OCD and Gluten Free

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by stockimages
freedgitalphotos.net

While we are lucky there are good treatment options for those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, there is still much we don’t know about OCD. What causes it? Will it ever be curable? Is it preventable? Big questions that often leave us searching for answers.

And if you’ve ever scoured the Internet looking for these answers, you’ve likely come across not only helpful information, but questionable “theories” as well. How do we sort it all out?

I recently received emails from several of my readers asking what I thought of the theory that those with OCD should eat a gluten-free diet. No doubt the #1 New York Times bestseller, GRAIN BRAIN, has a lot to do with these questions. The book is written by David Perlmutter, MD, a renowned neurologist, who argues that wheat, carbs, and sugar negatively affect our brains. I have not yet read the book, but hope to soon; it looks fascinating.

For the record, I have been eating a gluten-free diet myself for a year and a half. I don’t have celiac disease, but feel eating this way has improved my overall health. This doesn’t mean I believe eating a gluten-free diet can cure, or even reduce the symptoms of, OCD. The truth is I just don’t know.

But really, what does anyone have to lose? Changing eating habits for the better can be beneficial even if there is no effect on one’s OCD. And there are no side-effects to worry about!

My concern about the various theories and claims out there is that some people with OCD might focus too much on these “cures.” For example, if OCD sufferers believe that changing their diet will greatly reduce their symptoms, they might feel it’s not necessary to tackle Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. Let’s face it. ERP therapy can be scary. If there’s a “legitimate” way to avoid it, many people might do just that.

As I’ve said before, those with OCD should have an entire toolbox filled with all sorts of things to help them fight their OCD. The most important tool, I believe, is ERP therapy. Certainly other things might help as well, and everyone’s tool box will differ. It’s up to those with OCD, as well as their health care providers and the people who love and care for them, to figure out what belongs in their own tool boxes. Carefully weighing the pros and cons of each choice is critical to creating the best possible toolbox. So while giving up gluten, trying medication, or focusing on mindfulness might all be good additions, I don’t think they should ever replace the most essential tool, ERP therapy.

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14 Responses to OCD and Gluten Free

  1. Rose says:

    I think you addressed your readers’ questions well. I think it is dangerous to claim any treatment, therapy, medication, diet, exercise routine, etc can “cure” any mental health issue. Help reduce symptoms, maybe…cure, highly unlikely. When someone I know goes off their meds or stops treatment altogether, I worry.

  2. I totally agree, Rose. I also don’t like to advise people because I’m not a therapist or an expert on what is going on with them. But I can share my own experiences and hope that information can help people. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I agree that we can have a lot of things in our toolbox, but we can’t depend on any one thing to “cure” us. Good treatment is still key. I have been working on a more gluten-free diet because of digestive issues, but if it helps me with OCD/depression, all the better! :-)

  4. C says:

    This is awesome! I’ve never heard of this before and am doing research on it ASAP! I wonder how long gluten stays in your system, if a trial run for x amount of time could be done to see if it helps…

  5. 71º & Sunny says:

    Totally agree with you, Janet. If someone wants to improve or change their diet, I say go for it. But, unfortunately, I don’t really believe it will do much for OCD. But hey, if it works for someone, then I’m certainly happy for them.

  6. We’re on the same page here, Sunny! Thanks for commenting.

  7. I don’t eat gluten because my digestive system doesn’t tolerate it, but eliminating gluten had no effect on my OCD symptoms. If anything, they have been worse, but that is unrelated.

  8. Travis says:

    I went on a high fat low carb diet , while also subsequently getting rid of gluten (as I stopped consuming grains and high glycemic foods.) Also managed to get rid of diary and processed junk and I’ve never felt better.. but one small slip up like caving into a carb load, or eating processed junk and I have a relapse.

    • Hi Travis, So glad to hear you’ve had such good results with a change in your diet! It’s also interesting that you notice a big different if you slip up. I wish you continued good health!

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