The Gluten Connection to Depression

By Nutritional Weight & Wellness Staff
August 12, 2014


By Jamie Carlson, RD, LD

Almost 15 million American adults struggle daily with depression. Are you one of them? According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults increased by almost 400 percent in the past two decades. Antidepressants may help some people, but not everyone. What is causing so much depression? Could it have something to do with what we’re eating?

Is gluten causing your low moods?

Researchers have found a connection between processed foods containing gluten and a higher rate of depression. So, have you ever considered that the cereal and toast you eat for breakfast is causing your mood swings and low energy? One-third of people with celiac disease (a gluten intolerance) suffer from depression. Furthermore, adolescents with celiac disease have a 31 percent higher risk of depression compared to a 7 percent risk for all adolescents.

Grains to avoid for gluten sensitivity:

  • Depression-Gluten_GlutenGrainsCallout.jpgWheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Oats


For people with celiac disease or even a gluten sensitivity, eating foods containing gluten damages the intestinal tract. Over time, the intestines become more and more damaged from eating gluten, which affects the production and absorption of essential nutrients for good brain function. When key nutrients are lacking and the intestines are damaged, people cannot make their “feel good” brain chemicals.

Avoid depression with these essential nutrients

Depression-Gluten_Zinc-Bvitamins-Folate.jpgIn addition to the gluten connection to depression, there are a few key nutrients that may be contributing to your low moods. Zinc deficiencies are common among people who are depressed. In fact, almost three-fourths of all Americans are deficient in zinc. Because zinc plays an important role in the production and utilization of the “good mood” brain chemicals, low levels of zinc have been linked to major depression. A study from the Journal of Affective Disorders (2009) found that zinc supplementation for people on antidepressants significantly reduced depression scores.

Vitamins B12, B6, and folate are also important because a deficiency of these B vitamins has been linked to depression. Clinically, we have found that people with gluten sensitivities become deficient in B vitamins, particularly B12, which results in low energy, foggy thinking and low moods.

Good food sources of zinc and B vitamins include beef, chicken, turkey, pork, dairy products, eggs and pumpkin seeds. People with gluten sensitivities often have compromised digestion, so they do not make sufficient nutrients to support good brain function. If you are experiencing depression, make sure you are getting the foods listed above in your diet. You may also need to supplement with zinc, B12, B6 and folate to have better moods and more energy.

Would going gluten free help your depression?

Going gluten free and eating the Weight & Wellness Way has helped many of our clients at Nutritional Weight & Wellness achieve better moods. When you follow a gluten-free eating plan and have adequate animal protein (12-14 oz. per day), you are able to make enough healthy brain chemicals to support good moods and energy.

If you are experiencing depression, think nutrition first. We can help. Meet one-on-one with a nutrition counselor and take our online class, Going Gluten Free the Healthy Way.

For more information, listen to our podcast: The Gluten Connection to Depression.

About the author

This blog content was written by a staff member at Nutritional Weight & Wellness who is passionate about eating real food.

View all posts by Nutritional Weight & Wellness Staff


Sue Pilling
Please call me about nutrition

I have recently been diagnosed with Folate deficiency. I would like to see about getting reimbursement through my insurance for nutrition consulting
February 7, 2017 at 9:21 pm


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