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Mood Swings - Nutritionally Related Trigger #2 - Gluten Intolerance

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

When you think of mood swings, does the word “gluten intolerance” come to mind? Probably not. However, non-celiac gluten intolerance has recently been linked with mood disorders.

What is gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is a disorder related to wheat. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and wheat products. Since many commercial food products contain wheat in some form, gluten seems to be a pervasive ingredient.

Gluten is found in baked goods and products as well as non-wheat grains such as barley and rye.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance:

  • bloating

  • belly pain

  • diarrhea

  • nausea

  • tiredness

  • anxiety

  • headache

  • joint

  • muscle pain

  • confusion

  • stomach pain

How gluten can affect your mood

Chances are you’ve probably experienced an impact in your mood caused by gluten. Gluten has protein fragments, called exorphins, that mimic the naturally occurring endorphins in the body. These exorphins bind to opiate receptors and induce feelings of happiness while also acting as a pain reliever. This class of chemicals however has strong withdrawal effects.

If you have a sensitivity to gluten, it will cause inflammation in the gut which will lead to an inability to absorb all the nutrients needed for the body to function.

Some essential nutrients that are vital for your mood are:

  • zinc

  • B vitamins

  • vitamin D

Also, an unhealthy gut will not be able to make as much serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter needed for happiness and well-being.

Managing gluten intolerance

The best way to live with a gluten intolerance is to go completely gluten-free in your diet. We live in a day and age where gluten-free options are everywhere, and the popularity of the gluten-free diet has made adopting the lifestyle relatively easy. Pay attention to labels when shopping. Sometimes gluten is included in things like spices and not just food. It can be easier to find gluten-free products at health food stores. Also, make sure to record your diet with a diary of sorts over time to keep track of any foods that could cause symptoms.


1. Berry, J. (2018). Endorphins: effects and how to increase levels. Retrieved from

2. Borchard, T. (2016). Gluten, depression, and anxiety: the gut-brain link. Retrieved from

3. MacGill, M. (2017). What is gluten intolerance? Retrieved from

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