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Bipolar Disease and Gluten Intolerance – Is There A Connection?

I have discussed gluten’s impact on the brain in several articles and expert interviews in the past. Gluten is a known neurotoxin and has been shown to contribute to multiple neurological and mental diseases including neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, seizures, ADD, ADHD, Migraines, Autism, and schizophrenia. This young women was on up to 13 different medications to treat her bipolar disorder. She was hospitalized several times due to medication overdose and interactions. Discovering gluten sensitivity made a huge difference in her condition – including improvements in mental clarity, mood swings, and more… Do you have a story about how a TRUE gluten free diet improved your mental health? Help us help others by sharing your story below in the comment box…

23 Responses

  1. I find the article to be true in my case.
    My adult children were diagnoised with Celiac disease.
    I am clearly gluten intollerent.
    Five years ago when my Son was diagnoised we all gave up gluten.
    My Sons depression is gone and he has better clarity.
    My neuropathy is gone totally and my mood is more stable.
    I have experimented and there is a truly a difference.
    I am not depression free but eliminating gluten from my diet has made a profound difference.My moods are tolerant.I do not slip into deep depression unless I eat gluten!!!!
    We all have other allergies and the hardest part to getting well is the follow throough and self discipline to follow your food program.No cheating as symptoms will return right away.
    I highly recommmend Naturalpath and nutritionist counseling.If you cant afford that there are some very good books and lots of info online.
    My favorite brand of baked goods gluten free are The king Aurther gluten free products.We have tried them all I cook everything else from scratch. Because I know what is in it.Lots of good recipe books on the market also.
    The transition can be difficult for most but it pays off big time in the end!!!!
    I continue to see my Psychiatrist for medical treatment and management.
    Remember I said I have no more acute episodes and my moods are more stable on a daily basis.

    1. Hi Fosho !. I have just made the same discovery by starting an exclusion diet.
      I have been in a mental fog for 58 years. I feel that I should be angry but am so high on life now.

      best wishes and good health

      Howard Kelly

  2. Great article…I know people who have taken gluten out of their diet and have seen remarkable differences in their mental health, as well as physical health.

  3. Short version of the story is that my mother, my four children and I are all gluten sensitive. One of my kids was very sick as an infant and developed behavior symptoms at age 2 that our pediatrician said sounded like Bipolar Disorder. After years of struggling with this she had an acute episode that was so severe that she was put on multiple medications (age 10). When she was 15 I figured out the gluten thing and she went entirely off of her meds toward the end of her second year on a GF diet. Today she’s 23 and a totally different, stable, happy and accomplished person. My oldest child discovered that her depression and anxiety went away 6 months after starting a GF diet, and she now knows that the overwhelmed, “creepy” depressed feelings she gets every now and then are likely from an accidental ingestion of gluten and that it lasts 3-5 days. My other two kids have experienced much less anxiety and moodiness since they went gluten free — and me too! When my kids accidentally eat gluten, one sign is that they have horrible nightmares. Then there’s the diarrhea, constipation, nausea, muscle aches . . . so we know if we’ve “poisoned” ourselves. We were not expecting but are thrilled that the mood and anxiety issues, mild to severe, are so much better now that we’re off gluten.

  4. This is my story. 25 years of Bipolar and then, thank God, I went to a kind hearted Endocrinologist who took one look at my labs and heard my long history of shrinks and meds and looked me in the eye and told me “you have Celiacs Disease”. He put me on a completely grain free, sugar free diet, which I have religiously adhered to for the last three years. No more shrinks, no more meds – and I have to wonder why the medical fraternity hides the truth. Got to admit I have a resentment against the Psychiatric Industry. There is such huge, huge profit with Big Pharmaceutical in the Bipolar market. They get away with horrible stuff. Hope this opens the door for some change. Gave me freedom, hope others can do the same.

  5. My Mother was a Celiac, she suffered depression. – All four of her kids have/do suffer depression to some degree (one of which resulting in suicide). I’m “sensitive” to wheat but can eat it (probably shouldn’t). I suffer depression.

    I have three kids, one of which is Celiac and Bi-Polar. It strikes me that Celiacs and depression runs in families, – we all know that. But what I really would like to know more about is if they run in the SAME families? (we also have migraine through-out our family as well).

