Gluten has taken a hit lately with many people opting to go gluten-free.
But one 37-year-old woman truly does need to avoid the protein, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. However, rather than the health claims that motivate many people, this woman actually develops psychosis when she eats gluten.
According to her case reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the woman has a history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (1).
While rare, this thyroid inflammation is the most common cause of underactive thyroid in the United States, according to the American Thyroid Association (2).
Despite that, the woman also experienced sudden weight loss, leading doctors to suspect celiac disease. That diagnosis was confirmed, and later the woman was hospitalized and placed on a gluten-free diet for 3 months.
During that time, the woman’s delusional symptoms subsided. However, the case report notes that her symptoms returned when she ate food containing gluten.
According to Live Science, her symptoms while off the gluten-free diet were so severe that the woman thought her friends and family were out to get her (3). Without gluten in her system, though, the woman understood that the ingredient had an effect on her and wanted to avoid it.
Her doctors suspect the woman actually has a rare condition called Hashimoto’s encephalopathy, according to the case report. The condition is associated with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis but is known for neurological symptoms like dementia or hallucinations.
All three conditions—Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s encephalopathy and celiac disease—are confirmed or thought to be autoimmune disorders.
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- Delichatsios, H. K., Leonard, M. M., Fasano, A., and Nosé, V. (2016 May 12). Case 14-2016 — A 37-Year-Old Woman with Adult-Onset Psychosis. New England Journal of Medicine, 374: 1875-1883. doi: 10.1056/NEJMcpc1514473.
- American Thyroid Association. (n.d.). Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Lymphocytic Thyroiditis). Retrieved from https://www.thyroid.org/hashimotos-thyroiditis/.
- Miller, S. (2016, June 22). Gluten Triggers Strange Delusions in Woman with Celiac Disease. Live Science. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/55166-celiac-disease-gluten-psychosis.html.