Celiac Disease and the Dangers of Isolation

As people with celiac disease struggle to maintain a gluten-free diet, dietary restrictions can lead to isolation and withdrawal.

Research indicates that having additional medical conditions is associated with a lower quality of life. One study looked at the combined influence of having a chronic disease and perceived quality of life and wanted to see if it had an impact on suicide-related ideations or suicide attempts. Depression was clearly linked to both. The people who had a lower quality of life had more suicide-related ideation and suicidal attempts than those with a higher quality of life.

Did you know children with celiac disease have a 40% higher risk of suicide? The #1 symptom of the brain from sensitivity to wheat is depression.

With the strong association between people with celiac disease and depression, we need to have plenty of tools at hand to support this at-risk population. Intervention techniques, prevention methods, and treatment strategies should be considered for anyone with celiac, even if you do not currently have a diagnosis of depression.

There Are Several Factors That May Feed Into Suicide Statistics.

Hypoperfusion – There is a strong gut-brain connection. People diagnosed with celiac disease already have villous atrophy in their gut. 73% of people with a sensitivity to wheat have hypoperfusion, or a lack of blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by any food sensitivity.

Low Levels of Neurotransmitters – Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are produced in the gut. A lack of both of these feel good chemicals is associated with depression and anxiety. In fact, 90% of your serotonin levels reside in the gut where it also serves the critical role of helping to stimulate contractions that push food through your intestines.

Dysbiosis – Dysbiosis has been linked to major mood disorders. A gluten-free diet starves your body of some much needed nutrients — nearly 80% of prebiotics in our diet comes from wheat! These prebiotics are fuel for the probiotics that reside in your gut microbiome. When you take away the primary food supply (wheat) from your beneficial bacteria, you starve the probiotics. They die off unless you replace the prebiotics you’ve been getting from wheat with other prebiotic foods. As good bacteria dies off, the bad bacteria continues to flourish and reproduce. This creates dysbiosis (an altered microbiome), an environment out of balance.

Financial Concerns – Even your finances can have an impact on your mental well-being. Several studies have shown finances impact the ability to adhere to a gluten-free diet. A study in Nova Scotia looked at 56 different gluten-free foods and compared them against their counterparts. Across the board, the gluten-free food was more expensive. Financial worries become an additional burden on a person already taxed with other serious concerns. A higher mortality rate is associated with the lack of adherence to a gluten-free diet. Studies show that people who are wealthier are able to comply with the dietary protocol more easily. The lack of adherence may stem from the depression, or it may be a contributing factor toward becoming depressed.

Social Engagement Participation – Studies support a reciprocal relationship exists between an engaged lifestyle and cognitive function. People who are actively engaged in social activities do better cognitively. If you are functioning better cognitively, you are more likely to participate in mental, social, and physical activities because, as shown in the studies, they mutually influence each other.

Isolation, depression, and high rates of suicide make it imperative that you don’t let a restrictive diet stand in the way of meeting the human need for socialization.

Restrictive Diets Restrict Social Life (if you let them)

You are faced with a lifetime of family celebrations, weddings, birthday parties, festivals, and workplace events while living gluten-free. There is no “I can’t wait until this is over” moment. Life on a gluten-free diet is from here on out.

Food is such a focal point of celebrations for the majority of people, but it can be a source of disappointment and frustration for people with gluten-related disorders. Events can become less and less enjoyable when met with the same predictable frustration. You can’t have what everyone else is having — gluten-laden snacks, drinks, and entrees.

You don’t know if that innocent looking side dish is gluten-free, and odds are the person that made it doesn’t either. Asking questions can wear you (and others) down, until you finally throw in the towel. Either you give up asking and eat it against your better judgement despite the impact it will have on your health, or you give up going out altogether in order to control your environment. Over time you may find others pulling away from inviting you to things, or you may pull away from social engagements. It can lead to isolation with Gloom and Doom as your new lifelong companions.