    My advice to anyone that’s wondering? Try going gluten free for 6 to 8 weeks, it can’t harm you, but it may help in a BIG way. – Worth a try.

    BUT. If you’re going gluten free, do it properly. Not a single breadcrumb or you’ve wasted 8 weeks of your life.

    And if you are Celiac? Find some solace in the knowledge that it will be cured in your lifetime.

    Good luck in your travels.

  6. I was gluten free, but not grain free when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That was six years ago. I admit, though I did not eat gluten from wheat, rye or barley, I ate plenty of other grains. I am going to try going grain and sugar free and am hoping this new approach will help me get off meds.

    1. I gave up gluten. I gave up meat. I gave up eggs. I gave up dairy. I’m STILL BIPOLAR. Should I give up eating, drinking and breathing next?

      Please. You need to AVOID THESE BLANKET STATEMENTS. All you do is DISCOURAGE people.

      Bipolar is sometimes GENETIC. There is NOTHING you can do about it in that case. NOTHING.

  7. Unfortunately, it took 60 years for me to discover that I am gluten intolerant and this discovery was made quite by accident. I wanted to lose weight and thought I’d give the gluten free diet a try. Much to my surprise the weight came off very easily (40 pounds – quite a bit for a small guy like me). At my advanced age it is difficult to lose weight when you don’t exercise and when you have a big appetite like I do.

    My doctor was amazed at how easily the weight came off! It’s been a year, have not re-gained so much as an ounce, and I will never eat bread, pizza, pasta, pastries, or drink beer ever again. How sad that the foods/beverages that I loved so much had been causing me so much damage. My waistline is nice and small and my tummy feels 100% better than it has in decades. Too bad I hadn’t made this accidental discovery and change years ago – my life would have been so much better!

    1. Hi Ricky. It has taken me 58 years to find this out. I have lived my life as if I was in a fog. I should be angry but I am so high on life now.

      best wishes and good health

      Howard Kelly

  8. I really want to describe what I have felt over the last two days. It s almost foreign to me now, as if it didn’t happen. A nightmare that I just woke from but I know it is real because that nightmare has taken over my life. I wake and shake the reality from my soul. I remind myself of what I have and what I can still get back. Things can always be worse. I am so grateful I am able to escape the hell that the other women who raised me could not. My Aunt Emily, God rest her soul will never know what was making her skin crawl but her children might. They may finally see that she is not going to hell but that her pain has been felt by not only myself but in so many others who probably cannot fathom the hell they are going through is caused by a chemical imbalance due to the lack of nutrition and the chemically modified grains and other foods our bodies ingest. I can’t ignore God beating on my head, the signs all around me, the message is loud and clear and I can’t turn it off even if I want to. I love to come up with ideas that somehow ‘if I do this or if I do that,’ I won’t be sick anymore. Or maybe I am paying for something I’ve done. But wait, my mother was the Bibles definition of a perfect virgn. A perfect mother, perfect wife who made perfect bread. The only thing I resented about my mother was the fact that she didn’t leave her famous homemade bread recipe with me when she died. I managed to make it once without a bread maker. Then I started feeling paranoid about helicopters and the government watching us. This is now a familiar feeling. I have celiac disease and have been diagnosed bi polar. I manage by eating as green as possible-no grains no sugar….lots of V-8 juice and peanuts! It is a freaking miracle! Thank you God for this site! I now know I’m not alone nor am I crazy! Kim

    1. I can relate to being paranoid about the government and helicopters being after me. I was diagnosed with bipolar, but I wonder if I have celiac disease, as well, because at one time I went gluten free and weaned off my meds and was symptom free for almost two years!! I am going to try going gluten free again!

  9. So much for the bread making machine. So happy I finally figured this out that I am intolerant. Thanks to the hospital I was in treating bipolar. They had a gluten free meal line. So, I began researching it. I do think psychiatrists must know about this. All of my weight is in my belly and I am very achey and swollen joints. Just a few days GF makes a difference. Can’t wait to see how well I will feel in the future.

