Gluten and Anxiety: Update

I totally went off my gluten free diet and my body feels like crap.

Last summer, after becoming convinced there was a connection between gluten and anxiety I decided to try a gluten free diet. I remember feeling better in as little as 4 days and how very happy I was. Everything felt better– from my anxiety to my palpitations to my bowels to just being bloated in general.

Eliminating wheat and white flour foods from the diet was not easy for a carb addict like me, but I did the best I could nevertheless. And I was very good in the beginning…

I made it through the entire apple season last fall by using this gluten free flour recipe for my homemade apple pies (labor intensive but good).

Thank God for the internet. I was thrilled to find this awesome recipe for chicken wings– so happy to eat chicken wings again. Every gluten free site says they are a no-no and I was so sad to have to give them up. When I found this recipe I was doing the happy dance.

Here is a good article I found on what you can and cannot eat on a gluten free diet.

I was still going strong being gluten free at Thanksgiving. I host the dinner at my house and the only real sacrifice for me was foregoing my traditional stuffing and eating my watered down gluten-free version. All in all it wasn’t too bad. But on the inside I was starting to resent that fact that I couldn’t partake in so many of the foods that I loved so much.

By the time Christmas rolled around, I wasn’t feeling so happy about the gluten free diet anymore. I *love* baking (and eating) homemade Christmas cookies, you have no idea. I look forward to it every year. It is such a big part of the season for me. This year I only made one batch of cookies for the family. I made this gluten free cheesecake instead, but it wasn’t the same.

I did cheat on the diet once. I came home from work one night stressed out, tired, and famished. There was a bowl of macaroni and cheese sitting on the counter (we have late night eaters in my house lol) and before you could say “gluten free” that sucker was gone. I inhaled it. And man did it taste good. All gluey and chewy and full of substance and everything that gluten free foods aren’t.

I wasn’t feeling the love the next morning when I woke up with palpitations and could feel the anxiety again for no discernible reason except that I had ingested the gluten filled mac and cheese.

It was about that time I went to my doctor and asked for a blood test to see if I really did have a gluten intolerance. When the Celiac test came back negative, I was very happy. (Bread and pasta and cheese doodles and comfort food, here I come!)

My chiropractor said that just because I tested negative didn’t mean I wasn’t intolerant. He said to listen to how my body felt, not what some blood test that wasn’t very accurate said. But I didn’t listen to him. In fact, I stopped going to him.

I knew I felt better being on a gluten free diet, but I went into denial and felt, hey I can cheat once in awhile. Maybe it’s all in my head anyways…

So I went off the diet for the most part (no, for the whole part, who am I kidding?) and returned to my old eating habits. I want back to going out to restaurants and eating whatever I felt like, having cake and pizza if it was on the menu. Part of me felt so happy to be eating wheat and gluten filled foods again (my comfort foods), but there was a part of me that knew it probably wasn’t doing me any good.

Last week I took an inventory of how crappy I’ve been feeling lately on the physical front:

  • I’m back to having palpitations again, especially at night. My heart bangs away in my chest while I’m trying to fall asleep and it feels like it’s going to explode.
  • I’m bloated again, had to buy a new pair of pants. I feel like a sausage. 🙁
  • My pms is worse than ever. Right now my boobs are so sore and I suspect it has something to do with the bloating
  • I have been getting horrible debilitating migraine headaches with a visual aura. When I was gluten free I was only getting migraines about once a month but lately it’s more like 4 or 5 times a month.
  • My occasional joint pain is worse overall. This may be a flare up of my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis but it was not so bad when I was gluten free.
  • I can feel anxiety when I breathe (I don’t know how else to describe it), but there is a level of something (adrenalin I guess) that I feel coursing around in my veins and I can literally feel the anxiety with every breath. Even first thing in the morning. Not fun.
  • Oh, and I’ve had really bad hemorrhoids for almost 2 weeks. Nasty…

You know what? For me it’s just not worth it to eat all that white flour. I’m sick of feeling like crap.

Yesterday I decided I have to go back to a gluten free diet. For me, there is definitely a gluten free foodsstrong connection between gluten and anxiety. Since I’m doing everything in my power to stop panic attacks and heal from anxiety once and for all, I really can’t kid myself anymore about the diet. I have to take care of my mind and body, not one or the other.

You are what you eat as they say.

In my last post I was saying how getting better feels so good- and it does. My panic attacks are way down and I have not been avoiding anything lately. My self help methods work, and I am diligent in taking care of myself emotionally.