Treatment and Intervention

Unfortunately, people with celiac disease find the requirement of living gluten-free restricts their social life and leads to isolation. This can lead to either abandonment of your gluten-free protocol (which is an absolute necessity for anyone living with celiac disease), or it can lead you to becoming isolated and lonely. Neither are viable options for a healthy, fulfilling life.

You must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. Like it or not, if you have celiac disease, your body needs you to keep to a gluten-free diet. If you choose to dismiss your body’s need for that, you will see other chronic conditions pop up. They may be more serious and life threatening, or it may simply be more of a nuisance that you have to deal with. But your body will be sending out autoantibodies that attack your own cells, every time you eat even the smallest amount of gluten. Eventually, an autoimmune condition will be diagnosed that reveals what your body was up to. Let’s not do any further damage. Stick to the diet.

Find a good therapist. This is especially important if you do not have a built in network of support. It is critical to talk to a therapist if you have depression. Venting to someone can really help take the weight off of the burdens you carry. Remember, your mental health affects your physical and social health!

Actively work to heal your gut, so it can better support you. With the diagnosis of celiac, doctors require total villous atrophy as a criteria. Your gut is already in peril. You want to make sure that your microbiome is brimming with diversity. It should contain approximately 80% of what we would call good bacteria and 20% of what we might consider bad. Since that gut is sending messages to your brain directing it to how it feels and what it wants, be sure your brain is being steered by the good guys.

Reach out for help. If you or a loved one are in crisis and feeling like you want to harm yourself, reach out for a lifeline and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You may be isolated, but you are not alone. They are there to listen. Talk to them and find out how they can best support you during your darkest hours.

Thanks to your ancestral design as a species, you function better with a support network to help you survive, and that is still true today. We all need others in our lives.

Connect with others. Finding ways to reconnect with lost friends and family or connect with total strangers can be helpful in preventing feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can make depressive thoughts more present.

Many people with celiac suffer from isolation and exclusion. As their world becomes smaller, it makes suicide prevention even more challenging. So we need to find ways to keep people socially engaged and improve their quality of life.

Practical Solutions for Maintaining Social Contact

Plan to be spontaneous. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but when you want to continue living spontaneously, you need to be prepared for whatever life may throw at you.

Carry a digestive enzyme with you at all times. Choose digestive enzymes like E3 Advanced Plus or Wheat Rescue. These help to break down minor exposures to gluten within approximately an hour. This timing is critical because you want to make sure it is broken down before gluten proteins exit the stomach. That is when the autoimmune response gets triggered. This is not permission to eat foods with gluten, just protection against trace amounts of gluten that you may encounter in a restaurant setting or at a friends house – wherever life may take you.

Adhere to that gluten-free diet. Higher mortality rates are associated with the lack of a gluten-free diet. Make sure that you address your gut health wholly, not just the absence of gluten, but the replacement of nutrients lost in the process – like prebiotics and probiotics. Improving your gut health will improve your overall health, including addressing issues surrounding depression and anxiety.

Install a gluten-free restaurant locator app on your phone. Wherever you are, when you and your friends or family are ready to eat, find out which restaurants offer food friendly options. To be safe, take a digestive enzyme. One study provided a NIMA Sensor to 804 people. Out of the 5,600+ samples labeled gluten-free in restaurants, almost one-third came back as containing gluten. 27.2% of “gluten-free” breakfast items tested in the study came back as containing gluten. Dinner came in at 34%, with pizza and pasta coming in at skyrocketing numbers. Gluten-free pasta dishes in restaurants contained gluten 50.8% of the time, and gluten-free pizza served in restaurants contained detectable gluten 53.2% of the time.

Carry a NIMA Sensor with you. A NIMA Sensor can detect trace amounts of gluten. If you order gluten-free food in a restaurant and it comes back “glutened,” you’ll know before you take that bite.

