Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are becoming increasingly common in many households throughout the world. Each is an autoimmune disorder affecting millions across the globe. In order to understand this disease in more depth, extensive research is being carried out but much is still unknown. Results from one such research has documented that women suffering from celiac disease or gluten intolerance are more likely to experience depression as well as eating disorders. The research has also stated that women experienced bouts of depression even when they were put on gluten free diet.
Apart from depression, people with gluten intolerance also suffer from abdominal distention, bowel disturbances, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. These conditions can be controlled by adhering to a gluten free diet.
According to Josh Smyth, PhD, and professor of biobehavioral health and medicine at Penn State, said that “People, who do not manage their disease well, suffer more from depression and appear to be more stressed as compared to those individuals who smartly manage their disease.” To this he added that “researchers had not carefully looked at whether people who are effectively managing celiac disease exhibit greater risk for such difficulties.”
A research study was carried out by Smyth and his co workers and researchers from Syracuse University and Drexel University, in order to study the adherence to gluten free diet and the management of the symptoms as a result of celiac disease or gluten intolerance. In this study, 177 American women who reported to have been diagnosed were surveyed. The research established a kind of relationship between the symptoms experienced by patients and the difficulties faced by them in their daily activities due to the same. Those in the study also experience differences in their thoughts and unexplained change in behaviors due to sudden changes that take place in their body image and eating pattern.
The results showed that majority of the participants who strictly adhered to a gluten free diet experienced low levels of stress, had significantly decreased bouts of depression and an improved emotional well being. In addition to this, the research had some contradictory findings too; Smyth reported that a particular percentage of the research population that followed a well planned gluten-free dietary regime continued to complain of high levels of stress, depression and their perception with regards to sudden change in weight, shape and size of their body.
Smyth added that, women who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance also suffer from eating disorders, because effectively managing the disease requires a strict dietary control. He said that “What we don’t know is what leads to what and under what circumstances”.
To this he added; “Disease, depression, weight, shape and eating disorders are all interrelated. But we need to understand and know whether women experience stress due to celiac disease and depression or vice versa, this is yet to be known.”
Enjoying eating out or a picnic is a pretty different kind of experience for those that suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, as they need to pay careful attention to what’s on their plate. They also may feel that they are a burden on the host or hostess as they would be required to prepare gluten-free recipes especially for them.
Smyth suggests that patients need to be educated about the disease and the dietary restrictions so that they can effectively manage a ‘gluten elimination diet’ to resolve or reduce symptoms. He said that “I am a proponent of elaborating our treatment models to not just address diseases, but also to address the psychological, social and behavioral aspects of disease as well, as they can influence disease outcomes and the well being of patients”.