Studies show gluten sensitivity in people labeled with schizophrenia and bipolar (and how gluten can effect a lot of us regardless of dx)

right, drugs won't fix anything, you have to cut out the gluten! **click to make larger
right, drugs won’t fix anything, you have to cut out the gluten! **click to make larger

Gluten sensitivity can manifest with or without gastrointestinal symptoms! This is true for many people, not just those labeled with schizophrenia. I talk about diet and mental health a lot and gluten can be a mental health drag for many people whether or not they have a psychiatric diagnosis.

Besides the gastrointestinal problems for which it is mostly known, gluten intolerance can manifest in numerous other ways including, “neuropathic pain, headaches, psychiatric disorders, iron deficiency, vitamin D deficiency” and more.

What’s more, a good number of people who don’t actually have celiac (a testable sensitivity to gluten) can often do better on gluten free or grain free diets. I found that my glucose levels and my lipids, including cholesterol are all much lower and at healthier levels when I do not eat grains. In my case this includes some non-gluten containing grains as well.

The best way to find out if this applies to you is to stop eating all gluten for a few weeks. You’ll know if it makes a difference relatively quickly in most instances. For me some lab work, specifically glucose, lipids and cholesterol made it clear. This is about total well-being. For some the proof may be in blood work. For others it will be in how you feel.

Below is the abstract to the study mentioned in the headline of this post. I’m also including a video below on studies with gluten (and casein) in those labeled bipolar.

From PubMed

Increased Prevalence of Transglutaminase 6 Antibodies in Sera From Schizophrenia Patients.

Cascella NGSantora DGregory PKelly DLFasano AEaton WW.


1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 600 North Wolfe Street, Meyer 144, Baltimore, MD 21287.


Gluten can cause extraintestinal manifestations with or without gastrointestinal symptoms and elevated antitissue transglutaminase 2 (tTG2) autoantibodies. Organ-specific gluten reaction involves immune response toward other transglutaminase (TG) isoforms including tTG3 (expressed in the skin, leading to dermatitis herpetiformis) and tTG6 (expressed in the brain, causing gluten ataxia). This analysis focuses on tTG6 antibodies, which have never been studied before in schizophrenia (SZ) and its relationships to tTG2 and to antigliadin antibodies. We previously showed an increased prevalence of tTG2 antibodies in gluten sensitive SZ patients compared with healthy controls (HC) that was not paralleled by an increased prevalence of antiendomysial antibody. To elucidate this discrepancy, we examined those tTG2 positive SZ patients for the presence of tTG6 antibody. We also searched for tTG6 antibodies in our sample of antigliadin (AGA) positive and AGA and tTG2 negative SZ patients. Seventy-four tTG2 positive SZ patients were compared with 148 age and gender-matched HC. Of the 74 tTG2 positive SZ patients, 16 were positive for tTG6 IgA for a prevalence of 22%. Only 4 HC were positive for tTG6 IgA for a prevalence of 2.7%. Among the AGA positive SZ patients, the prevalence of tTG6 IgA was 21.3% while 13.1% of the AGA and tTG2 negative SZ patients were positive for tTG6 IgA. The HC had a prevalence of 6%. Our results indicate a higher prevalence of tTG6 antibodies in SZ that may represent a biomarker useful to identify SZ patients who would benefit from a gluten-free diet. (From PubMed)

The video I mentioned above is this:

2011 Gloria Neidorf Memorial Lecture on Bipolar Disorder

The controversial link between sensitivities to foods including milk casein, wheat, and gluten, and effects on psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A young investigator presents her ideas in the The Gloria Neidorf Memorial Lecture for 2011 at the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Annual Symposium in New York City. Brief presentation followed by a Q&A with the public. (from psych central)


MORE INFO ON GLUTEN: Gluten Sensitivity Vs. Celiac Disease Vs. Gluten Intolerance

We ignore the foods we eat at our peril. It’s cool in some circles to mock and make fun of those with food sensitivities but the fact is that we’ve altered our eating habits and our food supply in the last few decades in radically drastic ways and our bodies and minds don’t like it. It’s not just those of us who have figured it out that are suffering either. Many people eat all sorts of food stuff that is making them very sick at worst or less than optimally healthy at best without them realizing it.

The same gluten that gets people in trouble with their mental well-being can be part of all sort of chronic health issues. See how this woman healed herself from a chronic illness that is not mental health related at all. It’s also a gluten-free diet and that is a very important part of the picture: Minding Your Mitochondria: heal chronic illness with diet

I’ve got much more on this blog about diet and nutrition here: Nutrition and gut health.

To be clear, even if there are not obvious gastrointestinal issues when people eat gluten, just as is mentioned in the study with those labeled schizophrenic above, people don’t always have gastro symptoms. Still, the gut needs healing, ultimately. I got rid of my IBS symptoms long before I deeply healed my gut, as I found out here.

I write about the GAPS diet and The Body Ecology Diet in the link above, but the fact is there are dozens of gluten-free variations to choose from and I’ve done lots of experimenting since I wrote that above post. It’s imperative that people find what works for them as individuals. Specific diets are good to learn from and practice with but ultimately your optimal diet may not be like anyone else’s except in a broad sense…like “gluten-free.”

Gluten is not the only common part in our American Standard diets that is messing with our body and mind’s well-being. There are lots of other foods too that we need to be aware of. To get a thorough introduction to the problem read Chris Kresser’s series 9 steps to Perfect Health.

**note: I purposely don’t make a lot of detailed dietary recommendations because I’m well aware that diet and what and how one eats is hugely personal. I try to give enough resources (that vary in information to some degree) that you can follow your own intuition and find your own optimal diet. I am finding mine, but I do not assume that all I do is appropriate for anyone else, so I just report on broader dietary issues and not specifics. 

MORE INFO ON GLUTEN:  Gluten: if you’re unconvinced see the collection of studies from medical journals here (with commentary)

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