How in the world did the brain get separated from the rest of the body? I’ve always believed that interacting anatomy and physiology run the show, Case in point, celiac disease and mental health. Let’s look at the connections….

Stunningly, the human gut microbiome consists of 10-100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that attacks the lives of some 1% of the world’s population. And the numbers are rising.

As we reviewed in part one, it’s triggered by the ingestion of gluten. And its potentially devastating symptoms target anatomy and physiology most anywhere in the body.

That includes the brain, home of the emotional and mental disorders.

The connections…

The gut-brain axis

At the core of our learning mission is the gut-brain axis, comprised of the brain, endocrine system, immune system, autonomic outflow, and gut microbiome.

Gut microbiome

The star of the show is a community of microorganisms known as the gut microbiome. You may have heard of gut microbiota. The words are virtually synonymous. Microbiota refers to just the microorganisms, microbiome is the microorganisms and their genes.

Stunningly, the human gut microbiome consists of 10-100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Though set at birth, it can be modified by factors, such as diet, infections, antibiotic use, and age.

By the way, did you know that the enteric nervous system, which governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract, is often referred to as the “second brain?”

Gut-brain connections

Okay, for any of this to make sense, there has to be a communication conduit – a gut-brain highway, if you will.

The vagus nerve, our tenth cranial nerve, is the superhighway for signaling between the gut and brain. Other roads include the work of neurotransmitters, hormones, and immune molecules.

Those neurotransmitters – the list includes serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). All of them play a crucial role in brain function, and are players in mood regulation.

Interesting: 95% of our serotonin supply is released in the gut through specific intestinal cells.

There’s a balance here. And any disruption – chronic inflammation, stress, dietary choices – can cause emotional and mental health problems.

Celiac disease, the brain, and mental health

gut-brain axis

The initials above the top arrow: Autonomic Nervous System, Enteric Nervous System, Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis

We’ve given the gut its due, so let’s talk about the impact of celiac disease on the brain and mental health.

Granted, research continues; however, studies have shown that people with celiac disease are at an increased risk of emotional and mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder.

Really, the connection sticks out like a sore thumb. All of them – gut microbiome, immune responses, inflammation – play pivotal roles in shaping mental well-being.


Speaking of inflammation, celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, triggers an immune response that can generate chronic inflammation within the small intestine. Keep in mind, autoimmune diseases mistakenly target and attack innocent anatomy and physiology.

This inflammation has the potential to extend beyond the gut, affecting other systems, including the brain. That means the inflammation associated with celiac disease could play a role in the development or exacerbation of emotional and mental health disorders.

For much more about inflammation and emotional and mental health, check out Inflammation and Mental Health Symptoms on Psychology Today.

Can you sense the power and reach of the gut-brain axis?

Nutritional deficiencies

Finally, nutritional deficiencies in those with celiac disease, resulting from malabsorption of nutrients in the small intestine, can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Deficiencies in B vitamins, particularly B12 and folate, have been linked to mood disorders as well as anxiety.

Uncovering and understanding the connections

When my mood and anxiety journey began 50 years ago, I had no clue as to what was going on. But just knowing that what I was struggling with had a name and legitimate causes – even if I didn’t know what they were – inspired me to keep digging for answers.

Uncovering and understanding the connections between celiac disease and emotional and mental health is crucial – to all of us in pain.

May the research continue.

Be sure to review part one to learn celiac disease basics.

Again, Celiac Disease and Mental Health: Unraveling the Gut-Brain Connection was a contributor to this piece. Give it a look-see.

If you have celiac disease, want to learn more about it, or wish to donate, hit the links:  Celiac Disease Foundation  Beyond Celiac

Gut-Brain Axis and its Neuro-Psychiatric Effects: A Narrative Review, appearing on Cureus, is a worthy read.

Content image: Suganya, Kanmani, and Byung-Soo Koo Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International  No changes made.

Hey, those Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles: Hit the titles.

Bill White is not a physician and provides this information for educational purposes only. Always contact your physician with questions and for advice and recommendations.

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