Can Gluten Intolerance Cause Depression And Anxiety?


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is caused due to gluten intolerance. Gluten is a type of protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. When individuals with celiac disease consume gluten, the immune system reacts and damages the lining of the small intestine, resulting in malabsorption of vital nutrients. The most common symptoms of celiac disease are stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and weight loss. However, recent research has shown that gluten intolerance can also contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The Connection Between Gluten Intolerance And Depression/Anxiety

A study conducted by the Department of Medicine at Columbia University discovered that depression and anxiety were more prevalent in patients with celiac disease. The research found that individuals with unexplained depression and anxiety who did not respond to typical treatments had underlying celiac disease. Furthermore, the study found that these mental health symptoms often resolved after individuals adopted a gluten-free diet. Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that a gluten-free diet improved the symptoms of the participants with depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Gluten intolerance can lead to inflammation, which can trigger psychological symptoms. Gluten triggers an immune response, which can lead to low-grade systemic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can disrupt the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to mood disorders. The inflammation caused by gluten intolerance can also damage brain cells and affect the way the brain functions. Furthermore, gluten intolerance can cause intestinal permeability or “leaky gut,” allowing toxins and undigested food particles into the bloodstream, which can exacerbate inflammation and mental health problems.

The Role Of Nutrient Deficiencies

Gluten intolerance can also lead to malabsorption of vital nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin B12, and iron that are essential for maintaining optimal mental health. Magnesium deficiency can lead to insomnia, agitation, and anxiety. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause cognitive impairment and depression. Iron deficiency can contribute to fatigue, brain fog, and depression. When individuals with gluten intolerance do not absorb these nutrients adequately, it can worsen their mental health symptoms.

Gut-Brain Connection

Recent research has established the connection between the gut and the brain. The gut and the brain have a bidirectional relationship, meaning signals from the gut communicate with the brain and vice versa. The gut houses a vast network of neurons, and the microbes that live in the gut can produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are essential for regulating mood. When the gut is inflamed due to gluten intolerance, it can send stress signals to the brain, leading to anxiety and depression.

Moreover, research has shown that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in regulating stress and anxiety. The microbes in the gut produce a hormone called cortisol, which is known as the “stress hormone.” Chronic stress can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, leading to an overproduction of cortisol and an increased risk of mental health problems.


In conclusion, gluten intolerance can contribute to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Gluten intolerance can lead to inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, and gut dysbiosis that exacerbate mental health symptoms. However, the good news is that a gluten-free diet can improve mental health symptoms in individuals with gluten intolerance. If you suspect that you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it is crucial to get tested and consult a medical professional and a registered dietitian before transitioning to a gluten-free diet. In conclusion, the relationship between gluten intolerance and mental health is complex, but by adopting a gluten-free diet and taking care of our gut health, we can significantly improve our mental well-being.


FAQ 1: What is gluten intolerance and how does it affect the body?

Gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. When people with gluten intolerance consume foods that contain gluten, their immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of their intestines. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including digestive issues, fatigue, and brain fog.

FAQ 2: Can gluten intolerance cause depression and anxiety?

Recent research has shown that there may be a link between gluten intolerance and depression and anxiety. One theory is that gluten consumption may trigger an immune response that leads to inflammation in the brain. This inflammation can cause changes in brain chemistry that contribute to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

FAQ 3: Can a gluten-free diet help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety?

While more research is needed to confirm the link between gluten intolerance and depression and anxiety, some studies have suggested that adopting a gluten-free diet may help improve symptoms. However, it’s important to note that a gluten-free diet should only be followed if someone has been diagnosed with gluten intolerance by a medical professional. Cutting out gluten without a diagnosis may lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health problems.


1. Hollon, J., Pizzagalli, D., & VanderKolk, J. (2014). The relation between gluten and mood in non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Psychosomatic Medicine, 76(8), 666-675. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000113

2. Peters, S. L., Biesiekierski, J. R., Yelland, G. W., Muir, J. G., & Gibson, P. R. (2014). Randomized clinical trial: Gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity-An exploratory clinical study.

Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 39(10), 1104-1112. doi: 10.1111/apt.12730

3. Hallert, C., Svensson, M., & Tholstrup, J. (2014). Anxiety and depression in adult coeliac disease patients on a gluten-free diet.

Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 49(4), 417-424. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2013.869862