Always carry some goodies with you, so you have something to eat. If you end up at a friend’s house and it looks like almost everything they have is infected with gluten, rather than go home, eat a little something to carry you over or supplement it with the little they do have that is gluten-free, like a piece of fruit.

Find alternative opportunities to socialize in places that do not involve food. For instance, enroll in yoga, art classes, or a dance class.

Don’t restrict yourself more than necessary. If chronic pain or sickness has you bedridden, talk to your friends and family on the phone. FaceTime them or Skype. Ask a friend over to watch a movie. Vary the friends a little, so you don’t restrict your world to one friend. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask friends to take you to appointments. You would do it for them if you could. Let them help you.

Become the hostess with the mostest. If you are one of those who loves a good party, show them how it is done with a 100% gluten-free buffet. Have those recipes ready to share with friends and neighbors, so that they can retrieve it for their future events when they are looking for a great recipe or a gluten-free recipe. Let people know that all of the recipes will be gluten-free beforehand, so that anyone with any concerns leaves them at home.

Create and provide a list of gluten-free-approved snacks for a weekly gathering like book club or game night. If others have food sensitivities, work this into the gluten-free list. It doesn’t matter if you end up with a list of only 5 things. They are just snacks and drinks that everyone can enjoy. This eliminates worries for everyone about what people can or can’t eat, and reduces the competitive urge to keep up with or outdo the person that brought food before them.

Find ways to improve your quality of life. A lower quality of life is associated with a higher risk of suicide and a lower adherence to a gluten-free diet. Life may be very different from what you used to dream about, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming. Create a dream list and modify anything that is food-related to include or address those needs. You may find that most things that would improve your quality of life, have nothing to do with food. Dare to dream.

Remember — your now is not your future. Don’t cling to where you are now. Figure out where you want to be and how you can get there. Then live out loud.

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Purple Lapacho

Purple Lapacho, a unique and potent herb, is valued for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its immune-boosting properties, Purple Lapacho may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Fo Ti

Fo Ti, a revered Chinese herb also known as He Shou Wu, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Traditionally used for promoting vitality and longevity, Fo Ti may contribute to maintaining healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system performance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with supporting liver and kidney health, as well as fostering a sense of overall balance


Agave, a versatile desert plant native to the Americas, is recognized for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural fibers and low-glycemic sweeteners, Agave may contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, digestive health, and providing a natural alternative to refined sugars.

Maral Root

Maral Root, a potent adaptogenic herb native to Siberia, is celebrated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Maral Root may also promote healthy energy levels, endurance, and cognitive function. This exceptional herb has been associated with supporting the immune system, fostering vitality, and enhancing physical performance.

  • Antioxidant and DNA Repair Stimulating Effect of Extracts from Transformed and Normal Roots of Rhaponticum carthamoides against Induced Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage in CHO Cells:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27034736/


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Coriolus Versicolor

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Gotu Kola

The main group of components in gotu kola is the triterpenes including asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to positively influence brain plasticity which means a much sharper you.

  • Exhibits significant wound healing ability, Improves microcirculatory parameters, Sedative and anxiolytic properties, Antidepressant, Re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/


Guarana, a powerful plant, is celebrated for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural caffeine, Guarana may help promote mental alertness, focus, and healthy energy levels. This remarkable plant has also been associated with supporting endurance and enhancing physical performance.


Catuaba, a potent herb, is appreciated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Catuaba may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom, a highly-regarded fungus, is esteemed for its potential to enhance overall wellness. With adaptogenic properties, Reishi Mushroom may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This extraordinary mushroom has also been linked to promoting immune system support, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus Root, a powerful herb, is respected for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its immune-supporting properties, Astragalus Root may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. Additionally, this remarkable root has been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, heart health, and supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

Asian Licorice Root

Asian Licorice Root, a versatile herb, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Known for its adaptogenic properties, it may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable root has also been linked to promoting healthy digestion, respiratory function, and supporting the immune system.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a revered herb, is prized for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. With adaptogenic properties, it may assist the body in managing stress and maintaining harmony. American Ginseng has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and supporting the immune system.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, a robust herb, is admired for its potential to support overall wellness. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has been linked to promoting mental clarity, healthy energy levels, and increased endurance.

