Experiencing Anxiety with celiac disease.. is it common?
Feeling anxious or feeling sad while managing celiac disease is common.
Research supports the association of anxiety and depression with celiac disease (1, 2, 3, 4). The reasoning behind the association is due to many factors, including the stress of adherence to the diet (1) and handling the adverse physical symptoms that come with accidental contamination (4).
Research has also shown a relationship in both directions between the gut and the brain (1), suggesting damage to the intestines could influence the brain, increasing the likelihood of developing mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
If you feel anxious or depressed, it is very important that you talk to your doctor.
It is important to know you are not alone!
How to cope with
It can be difficult to navigate social situations while adhering to a strict gluten-free diet.
Social events come up that force you to plan your meals ahead or make quick decisions when out to eat.
You may have to explain the disease to others that do not understand it's severity.
At times you may feel left out because you can't eat the foods others enjoy.
Although these feelings are completely normal, there are ways you can make it easier for yourself when eating gluten-free and socializing.
Consider incorporating the guidance below to be prepared for any social situation and participate in the joy of sharing food with others.
Tips for Socializing on the
Explain in Advance
It can be difficult to explain the importance of strict diet adherence to a friend or family member who doesn't understand while out socializing. Instead, have a conversation with your friends or family ahead of arrival to explain what you can and cannot eat. This removes the burden of confronting others in the moment and allows you to enjoy socializing without being pressured to eat foods you aren't sure are safe.
Buy Your Favourites
If there is a party coming up that you know will have a variety of foods or beverages you used to eat, take some time ahead of the event to buy or make your favourite gluten-free options and bring them for yourself. It is important to still have fun while socializing on the gluten-free diet!
If a party is themed or offering certain foods that are difficult to make gluten-free, do your research to find a gluten-free substitute to bring with you. Sharing similar foods with the ones you love is important for everyone to feel included when socializing.
It is always a great idea to have gluten-free options ready for the spontaneous moments when socializing. Make easy meals and snacks ahead of time and freeze them. It is great to grab a frozen slice of gluten-free pizza or a brownie to quickly reheat when friends and family decide in the moment to get takeout or have dessert. You can be stress-free and spontaneous when you make things ahead.
Share With Others
When we invite others to try gluten-free options or prepare gluten-free foods with us, we allow them to learn more about the diet and how it does not have to be a sacrifice. Cooking gluten-free meals together is a great way to socialize and share foods while having fun. Encourage others to try the local gluten-free takeout options with you to experience something new. You may be surprised how much your loved ones enjoy gluten-free options and don't notice a difference.
If you feel you cannot handle the stresses of the diet on your own, don't hesitate to reach out to the variety of support services at your disposal. (insert support services)
There are other members of the celiac community that share your struggles and could offer support.
Consider becoming a member of the Canadian Celiac Association to connect with Canadians across the country that have celiac disease.
Slim M, Rico-Villademoros F, Calandre EP. Psychiatric Comorbidity in Children and Adults with Gluten-Related Disorders: A Narrative Review. Nutrients 2018;10(7):875.
Häuser W, Janke KH, Klump B, et al. Anxiety and depression in adult patients with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet. World J Gastroenterol 2010;16(22):2780-87.
Zysk W, Glabska D, Guzek D. Social and Emotional Fears and Worries Influencing the Quality of Life of Female Celiac Disease Patients Following a Gluten-Free Diet. Nutrients 2018;10(10):1414.
Smith DF, Gerdes LU. Meta-analysis on anxiety and depression in adult celiac disease. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2012;125:189-93.