Gluten Psychosis on the agenda at the Coeliac UK Conference (almost)

My neurologist Prof Hadjivassiliou gave a presentation at this years Coeliac UK conference in March. Unfortunately I couldn't get a ticket however his presentation is available to view online, along with all of the other presentations from the conference.

While the main focus of the professors talk was ataxia and the neurological complications associated with CD and NCGS, he did mention encephalopathy and psychosis, albeit very briefly.

Of the 1000 patients seen by the professor at his clinic in Sheffield, 127 (13%) presented with encephalopathy. He describes gluten encephalopathy as "foggy brain, cognitive difficulties, episodic and often severe and intractable headaches, rarely psychosis".

He also describes how 42% of patients presenting with encephalopathy didn't have coeliac enteropathy, ie they had no gut damage.

So as you can see, there is just a passing mention that gluten antibodies can cause a major psychiatric illness. Surely this is the single biggest discovery in the history of mental health research...?

My take away from this is that we are only just scratching the surface when it comes to the psychiatric implications of eating wheat. This is disappointing as the research linking wheat and major psychiatric illness has existed for decades! In 1973 an experiment on schizophrenic patients in a locked ward showed that those treated with a cereal and milk free diet were discharged earlier than those who were secretly given wheat gluten in their food. In 2011 researchers found that coeliac disease and schizophrenia have approximately the same prevalence, but epidemiologic data show higher prevalence of CD among schizophrenia patients. Coeliac doctors also noticed their patients were schizophrenic about 10 times as often as normal (2). These findings support research conducted in 1966 that established a correlation between schizophrenia and cereal consumption (3) with further research in 1967 into adult schizophrenics finding they had CD at a rate 50-100 times the amount that one would expect by chance in the general population. With the new knowledge that encephalopathies without enteropathy exist at a rate of almost double that of those with gut damage the implications are simply earth-shattering.

My former psychiatrist wrote to me the other day from the annual American Psychiatric Association congress in New York. He wanted to tell me that there was mention of the link between anti-gliadin antibodies and psychosis on the agenda:

"I thought of you as they mention gliadin as one culprit for the inflammation - the psychiatric community is catching on."

The link exists, a strict gluten free anti-inflammatory lifestyle is the solution. How many people will benefit? I suspect the number could be in the millions.

You can view all of the presentations from the conference on the Coeliac UK website here. This is the full video of the professor's presentation:

  1. F. C. DOHAN, and J. C. GRASBERGER. Relapsed Schizophrenics: Earlier Discharge from the Hospital After Cereal-Free, Milk-Free Diet. 1 June 1973 
  2. Cascella NG, Kryszak D, Bhatti B, et al. Prevalence of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity in the United States Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness Study Population. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 2011;37(1):94-100. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbp055.