July 4, 2007
Celiac, Other Illnesses
Question from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:
I wanted to know that since there is a clear link between some cases of schizophrenia and autoimmunity, including type 1 diabetes and more so, celiac disease, why is it never suggested to those with type 1 who exhibit neurological symptoms, seizures, and psychosis that a gluten free diet may help? In some of these cases, although I admit not all, it is very possible that these people simply have undiagnosed atypical celiac disease and are reacting to gluten. This may apply especially to familial autoimmunity cases. I can personally say that when "glutened" (I have celiac, type 1 diabetes, and Hashimoto's), I exhibit severe depression, agitation, and psychological disturbances that I cannot classify as mild schizophrenia, but I would say they come close. I do not think the t.v. is talking to me or aliens are in my living room, but my perception is sometimes altered. Please note that this "only" occurs when glutened. One time, I started acting up, and half way into my "suicidal thoughts" and sudden depression when I realized that I was acting this way because I was glutened. Sure enough, I had severe diarrhea and vomiting 10 minutes later. Afterwards, I went to bed, and woke up the next day psychologically fine. It is well known that people with a leaky gut and/or celiac often react neurologically and psychologically to gluten. In my personal case, my mother has type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's, autoimmune hypoparathyroidism, and "mild" schizophrenia. I suspect she has undiagnosed celiac, particularly since she has a rash similar to Hashimoto's. My maternal uncle has "severe" schizophrenia, seizures, and cannot gain weight no matter how hard he tries. My maternal aunts have severe progressive MS (blind, paralyzed, and on a feeding tube) and Hashimoto's, respectively. My remaining uncle has crippling rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibrocystic lung disease. He also has a mysterious "rash" and has been hospitalized for psychotic depression, although I admit that may be due to dealing with his RA. He had to give up his psychology career in his 20s due to RA and I can only imagine how hard that was. My aunt with Hashimoto's also has a "rash" in the exact same place that I get one when "glutened". I have also met other celiac sufferers who also develop this "hand rash" just around their thumb. She also had white spots in her brain noticed during a CT scan. These are sometimes seen in celiac disease. She was told her neurological symptoms are not due to MS. Interestingly, I also had severe neurological symptoms prior to my celiac diagnosis. I am almost 100% sure that my entire family has "atypical" celiac and I was the only one to be diagnosed because I actually presented with a typical severe GI manifestation as well and I was very sick. I actually demanded to be tested, which is unfortunate, because if I didn't know what Celiac was, I would probably be dead by now. I asked for both an Addison's and celiac screen. So, to reiterate my question, why is it that celiac screening and the gluten free diet is not suggested to those with autoimmune diseases presenting with epilepsy, severe depression and schizophrenia? Perhaps in some cases, this may be the cause.
I would say that most people with seizures, psychiatric disorders, and depression are not likely to have celiac disease. That does not mean that people should not be tested for it. The association of celiac disease with other autoimmune disorders is well taken. However, most people would find it difficult to test for celiac disease without gastrointestinal side effects.