Gluten: How Does It Play into Obsessions?

February 23, 2018

Obsessions are a type of negative thinking, usually future-oriented and recurrent, and associated with apprehension or a vague sense of danger. We’ve all experienced this kind of cognition at some point in our lives. But unlike people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), they have not invaded our lives.

We let these thoughts run through our minds but don’t think they’re that important. We know that our brain emits ideas, whether in the form of words, images or sensations, and there’s no need to see them all as important.

People with OCD, on the other hand, analyze all these thoughts, get stuck on them and believe them. Consequently, they feel bad about themselves simply for thinking them. They mistakenly believe that having these thoughts means they are real. However, if we stop to think about it, we’ll realize the world inside our head is one thing, and the real world is quite another.

The consensus is that the disorder comes out of a genetic and biological predisposition, together with an individual’s profile: their personality, education, etc. The disorder works through compulsions. Compulsions can be motor-driven (e.g., washing your hands twenty times a day) or cognitive (go over the same idea in your head for six hours straight).

Compulsions neutralize the obsessions and the resultant anxiety, allowing the person to momentarily relax. Then, this momentary relief acts as negative reinforcement, increasing the likelihood that the compulsion will keep happening and even become generalized. Positive reinforcements received from the environment can also keep the disorder going, a point we can’t forget either.

What does this have to do with gluten?

What we have just discussed in the introduction is a bit of what we know about the disorder. Recently, Dr. Luis Rodrigo Saez, professor emeritus of the University of Oviedo, has been working on the neurological manifestations of Celiac disease. If a person has Celiac disease, they’re intolerant to gluten. And gluten is a protein found in wheat flour and some other grains. 

GLUTEN written in flour.

Dr. Saez has confirmed that gluten by itself has the power to inflame and damage certain areas of our brain. This may lead to various neurological diseases, ranging from ataxia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, polyneuritis and epilepsy to Tourette’s syndrome and OCD.

The explanation is that gluten crosses the blood-brain barrier, which is like a wall that protects our nervous system. Therefore, gluten is able to inflame certain brain structures. Obviously, it’s not about pointing fingers at gluten. Rather, it’s about identifying it as one possible origin and trigger of OCD and other psychiatric or neurological disorders.

These findings, which are quite significant, give new hope to people with OCD. At the very least, it’s a new avenue to explore. Perhaps it could mean successful treatment without the need for medication.

What is the treatment?

Along with good psychotherapy, essential for learning how to break dysfunctional habits and thoughts, treatment would be based on totally eliminating gluten from your dietSupermarkets have been offering gluten-free products for a long time, so the treatment doesn’t take much work. For example, wheat flour can be substituted with rice flour or corn flour, which does not contain the protein.

Shopping for food without gluten

The hard part is that you have to follow the diet for life, and to the letter. In other words, it doesn’t do much for you to not eat gluten all week and then stuff yourself with wheat bread on the weekend. Once you’ve decided to give up gluten, you’ll need to stick to the treatment plan. That is, if you want to get the most out of it.

We’re proud to present empirical findings of other professionals to help move science forward. But most of all, we love sharing the good news that people with disorders like OCD now have another possible natural alternative — with fewer side effects, too.

So if you have any of the disorders mentioned here, we encourage you to consider the new findings. And maybe take gluten out of your diet. Check the results after a year… you’ll be surprised!