CULLINANE: Food allergies can affect mental health |

CULLINANE: Food allergies can affect mental health

Monica Cullinane
Free Press Health Columnist


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Cost: $20

Seems like it is not by coincidence that this month is Celiac Disease and Mental Health awareness month. I was reading an article on Facebook about a child who was having serious mental issues due to a gluten allergy. The article is called: “The gluten made her do it: How going gluten-free saved my daughter’s mental health.” Here is part of that story:

“While I was looking into that possibility, I came across a newspaper article from March 2012 in the Huffington Post called ‘Is Sensory Processing Disorder the New Black?’ It described the case of a child who sounded just like my daughter. In the story, the girl’s extreme behavioral symptoms disappeared after her mother consulted a nutritionist and took gluten out of her diet.”

The nutritionist, Kelly Dorfman, was a co-author of the Huffington Post article, which claimed that gluten intolerance sometimes manifests with “neurological symptoms.” In other words, for some people, it doesn’t necessarily (or only) cause tummy trouble — it messes with your head.

In celiac disease, the body produces antibodies in response to gluten that can be measured in the blood. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, an estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, which causes a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from depression to abdominal pain. The NFCA says research indicates that six times as many Americans — 18 million — have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Dorfman said it’s not uncommon for her to see patients in her practice whose only symptoms of gluten intolerance have to do with their behavior and mood. It tends to run in families, she said. The client she describes in her book was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young child, and her father was taking medication for anger management. It turned out that both were simply gluten intolerant.


I was coaching some students from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition last year and one of them had a wonderful story. Diana Janowiak’s son, now 19, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2002. The disease actually causes the immune system to destroy important, nutrient-absorbing parts of the small intestine, according to the National Institutes of Health.

She remembers feeling confused and unsure about what her son could eat.“There are so many different products now than there were then,” she said. “I remember standing in Walmart thinking,‘OK, my kid’s going to eat corn chips for the rest of his life.’”

Janowiak, who loves to bake and cook, said she read up on the topic and searched the internet for products she could use to cook for her family. Her shop, which she opened in March 2010 to sell gluten-free products, was a logical extension of her growing expertise.

“I wanted to help people, especially as the market grew,” she said. Diana offers seminars at the local hospital in Mount Zion, Ill., and has a thriving gluten-free shop, shipping all over the country today.

But it is not just gluten that can affect people; there are hidden food allergies or sensitivities that maybe are making you fat, depressed, fatigued, with skin rashes, headaches, muscle and joint aches, or insomnia, to name some of the symptoms.

At the Integrative Medicine Center here in Grand Junction, you can do a food allergy test. Each individual has their own biochemistry, so what is showing as an allergen for me may not show as an allergen for you. I like to think of it as our bio-individuality — not just with our blood, but with our environment, our ancestry, etc.

When we talk about food intolerance or sensitivity, it is important to understand the concept of leaky gut. If you are not absorbing the nutrients from the food you eat because the lining of your intestines might be irritated or inflamed, then the protective barrier lining of your gut leaks into your immune system.

The good news is you can discover those foods that overload the system, eliminate them and just harvest the benefits of great health with no medications, no surgery, just healthy food!

A big part of all this is to get educated, know how to read food labels, and have a support system. If you are interested in discussing your health goals and want to know about the programs we offer at the Integrative Medicine Center, call 970-245-6911 to schedule a FREE health consultation.

Get your FREE e-book titled “Integrative Nutrition: Feed your Hunger for Health and Happiness” and FREE “3-Day Spring Detox Guide” at

Resources: Canadian Celiac Association(CCA),, Gluten Free Grand Valley support group

Academy of Yoga owner and certified health coach Monica Cullinane has a private practice coaching clients on how to reach their goals for health, weight loss and stress reduction. Additionally, she teaches yoga, presents workshops and lectures on living a healthy balanced life. She is available for a FREE initial consultation at the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado ( Call 970-245-6911 to schedule an appointment.

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