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Women with celiac disease more likely to be depressed, disordered eaters

Heather Rudow December 30, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/BrightonGuy

Newly released results from a study by Penn State, Syracuse and Drexel University researchers revealed that women suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts negatively to gluten products, are more likely to be depressed and more likely to be disordered eaters even if they keep the disease under control through diet.

The researchers surveyed 177 women with celiac disease for the study, including asking them about what it was like for them physically, emotionally and behaviorally to live with the disease, how well they stuck to a gluten-free diet, how they fared in stress management and questions regarding body image.

“We found that most participants frequently adhered to a gluten-free diet, and this greater compliance with diet was related to increased vitality, lower stress, decreased depressive symptoms and greater overall emotional health,” said researcher Josh Smyth. “However, even those people who were managing their illness very well reported higher rates of stress, depression and a range of issues clustered around body dissatisfaction, weight and shape when compared to the general population.”

When people with celiac disease eat gluten, some of the effects on the body include abdominal pain, constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Smyth says the results of the study could have implications for people with similar types of food allergies, like Crohn’s disease.

“Going out to eat with friends or to a holiday potluck is a much different experience for these people because they have to be vigilant and monitor their diets,” Smyth said. “They may feel that they are a burden on a host or hostess. In many cases the only treatment option they are given is to manage their diets. I think we need to educate patients at diagnosis or post-diagnosis about some of the other associated difficulties they might experience and provide strategies for how to better manage those things. I am a proponent of elaborating our treatment models to not just address diseases, but also to address the psychological, social and behavioral aspects of disease as well, as they can influence disease outcomes and the well being of patients.”

Source: Penn State

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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