Treatment Guide

Celiac “Rage,” Personality Issues and Nutritional Deficiencies

[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.]

Hi there,

The “rage” we see in posts from time to time is part and parcel with celiac disease. My business is celiac disease. I own and edited the groundbreaking medical reference, Recognizing Celiac Disease.

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.

Deb C.
Via Internet

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.


About John Libonati

Author Information: John Libonati, SW Florida Publisher, & The Gluten Free Works Treatment Guide.


  1. I have not been officially diagnosed with celiacs but feel quite certain I have it. I am 48 years old and have had many problems, beginning with the stomach, since 4th grade. I just went gluten free less than 2 years ago, but have since been symptom free and have mostly recovered my mental and emotional health. I had unknowingly “poisoned” myself for 40 years and am just getting my life back. I’m no longer depressed, fatigued, irritable, intolerant, or having stomach problems. I am getting back my short-term memory but I still feel less than normal cognitively and sometimes emotionally. Some days I’m on my game and other days I’m very sporadic in my mental faculties.
    I have made many bad decisions over the past 10 yrs, previous to going gluten free, and wonder if maybe my many years of malnutrition had a factor in it. My family has always supported me through the years with my problems until just the other day. I informed my sister of another huge set-back in my life and she questioned me, “With all your bad luck, do you think that your problems are because of YOU? What is it you’re doing wrong?” I was very hurt and appalled when she said this since none of my “bad luck” was done on PURPOSE, which is what I think she insinuated. But I had always questioned myself the same thing secretly. “What is wrong with ME and why do I always end up in such bad situations?”
    Do you think I AM/WAS “deformed” (for lack of a better word) due to the malnutrition I suffered over so many years?
    Note: I have found large amounts of Folic Acid (2000 mg. a day) has a significant impact on my short-term memory and cognitive abilities. I wonder if there are any other supplements that may be able to help me. Feel free to e-mail me if you have a response you’d like to share. Put “CELIACS ROCK” in the subject line so I’ll know not to delete.
    Thank you for listening,

  2. That’s really interesting, and it makes a lot of sense. I remember before my diagnosis, I would get really depressed and irritable. When I’m contaminated, I can usually tell either by sudden physical heaviness or by change in mood. I would suddenly get very depressed or I would lash out. I’m really interested in reading your book after reading this post.

  3. My symptoms are: 1) depression, 2) circles under eyes, 3) gas and 4) urinary incontinence. Every time I have gluten, forgive me, I leak a bit. Doesn’t happen off gluten. Hope this helps someone else to recognize it.

  4. i think your book would be an interesting read. shame i can’t afford it. i have refractory coeliacs disease. i was born with coeliacs disease. am 40 now. please could you publish more info on coeliacs rage as i have serious anxiety and can get so angry to the point of self harm. i am under the doctor for this but ahe has never suggested coeliac rage. if i can hit her with it, it may help. thank you

  5. I’m so glad you wrote this post. I believe this is a significant issue for many people. We are only just beginning to understand the interactions/relationships between the gut and the mind. I was diagnosed with “classic” celiac disease symptoms in the 1960s when I was a toddler and failing to thrive. Other members of my family of origin have serious mental health issues and will not consider the possibility that they, too, have problems digesting gluten. I can’t be the only celiac in the family, and irrational rage/histrionics have destroyed my family relationships. I appreciate your calming, rational treatment of that poor woman.

    • small world! i was diagnosed in August 1968 when i was 2 years 10 months! what a long struggle it has been.

  6. Yes. But other things cause alopecia too. Hyperthyroidism, Hashimotos, chemotherapy. It Just sounds like assumproblemarCaeliacDease. Isn’there a simplreblood test for gluten intolerance.f

  7. . . though malabsorption could be. Anyways, I just think health is very multifactoral. Especially in initial possible diagnosis. Though, in view of the epedemic of diabete, I really wish the government wpuld would restructure the food pyramid.

  8. p.s. The gov did with a “plate”. Grains still seem too high.I think.

  9. I don’t think that all this hyperventilating about diet are at all true. You have people throughout history who have been maltreated in concentration camps, jails, etc. They did not exhibit any form of mental illness, so even though some people may exhibit form of mental illness from lack of vitamins, I seriously doubt such a causal link between what we eat and our brain functions. Many, many people have performed admirably in all kinds of situations throughout history without many vitamins at all, and even having very poor diets. So, I don’t think disorders of the mind are at all related to diet. If you asked a psychologist about this, they would agree with me. Many people in fact are very neurotic who fastidiously look after what they eat, so there is no real link. I think personally that the brain can be infected with a type of virus, or lesion, that causes people to act in odd ways. I, in fact, can assure you that after having been in a relationship with a woman who had bipolar disorder, started to get the same symptoms as her as I got older. I was perfectly normal before I met her, but after that my temper, like hers, started to become unmanageable. Even now, I am unable to hold a job because of my temper, and will probably be on the streets soon. I have tried everything, but nothing seems to work.

  10. A deficiency that isn’t often diagnosed is amino acid deficiency, as reflected in total blood protein. I can’t imagine why this is so often missed, as celiac disease destroys gut function, and the digestion of protein foods to extract their amino acids is probably the gut’s most complex task. Perhaps the most important results of not having sufficient aminos are (1) degeneration of connective and muscular tissue, and (2) personality quirks that come from poor sleep and low hormone levels from insufficient aminos. As with many lab tests, total blood protein should be at least mid-range, or higher, for optimum results. If the patient has lost the ability to digest, then a free essential amino acids preparation can be invaluable.

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