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How are a gluten allergy and depression associated?

People who suffer from an allergy to gluten may manifest a number of symptoms after consuming or inhaling gluten-containing products. These symptoms may be gastrointestinal, such as constipation, bloating or bloody stools, or they may be in the form of rashes, headaches, anemia and general malaise. Another important symptom of a gluten allergy may even be depression.

Lethargy, low self-esteem, a negative outlook, difficulty getting out of bed, and a general lack of pleasure in life are some symptoms of depression that have been described by people with allergies. In many cases, depression is too quickly blamed on a chemical imbalance or genetic disposition, leaving the sufferer feeling like a helpless victim. Furthermore, counseling and prescription medications fail to address the root cause of allergy-induced depression. Though scientists are still researching the connection between a gluten allergy and depression, some theories are considered plausible in the scientific community.

After the digestive tract, the nervous system is the most vulnerable system to the effects of an autoimmune response to the consumption of gluten. One theory suggests that the inflammation caused by the production of antibodies, which attacks the gluten protein as well as the body's own tissues, affects the brain and nervous system, causing inflammation, leading to depression. Research also shows that people with untreated celiac disease are at higher risk of brain circulation abnormalities, and more frequently suffer from anxiety and depression than those who follow strict gluten-free diets.

Another connection between a gluten allergy and depression exists as a result of deficient protein absorption among people with a gluten allergy. According to studies, gluten sensitivity may interfere with the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan, which is responsible for feelings of well-being and relaxation. A lack of tryptophan can lead to depression.

Furthermore, serotonin (a chemical naturally produced by the body) is often deficient in people who suffer from depression. Because 90 percent of the body's serotonin is produced in the digestive tract, scientists believe that the types of foods we consume may impact on the production, or lack of production, and absorption of this chemical.