Celiac and Depression Case Study

Celiac diagnosis and treatment helps depression

by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist

Client names and identifying information changed

Caleb was so sick that he couldn’t make it to the clinic for his first consultation, so I first saw him via skype. He had gut pains, body aches, diarrhoea, foggy head and depression. The depression bothered him the most as he was unable to work and could barely function.

Even though he was 48 at the time, Caleb had to move in with his mother so she could cook for him. Mum Janet was very stressed and worried about her son and was committed to doing what was needed to get him better as soon as possible.

We ran some tests and he had ‘leaky gut’ which was quite bad, multiple vitamin B6, B12, Iron and vitamin D mineral deficiencies, and he tested positive for celiac disease. He already had a strong feeling that he had an issue with gluten foods, but because he was so exhausted, he often ate two minute noodles until he moved back to his mother’s house.

He also drank copious amounts of chocolate milk when he didn’t have much energy, as it was easy and filling, but the milk also tested reactive, along with most of the gluten cross-reactive foods and a few others. His system was so sensitive that every time he tried to take any vitamins he would feel too sick, so we just needed to work with food to get Caleb feeling better.

Once we knew what we were working with, Caleb and Janet were instructed to go 100% gluten free and also be totally free of all the cross reactive and other reactive foods. We couldn’t risk any gluten or reactive foods in the entire house in case of any cross contamination, even down to checking all personal care items for gluten.

That might seem strange, but did you know that wheat protein is used as a thickener in many products like shampoo and creams? They all had to be checked and removed from the house.

I put Caleb onto a diet that was not only reactive food free, but also included foods that would help to heal his leaky gut and damaged microvilli, as well as being rich in nutrients to re-build his deficiencies. Initially we started with some basic broths to help settle the inflammation in his gut. The broths felt very calming for Caleb’s digestive and nervous systems.

Although he didn’t have much energy from the broths alone, he was happy to sleep a lot while his body healed. It took about a month to settle his system from the inflammation. Then we added some good fats such as avocado to build up his calories and give the body more healing nutrients to help him to feel better mentally and emotionally.

We also gradually added slow cooked meats to the broth and some low fibre vegetables. Note: high fibrous vegetables can further inflame an already inflamed, irritated, damaged gut lining.

As Caleb’s energy and appetite gradually increased, he added more meats and a broader range of vegetables (leaving the fat on his meat cuts). He ate low inflammation foods and stayed off foods he was reactive to, as well as foods from the nightshade and brassica families and all legumes, to keep it simple for his digestive system.

Then after a month, with Caleb’s recovery going well, we introduced some small quantities of coconut milk/cream/yoghurt and oil (all unsweetened and plain at this stage) plus sweet potato which he craved. Caleb was gradually getting better every week and by about four months he was eating a full range of foods except for the known reactive foods.

We left these out for 12 months and then tested him to see what was reactive. At that point only quinoa and rice showed reactive, along with gluten and dairy which will probably never be appropriate for him again.

Caleb left all reactive foods out of his diet for about 14 months as this felt right for him. He then re-introduced one at a time, feeling his body for reactions and energy drops, and he found he was fine. He did sneak in some dairy one day and felt so bad energy wise that he didn’t have it again.

It can take two to three years for a gut to heal from celiac disease, and Caleb was no exception. He had a stool check and a colonoscopy with biopsy after two years and he was nearly completely healed with back to normal microvilli. Inflammation markers in the gut were all good and his bacteria levels were reasonable.

It took a lot of work for Caleb to get back to where he felt ‘normal’ again, but well worth it.

After the initial 12 months of just working with the diet, his sensitivities were not so bad, so we introduced some probiotic bacteria to increase his levels of good bacteria (the ‘good guys’) along with some zinc and vitamin D supplements because he wasn’t getting much sun and his zinc levels weren’t increasing enough with the diet to help to fully heal his gut. It was great that he could tolerate the supplements.

He didn’t like to eat fish so we also used some omega fats to support his mental health. The combination of the above in the right sequence, worked to get Caleb feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally and he was back at work after 12 month’s recovery.

Many of my clients have recovered faster, but Caleb was in a bad way and probably had celiac disease for some time, but ignored the symptoms until his body couldn’t take any more.

It pays to listen to your body and get checked early, without delay.

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