[Editor's Note: The following is a post I recently submitted to a listserv concerning attitude and nutritional deficiencies in celiac disease. I posted it in response to a heated exchange folks were having on the topic.]
I frequently see abnormal personalities in my travels, presentations, discussions and on listservs. I meet people with anxiety, depression, irritability, distrust and other unexplained “attitudes.” There is an explanation - and no they aren’t jerks, as much as people might want to call them that. Whether they are gluten-free or not, they are sick – malnourished in fact.
Nutrients play a huge part in our attitude.
Here is an example. While dropping off a shipment of Recognizing Celiac Disease books at the post office on Friday, a woman in line with thinning hair and poor skin color noticed my Gluten Free Works label. She asked what the packages were and I told her the packages contained books I was sending to customers.
She immediately launched into a tirade about how only biopsy-proven people have celiac disease and people are making money off celiac disease and how she should write a book because her daughters have celiac disease and she has read all the research and knows everything…
She didn’t know me or anyone in the post office, yet she was barely able to control herself and was rapidly becoming hysterical. (If she had slowed down for a second I could have told her that her alopecia diffuse (balding) was probably due to malabsorption of biotin, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc* and she should ask her famous celiac disease expert doctor who diagnosed her daughters in 1998 to test her again. Because if she had a healthy balanced diet, then the most logical explanation for her nutrient deficiencies was malabsorption. (*Alopecia diffuse, Recognizing Celiac Disease, P. 170)
Anyway, this woman’s actions were abnormal and although she was obviously wealthy from her dress I saw signs of malnutrition in her thin hair and poor pallor. So, instead of being drawn into a pointless argument (when I agreed with almost everything she said), I walked her outside, gave her my card and encouraged her to check out our website. I smiled, said goodbye and walked away.
Now, maybe when she sees that Recognizing Celiac Disease is recommended by professors and physicians at Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson and Temple University medical schools and national celiac disease support organizations her mind will change about a book she never read, but that is beside the point. Understanding nutrient deficiencies and having the ability to identify deficiencies in this person allowed me to size up the situation, take the correct course of action and treat her properly – as a person who needs help.
It is vitally important to understand that our attitude depends in great part on our nutritional status. If we are low in certain B vitamins, we become paranoid. Low in iron and we get apathetic or anxious. Hypoglycemic and we’re irritable. These are just three examples by the way – other nutrients affect attitude.
I feel very lucky, because in researching Recognizing Celiac Disease I was able to see how the mind is affected by all these nutrient deficiencies and the almost-miracles that happen when people correct them. I have experienced this first-hand – my chronic anxiety, irritability and general feeling of unease resolved when I removed gluten from my diet and supplemented missing nutrients. Like others who have related similar stories to me, I woke up one day and noticed that I felt good, really good – about things, myself and life in general.
The key to becoming well and staying healthy in celiac disease (and even for non-celiacs) is understanding and identifying our nutrient deficiencies and correcting them. This applies to attitude, bones, digestion, skin, eyes and every body system. Once we know, we can help ourselves and our families.
Here is an example taken from the Reader Letters section at the Recognizing Celiac Disease website written by a woman who now understands how nutrient deficiencies were affecting her all those years before diagnosis. The “Cleo” the writer mentions is Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN, the author of Recognizing Celiac Disease.
Your book is fantastic. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease 2 years ago. I purchased books and did quite a bit of on line research about Celiac disease after my diagnosis. I was somewhat knowledgeable about Celiac Disease when I purchased your book, Recognizing Celiac Disease. I found your book to contain a wealth of informaton about Celiac that is not available in any other book. It may sound strange, but your book helped me to understand my life a bit better. I now understand what was going on inside my body when I exhibited various symptoms over the years, prior to diagnosis. Knowing what was going on and realizing that I was not weak or lazy or just plain nuts has made me feel better about who I am. Thanks for that.
Thanks so much for your wonderful book.
So you see, nutrient deficiencies can explain the celiac “rage” and a host of personality issues: ADHD, learning problems, anxiety, apathy, depression and inability to concentrate to name a few. The great part is that once you remove gluten and identify and correct the nutrient deficiencies, your mental state normalizes.