Our kids are diagnosed with celiac, we get them through the diagnosis and the change to the gluten free diet, we think they’re set.  Right?  Well it’s never that simple. I’m sure most of you reading that would have disagreed with the first statement for a variety of reasons (school, friends, family, field trips, etc).

New research isn’t quite looking at those practical applications in a celiac child’s life. But rather it looked into the mental trouble for celiac children who are gluten-free COMPLIANT. It found we need to keep a close eye on this area with our celiac children.

The Research:

Scientists looked at 100 celiac children and 100 “normal” children. According to the abstract published by BioMed Central on Friday, “Emotional and behavioral problems were assessed by the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) and the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC).”

What they found is that celiac children tend to be more anxious in general– and possibly about their health. “Subjects with CD  [celiac disease] self-reported an increased rate of anxiety and depression symptoms and showed higher scores in ‘harm avoidance’* and ‘somatic complaints’**, in the CBCL parentreport questionnaire, as compared to healthy control subjects,” the report said.

They also found that boys exhibit their anxiety in a more outward social way, and girls internalized it more with symptoms like depression.


The research concluded that, “The increased rate of emotional and behavioral problems in children and adolescents with CD emphasizes the importance of an early detection of mental health problems in these children.”

In my layman’s opinion — I don’t think we all need to be freaking out that our children are emotionally or mentally disturbed, but I can see (for example) an older child who remembers their symptoms before being diagnosed might be affected in this way — where they’re so worried about getting sick again that any twinge or cramp is suddenly stressful (pointing to aforementioned somatic complaints).  The median age in this study is around 10 years old.  This is good research for pediatricians and parents of celiac children to be aware of.


Note:  I am not a medical professional.  Please see your child’s doctor for medical advice in this area.

*Harm avoidance is “defined as a tendency to respond intensely to previously established signals of aversive stimuli and to learn to passively avoid punishment,”  2004 European Journal of Pain.  Or more easily understood by Wikipedia: “harm avoidance is a personality trait characterized by excessive worrying; pessimism; shyness; and being fearful, doubtful, and easily fatigued.”

**Somatic complaints is defined as “physical complaints without medical origin” in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2005

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2 Responses to “Research: Mental Health Concerns in Children with Celiac Disease”

  1. Well considering that mental health issues are some of the symptoms of undiagnosed Celiac, it makes sense that for some, it would still continue to be a problem. I know for my daughter and I. If we are glutenend, we are immediately bi-polar again. Though symptoms don’t exist before glutening.

  2. In the last year I have seen several references to celiac patients having very low magnesium. The low rates attributed to issues with a damaged small intestine. Once I started researching magnesium I discovered a range of mental health and anxiety issues associated with low magnesium. I think all celiacs and gluten sensitive individuals may need to look into supplementation. Also there is evidence that celiacs have challenges with dairy and this also has anxiety issue. Taking children gluten free may not be enough we also need to help them as their bodies heal.

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