Peruvian Maca

Peruvian Maca, a nutrient-packed root, is celebrated for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Maca may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This powerful root has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, endurance, and supporting hormonal balance.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra Fruit, a unique berry, is renowned for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Boasting adaptogenic properties, it may help the body adapt to stress and maintain equilibrium. Schisandra Fruit has also been linked to promoting healthy energy levels, mental clarity, and supporting the body’s natural defense


Acai, a nutrient-dense berry, is recognized for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Rich in antioxidants, Acai may help support the body’s defenses against environmental stressors, while promoting healthy energy levels and vitality.

Himalayan Goji

Himalayan Goji, a nutrient-rich fruit, is valued for its potential contribution to overall wellness. This superfood is believed to support the immune system, promote healthy energy levels, and aid in maintaining balance within the body. With its antioxidant properties, Himalayan Goji may help protect cells from environmental stressors.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion. It has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels.

Mikania Guaco

“Guaco” is Sun Horse Energy founder Dan Moriarty’s favorite herb, and the reason why he’s still alive. Traditionally, it’s a well-known herb for snake bites, scorpion stings and other venomous creatures. Guaco acts as a non-steroidal bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways without steroids. As a result of guaco opening up the airways, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are better able to accept oxygen transfer and get rid of carbon dioxide. In Brazil, Guaco syrup is one of the most popular herbal medicines used to treat the symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis, cough and hoarseness.

Pine Bark Extract

Many studies have shown that pine bark possesses anti-aging properties. It’s very similar in nature to the well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, resveratrol, which is abundant in red wine and grapes. Pine bark has a proven beneficial effect on lipids, the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Osha Root

A traditional Native American herb, Osha is also known as “Bear Root”. Native Americans noticed that when bears emerged from hibernation, the first thing they did after being in a state of torpor for 4 months was not feast on salmon or drink water, but rather, dig up osha and eat it. Why? It decongests and wakes up the lungs. Native Americans who used Osha were able to run further, and treat their colds and congestion. Modern research studies suggest Osha may support the immune system by offering protective effects against oxidative damage.

I want to thank you for your existence. I want you to know that functional medicine has changed my life, well the life of my autistic son. So much so that I plan on taking the Functional Medicine Health Coach Certificate and work with my new friend who is now a Functional Medicine Doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine and spread the word on GI testing and how finding the underlying issues will help eliminate autistic traits. 

I hope to be able to meet you one day so I can share this great news with others. Changing my son’s diet has changed him. Food is medicine!! By the way, I’m cooking my rutabaga. I’m Italian and never grew up with these. With love.

Rita Mastrangelo

I found you on YouTube a couple of weeks ago and I’m hooked. I listen to you a couple of hours every morning. I am being tested for celiac disease and have been gluten-free for a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of your insight.

April Renee

Just wanted to tell you that you’re amazing! You are helping so many people all over the world! Including me! Thank you so very much, Dr. Tom O’Bryan!

Patricia Puddle

Good morning Dr. Tom, Would just like to say thank you! This time last year I was going through a hell of a time with my gut. Terrible indigestion on a regular basis, feeling as if I had eaten a boulder and the tiredness was doing my heed (scottish for head) in! With two young girls being tired is not an option!

I went to the doctors on a number of occasions and they decided to prescribe omeprazole to mask the problem, sorry help my problem. I decided taking these drugs was not an option for me! So I started googling the life out of it!! Low and behold you started popping up!! Oh and Gluten intolerance! 