    1. All of my weight is in my belly too and I also have achy joints!! That’s it, I’m going gluten free again!!

  10. I’m 35 and for 18year my head was erupting with severe bipolar depression I had lost faith and strength to fight the bipolar monster! I was suicidal but prayers of my mum and church kept me from killing myself I also had exiety,guilt,feeling of worthlessness,Mood issues ,anger,I isolated myself etc.But I read about the Gluten Free thing and I gave it a try it’s 5weeks now and I feel like I’m back to the land of the living I’m ALIVE!! with mental clarity I have my life back!! I’ve progressed i dont think i was bipolar the psychaiatrist should have known. I know I was gluten intolerance! Not bipolar I’m not taking the damn meds I’m now FREE THANKS TO MY LORD JESUS FOREVER

  11. Kezz.I can relate to you very well.A few years ago before I discovered I was gluten intolerant my life was sad.I kept getting a reoccurring rash on my body parts.I went to a Dermatologist only to be told to avoid All perfumes and detergents & soaps. So I did.Soon afterwards the rash occurred again.By accident I found out my gluten sensitivity due to a sudden shellfish allergy.The meds exacerbated my allergy to shellfish.So I became allergic to many things.I had to cut out bread grains and other food varieties to get some relief.However,I began noticing that my rash cleared up after avoiding bread products. I researched gluten free online after seeing it on food labels.I avoided gluten right away. Soon afterwards I started feeling Alive again.My anxiety,depression, mental clarity and mood swings went away.At this time in my life I am feeling much much better.I am happily gluten free.Beware of food cravings that contain wheat like cakes pizza and breads.Because the smallest amount brings on depression,brain fog and anxiety,nightmares and psychosis.Thanks for sharing your GF stories.I hope my story brings Hope and Peace to someone out there.God Bless Everyone.

  12. Thanks to everyone for sharing your stories. I’d happily be a guinea pig for any serious scientist or immmunbiologist who wants to test how gluten can impact the human body for those who are intolerant to it. As long as my sick leave would be covered, I’d do it for the sake of helping others. When is this going to become common knowledge? Most people or doctors that you speak to think you’re paranoid about gluten, but I know that if I were to consume it, my life wouldnt be worth living.

    I’ve been tested for Celiac, Crohns and IBS which were all ruled out, and in the end I was referred to an allergy clinic.

    I’ll give you a long list of my symptoms, some of which I find embarrassing now, but it might help someone. I went grain free about five years ago after reading comments that other people left on websites. In the last year, I’ve experimented with rice and I’m back to eating it once a week. Consuming gluten and corn makes me extremely exhausted – it makes me want to stay in bed and hide from the outside world. I used to say that I felt like my soul had been sucked out of me – I was beyond tired. I spent many of my weekends in bed for years. I forced myself into work during the week to pay the bills. I put my exhaustion and everything else down to stress. My lips would peel, my bladder would get irritated and force me to relieve myself a couple of times during the night, I’d get an itchy rash on my wrist, a string of nightmares every single night without fail, black depression including suicidal thoughts, chronic anxiety, brain fog and severe bloating where I looked seven months pregnant. I’d swing between loose stools and constipation. The worst physical reaction for me was a swollen uvula which felt like tonsillitis but wasn’t. I’d feel even more exhausted than what I was already feeling and those were the days when I’d take time off work – every few months. I’d make homemade soup and would feel better after a few days. Obviously my body was trying to fight something! The ENT doctor rudely laughed at me when I asked if the swelling could be caused by gluten. He made me feel very small and stupid, but I didn’t let him dissuade me and experimented with a gluten fee diet after reading comments left by people on forums who had the same throat problems as me. I noticed a slight difference but not a significant one til I excluded all grains. I think corn is a big problem if I eat too much of it. One GP told me that gluten sensitivity was “an Internet fad”. I never saw that GP again.

    Something also happened when I removed grains from my diet. A bit of background first – I was raised by a severely mentally ill mother who suffers with what we believe is paranoid schizophrenia. We can’t get a diagnosis for her as she believes all doctors are conspiring against her (as with the rest of the world, including me). Unless she is a risk to herself or others, she can’t be sectioned and therefore a psychiatric assessment cannot be made. She suffers with full blown visual and auditory hallucinations and will not even take her blood pressure meds. I was brainwashed by some of her delusions til my mid twenties and I’d always considered myself a sort of highly intuitive ‘spiritual’ person. I believed I could ‘read’ objects, places and people by the ‘energy’. I definitely had strong feelings of paranoia and when I stopped eating grains I noticed that these feelings completely subsided. I mean, I thought trees and dolphins etc were speaking to me!! At the time it all felt very real as I’d experienced strong feelings. Anyway, the point is all my ‘intuitive feelings’ practically went overnight when I changed my diet. Believing that I was intuitive and not paranoid, didn’t make me think I was mentally ill.

