Gluten sensitivity is a milder form of celiac disease that involves a response to the gluten protein found in wheat, known as gliadin. Gluten sensitivity has been linked to a wide array of health conditions. I have encountered so many people—including myself!—who have become well as a result of removing gluten from the diet. It never ceases to amaze me.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry evaluated birth records and blood samples of 211 infants who later developed non-affective psychotic disorders (which includes schizophrenia and delusional disorders). They tested the blood samples for levels of anti-gliadin (anti-gluten) and anti-casein (anti-dairy) antibodies to detect gluten and dairy sensitivities.
They found that those infants with abnormally high levels of anti-gliadin antibodies were almost twice as likely to develop non-affective psychoses later in life when compared to infants with lower levels of antibodies. The infants received the antibodies from their mothers, since immune complexes are transferred from the mother to baby via the placenta.
Gluten sensitivity is particularly linked to autoimmune conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Celiac disease itself is an autoimmune disease. Interestingly, schizophrenia has also been linked to autoimmune conditions.
The lead researcher, Hakan Karlsson, stated, “There are studies in the past that show that people diagnosed with schizophrenia more often than others are suffering from various forms of immune responses to gluten. We will now conduct follow-up studies to clarify how gluten or sensitivity to it increases schizophrenia risk and whether it does so only in those genetically predisposed.”
If you suspect that you are sensitive to gluten, you can go two routes—take gluten completely out of your diet for at least six weeks (up to six months in some cases) to see if your health improves and you notice a difference. The other option is the gluten sensitivity stool test from EntroLab. Testing for anti-gliadin antibodies in the blood, though it was the method used in used in this study, will miss many people who are gluten sensitive. If you are found to have anti-gliadin antibodies by blood test, it’s a sure indication that you should avoid gluten, but be aware that the blood test can also give a false negative.