It might surprise some people to learn that there is a link between gluten sensitivity and mental health. Thanks to the fabulous work of Dr Tom O’Bryan and Dr Fasano this link is becoming better understood.In this particular article I want to talk about the development of eating disorders in relation to gluten sensitivity and mineral deficiencies. There is no doubt that factors contributing to the development of eating disorders are complex. These include genetic and psychological factors, but what is often over looked is the role that gluten sensitivity and nutrient deficiencies might play in the development of these complex disorders.Just to be clear, gluten sensitivity isn’t celiac disease. Although in some cases celiac disease can be a factor. Gluten sensitivity is a separate issue where evidence of a problem is not often found in the gut. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity are rarely traced back to a food source because we don’t associate psychological symptoms with food. Gluten sensitivity can have many affects. The ones I see often in my clinic are depression, irritability, brain fog and anxiety.And what about zinc deficiency?
Gluten sensitivity on it’s own doesn’t cause eating disorders but the psychological effects it can have on susceptible individuals can significantly add to the development of the disorder. Often other nutritional factors are important too. Usually nutritional status is compromised before the onset of the disorder. In a clients history sometimes there is a period of significant dietary change at a time where optimal nutrition is vital to development. This can include following a poorly designed vegetarian diet or removing dairy foods during a crucial developmental time, like puberty.Suddenly ceasing to eat meat can lead to low zinc levels as the body doesn’t adjust quickly enough to the change. Also, the use of medication like the contraceptive pill can lead to lower levels of zinc still. If this happens at a time when your body needs more nutrients for growth and development some body systems will suffer.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency symptoms include loss of appetite, depression, loss of periods, disperceptions and weight loss. These symptoms sound similar to those of anorexia. Anorexia and zinc deficiency are often found in the same person.
Zinc deficiency in anorexia is, of course, part of a bigger picture which includes other nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues and possible issues with protein absorption. Due to the complex nature of eating disorders it is important to seek professional help from both a psychologist and a nutritionist.