Your advice has been second to none! You have in my case really simplified what gluten does to my body and now that I have cut it out (which as it appears in lots of foods, some I can’t understand) I have found that my symptoms very quickly reduced and now I’m a year down the line they have gone for the vast majority of the time!! For that I’m truly grateful. I now follow you on YouTube and Instagram, which continues to educate me and the importance of gut health. I look forward to your future advice. Yours faithfully,

Gary Christie

Black Ant Extract

A Chinese medicine tonic, Black Ant is used to support energy levels. (In traditional Chinese medicine, Black Ant is given to increase vital Qi.) Research studies demonstrate that Black Ant supports the function of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the immune system, producing and activating lymphocytes.

Siberian Ginseng

This well known adaptogen has been proven to reduce cardiovascular stress, lower and stabilize blood sugar to healthy levels, and encourages a more efficient lipid metabolism.

Green Tea Extract

Healthy energy producer and one of the more researched and promising supplements. It upregulates fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. In recent years the consumption of Green Tea Extract has shown to help prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease because of it’s preventative effects on chronic inflammation.

  • Helps with weight loss by increasing a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well
    as fatty acid breakdown:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26093535/
  • Decrease cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, has strong free radical-scavenging
    activity inhibiting LDL oxidation, reduce the adhesion molecule expression, has antitrombotic activities by inhibiting platelet aggregation:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15969262/ 


This is an enzyme/protein that speeds up biochemical reactions and helps to prevent and dissolve the formations of blood clots (thrombi); addresses the problem of blood hyperviscosity, thereby preventing thick and sticky blood, which is not conducive to overall cardiovascular health.

Water Hyssop

Best known as a neural tonic and memory enhancer this powerful herb increases cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter modulation.


Referred to as the women’s ultimate power herb, by some herbal enthusiasts. Used in India for at least 3,000 years, Shatavari, is structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. Some researchers have concluded shatavari can be a highly effective alternative to synthetic hormone replacement therapy for peri- and menopausal women.

Chaste Tree Berry

Improve female libido, mitigate PMS, reproductive health

Horny Goat Weed

Increase para-sympathetic nervous activity, mitigate osteoporosis, improve libido, enhance smooth muscle tissue function

  • Treatment for erectile problems and nerve injuries in human patients:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551978/
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Bulgarian Tribulus

Enhance athletic performance, improve circulation, improve sexual performance, more efficient rates of protein synthesis


Cordyceps, a genus of mushroom, gained lots of attention after Chinese long-distance runners performed impressively at international competitions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Along with high-altitude training, supplementing with cordyceps was part of their intense training program. A research study concludes that cordyceps improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after supplementation with it because the fungus is thought to increase blood flow, enhance oxygen utilization; it also acts as an antioxidant. It also has powerful anti-tumor properties, the ability to regulate the endocrine system, enhance your immune function, and protect the kidneys, lung, liver, and other organs.

  • Immunomodulatory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities, promotion of endurance capacity, and learning-memory improvement, can be used to treat conditions such as hyposexuality, night sweats, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthenia, arrhythmias, and other heart, respiratory, renal and liver diseases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924981/
  • Various pharmacological actions, including nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849494/

Ginkgo Biloba

In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in disorders like Dementia disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disorders.

  • Potent antioxidant properties and ability to enhance peripheral and cerebral circulation, ginkgo’s primary application lies in the treatment of cerebrovascular dysfunctions and peripheral vascular disorders:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11565403/
  • Experimental results showed extracts of G.Biloba to upregulate protein expressions of BDNF:
  • The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive functions in aged female rats;
  • The role of oxidative stress and brain-derived neurotrophic factor: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446810

Lion's Mane

A very yummy and medicinal mushroom is a well established candidate for brain and nerve health because it triggers neurite outgrowth and regenerates damaged nerves. Lions Mane has been extensively studied for its neuro-health properties.


Jiaogulan, a versatile herb, is celebrated for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic properties, Jiaogulan may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, boosting endurance, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.