How Gluten Affects Behavior
3 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten is sometimes behind the scenes wreaking havoc on behavior and moods. Behaviors including fuzzy brain or an inability to concentrate — including attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) type behaviors — irritability and lack of motivation can be caused by gluten.
Other behavioral manifestations of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease include
Autism: Evidence shows that some people with autism show extraordinary improvement on a gluten-free (and casein-free) diet. Some people with autism may metabolize gluten and casein into the form of an opiate — much like heroin. Basically, when they eat gluten and casein, they’re getting a high off it.
This high may account for traits typical in autistic kids, such as monotonous body movements (for instance, finger-flicking in front of their eyes, spinning, and head-banging), as well as being withdrawn and having a fascination with parts of objects (like fixating on one part of a toy rather than the toy itself). Also typical of opiate users and autistic kids is the distress they feel when there are small changes in their environment or routine.
Depression and other mood disorders: Clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and a variety of mood disorders can sometimes be associated with or exacerbated by gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, and these conditions can sometimes improve on a gluten-free diet.
Schizophrenia has been associated with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease since the 1960s, when it was first noted that a gluten- (and dairy-) restricted diet led to improvement in some institutionalized patients. Interestingly, the same opiate-like chemicals found in the urine of autistic people are often found in schizophrenics.