I’ve been putting off writing on this topic for a while. I mean, who wants to talk about depression, being sad and struggling? No one. When someone on the street, in the store, in your social group says “How are you?” they really don’t want to know for the most part. What would they do if you said “Actually, I’m going through a rough patch, am struggling with depression and don’t know how to pull myself out of it.” Eyes would get huge and they would probably stumble through a “I’m sorry you’re going through that” and find the nearest exit. And who can blame them?
At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of changes in my life. We had major change at work that resulted in a lot of stress at work and with that came a bit of depression. I started researching the Celiac-Depression connection at that time. Then quit researching and from time to time have gone back to the research. For some reason, now is the time to write about it.
Because I promised myself, and my readers, transparency I’m going to write things super honestly in this starting with the fact that I’ve struggled with depression on and off throughout most of my life. Most people who know me, if you ask them to describe me, will say that I’m an outgoing and happy person. Which I am most of the time but there are times, sometimes weeks where I struggle to even pretend that things are ok. In fact, there are few friends, when I’m like that, that can pull me out of my shell where I’m hiding.
In my research I found some interesting things. The first is that there is a strong connection between Celiac Disease and Depression. People without Celiac do get depressed but there was a higher incidence with those with the disease. In fact, a 1998 study showed that there was a 31% higher chance of an adolescent with Celiac having depression, compared to 7% in an adolescent without Celiac. (Carta, Hardoy, Usai, Carpinello, and Angst, 2003). A survey of 177 women (yes, I know that’s a small pool) with Celiac showed that 37% of them met the diagnosis of depression. (Arigo, Anskis, and Smyth, 2011). Now that is a HUGE number! And yes, women with Celiac are more likely than men with Celiac to be diagnosed with depression. I am assuming that this is because more women than men have the disease.
So WHY? Why the connection? There are a few ideas on why. Some say that it’s a B vitamin deficiency, that because of the malabsorption of this vitamin, there is a link to depression. Others say that the malabsorption of tryptophan (which is needed for production of serotonin and helps with moods) is a cause. Another reason could be that, even though you’ve gone gluten free, you are still getting “glutened” and that is a cause for depression.
I think one of the biggest reasons is the gluten free diet all together. All of sudden you can’t eat the things you love, when you go out you are “that person” asking for a gluten free menu and modifications to your meal. When you go to a friend’s house you have to ask about EVERYTHING on the table or be left out or bring your own food which leads to odd conversations. Nothing is normal anymore because all social events revolve around food. The birthday cake in your office is off-limits and you have to explain why even a little piece could hurt you. All of a sudden you feel like an outcast…and it’s painful sometimes.
So sometimes the easiest thing is to hole yourself up in your house and not go out because you know that you’re safe in your own kitchen.
This has been a long, emotional journey to get me to write this. I honestly sit here writing and crying and thinking about a couple people I’ve been talking to the last couple weeks who are struggling with the isolation and my heart hurts for them. My heart breaks all of the people who deal with this because I understand how hard it can be and I hate that we have to live like this but the struggle is real, folks. And you’re not the only ones going through this. Just KNOW you are not alone.
If you are struggling with depression, get help. Find someone to talk to, have friends who can sense that something is going on and that you need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. Have people in your life that you know you can go to. If it’s advanced, PLEASE seek medical help. While the world is a tough one, there is SO much good in it. Let’s find the good…
My hope and prayer in writing these blogs is to help people. To see the good in the world despite the fact that we have to eat differently. To become stronger despite the fact that we are different. Together we can make a difference it the world, I believe it.
By the way, there is a lot more research out there on the Celiac-Depression connection. I’d be happy to share it with you if you are wanting to know more.