While gluten does not necessarily account for all cases of schizophrenia, studies suggest that it may be responsible for some or even most cases, as we will explore in this article.
Schizophrenia, a disease characterized by false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, auditory hallucinations, reduced social engagement, reduced emotional expression, and inactivity, is a much feared mental disorder that may affect 0.3 – 0.7% of the population. The condition usually becomes apparent in people in late adolescence and early adulthood, i.e. roughly 16 to 30 years old.
There appears to be a genetic connection, based on higher prevalence in people with relatives who are also schizophrenic than the general population.
The above facts are interesting when compared to celiac disease, which represents about 1% of the population. Given the many types of damage that gluten can cause to almost any organ in the human body, and the common complaint of brain fog, it isn’t surprising that it could be connected with other mental conditions, some of which take some time to appear.
Doctors treating schizophrenics at a particular inpatient psychiatric unit back in 1967 noticed that a surprisingly large proportion (50 – 100 times what they would expect of the general population) of their patients had celiac disease as children, back when celiac disease was associated with children much more than with adults. At the same time, doctors treating celiacs noticed their patients were 10 times more likely to be schizophrenic than what one would expect.
Statistically, a connection was noticed.
While no definite conclusions can be drawn due to a lack of research, we can draw conclusions.
First, there is a need for more research.
Second, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, you have another reason to avoid gluten. While schizophrenia cases rarely appear after age 45, it is possible that someone who started off life with a gluten-free diet but then reverted, say in their teens or 20’s after leaving home, might go on to develop the mental disorder after several decades of unbridled gluten consumption.
If you have any suspicious that gluten is affecting you in any way, you should avoid it, even if you have not been tested for or diagnosed with celiac disease. And if you (or someone you know) is beginning to develop early symptoms of schizophrenia, I’d highly recommend going on an immediate and complete gluten free diet in the hopes of halting the disease in its tracks, although again, there are no guarantees due to a lack of research.
See also the Should Schizophrenics Cut Out Gluten? article on this website.
What experiences do you (or someone you know) have with schizophrenia and gluten? Please leave a comment.
- Curtis Dohan’s Genetic Hypothesis of Idiopathic Schizophrenia: Its Exorphin Connection paper
- Psychology Today Wheat and Schizophrenia
- Psychology Today Schizophrenia
- Wikipedia on Schizophrenia