    Most people I speak to when I say I don’t eat grains think I’m mad., especially as my mother has a severe mental illness. They think I’m paranoid like her, which is sad because I’ve never been more sane. I’m not going to say that going gluten free is a cure for bipolar – I don’t think this at all, but I do think it might help with some of the symptoms. My husband is bipolar, reliously takes his meds and has a reduced gluten intake.
    Going gluten free for a few weeks just to see it it makes a difference to your life or not is at least worth a try.

  13. Hello all. I was officially diagnosed with celiac and bipolar type 2 with rapid cycling five years ago. But it started 8.5 years ago with post partum psychosis after the birth of my fourth child. Right after her birth was also when I discovered I felt so much better after eliminating gluten–but I only felt better physically. My mental symptoms remained. I would have severe bouts of depression that lasted for weeks, with small bursts of “irresponsible” happiness/elation (hypomania) for a few days, before crashing into deep depression again. I also experienced severe brain fog, and these mixed mood symptoms that were a combination of deep depression/despair and the irritable, extremely anxious, hyper-sensitivity symptoms of mania. I experienced a psychotic break during which I thought my brain literally shredded three years ago, and that whole year (2019), I struggled with suicidal thoughts off and on. I had to quit my job and instead of being hospitalized, our family moved out into the country and I completely retreated from public life. As I was now in virtually a stress-free place, even when COVID hit, I just transitioned to homeschooling my kids and continued living out in the country with almost no stress. This helped me immensely, even more so when I quit my psych meds in late 2020 and stopped drinking alcohol. At that time, I started to develop various strange symptoms indicating other autoimmune diseases besides celiac. I finally got in to see a rheumatologist and neurologist team of doctors who specialized in diagnosing autoimmune diseases in the fall of 2021, and my doctors had me try steroids when I showed symptoms of a severe disease flare. Steroids reduce inflammation, which is what autoimmune diseases do–it’s your immune system attacking various parts of your body, depending on the disease. During this flare, which was particularly bad, I was experiencing all the classic physical symptoms (gastric, Raynaud’s, joint pain, fatigue) as well as psychiatric (brain fog, severe depression/anxiety, mixed mood); so they appeared to be occurring at the same time and rising in severity together. Keep in mind, steroids actually lower serotonin, so if I was truly bipolar, my symptoms would’ve immediately worsened. Instead… Within thirty minutes of taking the steroid, ALL of my symptoms were gone. Including my mental ones. It was like coming up out of a fog. I could think clearly. My brain could function again. No more depression. No more anxiety. No more weeping uncontrollably. It was one of the most incredible, miraculous things I’ve ever experienced. My doctors already knew I had Lupus due to some other symptoms, but now we know I have Neuropsychiatric Lupus. (Being diagnosed with Lupus is like being diagnosed with cancer–it depends on what kind, and it can be multiple kinds at once.) It all makes sense in retrospect, as the only psych meds that ever worked for me were actually meds developed for epilepsy; traditional bipolar meds like Lithium actually made me worse. And even my psychotic break back in 2019 was actually a type of seizure. I had no idea seizures could present as psychiatric rather than just physical. I have been on lupus meds and a small dose of steroids daily since then as well, and ALL my psychiatric symptoms are still gone. As long as I don’t get “glutened” (which triggers an immediate flare of all my autoimmune diseases), I’m fine. I have my life back again, praise Jesus. As soon as I am fully diagnosed, my doctor team is planing to do IVig treatment for me. It takes time to build in efficacy, but as soon as it does, I plan to start working again. I am so grateful to God and to these amazing doctors. We need more awareness of the connections between autoimmune diseases like celiac and psychiatric symptoms. Praying for all of you who read this. And some final thoughts–I am not saying all people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder have been misdiagnosed. I am saying if you also have celiac, or some other autoimmune disease, or odd physical symptoms that could be autoimmune, please try to find a doctor who specializes in autoimmune diseases and is willing to see if your symptoms may be due to autoimmune. It’s worth a shot!

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