, irritability, seizures, and migraines.

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More depressing still is the fact that this inherited autoimmune disorder is so incredibly often misdiagnosed - mistaken for any one of a hundred other conditions, thus never treated properly, thus the symptoms persist.

"There's a disease that American doctors are absolutely terrible at diagnosing," reads a recent CBS news report about celiac disease, which is said to affect as many as one in every hundred people. Yet "up to 500,000 in the UK are oblivious, with many cases misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome," we read in the Daily Mail.

Celiac disease has also been linked with ADHD: "We have seen ... that nutrient deficiencies can lead to or exacerbate the onset of certain ADHD symptoms," reads a Stanford Wellsphere report. "For example, iron has been shown to be a useful supplement in treating certain underlying factors in ADHD. ... It is thought that a celiac-disease-damaged system can contribute to iron deficiency, likely through impaired iron absorption, thus presenting a challenge to the ADHD patient. ... A gluten-free diet (which, unfortunately, can be very difficult to administer due to the prevalence of wheat in the Western diet) has been shown to ameliorate most of these negative symptoms. A study done on celiac-disease patients and ADHD symptoms found that after treating patients with a gluten-free diet for six months, a number of ADHD-like symptoms subsided. ... Statistically significant improvements were seen in the following areas: attention to detail, duration of attention span, ability to complete tasks, distractibility, fidgety behavior, leaving a seat (when expected to remain seated), noisy disruptions and answering questions prematurely."

Celiac disease is caused when the lining of the small intestine reacts adversely to gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. Upon exposure, the fingerlike villi lining the small intestine deteriorate and flatten. This hinders the absorption of nutrients. According to the Mayo Clinic, the only known effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.

Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo -- conductor of the famous 1971 Stanford Prison Study and founder of the Shyness Clinic in Menlo Park, California -- will be one of the judges tonight at a gluten-free cooking contest which is part of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness' second annual San Francisco Gluten-Free Cooking Spree. The event features noted chefs, doctors and other celebrities, with a cooking contest, buffet, raffle, and marketplace. Higher awareness will raise the correct diagnosis rate, which will be a godsend for celiac-disease patients such as British actor Michael Obiora, who describes in interviews how depressed he was in the thirteen years before his condition was properly diagnosed. Obiora remembers being "wiped out by 10 a.m." day after day, and feeling as if "I needed to eat something to boost my energy levels, but anything I ate went straight through me. ... I was losing all my strength."

 

 

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On.

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