Several years ago, I heard a speaker in Columbus, Ohio say that possibly 40% of those with schizophrenia may really be suffering from Celiac sprue? Has there been any confirmation of this?
Answered by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.:
Celiac disease, which is also known as sprue, is an intestinal disease leading to the malabsorption of food and subsequent diarrhea and weight loss. It is caused by an allergy to gluten in the diet and is treated by eating a gluten-free diet. In the 1980s, the late Dr. Curtis Dohan and some of his colleagues claimed that schizophrenia was related to celiac disease and should also be treated by removing gluten from the diet. Attempts to treat individuals with schizophrenia with a gluten-free diet (e.g., no milk or cereal grains) produced mixed results but were generally thought to be unsuccessful. A few patients reportedly respond to this diet or to other special diets and, in such instances, the diets should be utilized if they help ameliorate the symptoms. It may well be that a subgroup of individuals with schizophrenia have allergies to various foods that exacerbate their symptoms. Research to date, however, suggests that these subgroups are relatively small and thus are difficult to study.