But I can’t ignore the physical part of how I feel any longer. I’m ready to feel better mind and body.

Have any of you noticed a connection between gluten and anxiety? Does eating healthier in general help you with your anxiety?

I wish you peace,
Jill G.

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4 Responses to Gluten and Anxiety: Update

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi Jill,
    I am not sure when you made this post, but I can relate to a lot of things that you mentioned. I am gluten sensitive, and my heart palpitations (at night when i’m in bed) or now, if i eat gluten at all, feels like I’ve run up the stairs. I also get high anxiety/mood swings if and when I eat gluten. I am like you, I struggle staying 100% gluten free, but I know when i do eat it, i pay the price. I thought this was all in my head, because I tested negative for Celiac’s, but positive for the sensitivities. I just had to respond to this post when I read about the heart palpitations because my friends/family thought i was nuts! but over time you get to know your body and figure out what effects it. I hope you are doing well.

    • JillG says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I tested negative for Celiac’s too and when I told my medical doctor that eating gluten free helps me with my anxiety, he looked at me like I had 2 heads. He had no idea what I was talking about.

  2. Eric says:

    Hey Jill,

    I haven’t been feeling well for about 2 years, daily.

    A week ago I decided to try going gluten free. I’ve been trying all sorts of things ranging from diet constraints (I practice a very ingredient-oriented, balanced diet) to changing my fitness tendencies.

    I’ve been confused about my condition, considering I’ve been living with a very healthy lifestyle for several years. Some months ago, I began to develop anxiety symptoms that have really hindered my lifestyle and about to work well. I could go on and on, but rest assured, this has been concerning and extremely frustrating. But I’ll get to the point.

    2 days after I quit gluten, I had felt better than I had in 2-4 years (pending one random day, literally, that I had felt remarkably well several months ago).

    My anxiety symptoms disappeared! Litterally. Heart palps, check. Breathing abnormalities, check. Bloating, check. Acid reflex (especially at night), mostly check (like I said, it’s only been a week).

    Anyways, about an hour ago, I received a call from my doctor, who confirmed that my celiac/gluten intolerance tests came back negative (some questions remain regarding the gluten intolerance aspect of this or these tests, as I’m uncertain whether or not the test or tests focused on that individually. I imagine it/they had.

    So I became disgruntled. Not that I want to no longer be able to enjoy xmas cookies, angel hair pasta, breaded meats, IPAs, etc…simply that I finally feel I’ve discovered the culprit of my unwarranted distress, fatigue, etc. Eliminating alcohol didn’t work, eliminating caffeine didn’t work; cardio after dinner did help a bit, but not once bedtime came around. No peanut butter didn’t work (I liked to eat a banana with peanut butter in the morning for a while). Extra water didn’t work. I already am a regular at the gym and very athletic. I don’t eat artificial preservatives, sweeteners, food colors, or transfat (hydrogenated oils, etc). I’m careful with sugars, and only drink water as a beverage.

    Also, a few days ago, my mother lied to me, saying that she didn’t use flour in the gravy we had with dinner. She isn’t keen upon my symptoms, and feels that everything is created by our minds, i.e. get over it. Anyways, 2 hours after dinner, having no knowledge of my gluten intake, I had a mild/moderate anxiety attack which lasted for roughly 3 hours. We were at the movies watching the new batman movie. When we got home, the symptoms remained, and I asked my mother about the gravy, since the thought came to my mind during the ride home. She hesitantly admitted to the flour within it, entirely made of rye and wheat.

    So basically I’m just sharing my experiences with you, as you did with the rest of us. I have no medical confirmation as to my gluten sensitivity, and I don’t believe I have a history of it myself. However, at the moment, the amazing effects of cutting gluten from my diet appears undeniable. I will continue to test my sensitivity to it in the future, but my situation, from my perspective, lends significant evidence connoting the potential for false negatives from a gluten sensitivity test (nurse said test included gluten sensitivity, though as I said I need to affirm this. Should I discover otherwise I’ll edit this post or add a new one, as I will keep this page in my relevant bookmark folder for a while).

    So yeah, thank you for your story. It makes me feel a little better that, and less alone, in my situation.

    • JillG says:

      You are certainly not alone. I tested negative too and so did my sister yet we both feel tons better since going gluten free. The more i read, the more I am convinced that white flour is to be avoided- it’s garbage. Don’t get hung up on test results, you know how you feel and if you feel better off gluten then there’s your answer. 🙂

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