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Mental Health

The Brain and Gastro Pains

06/30/2008

Question:

I get very very sick (with stomach pains that prevent me from walking or standing up for the next 12 or so hours) when I touch or inhale things that contain wheat. I am already diagnosed with celiac and have a strict gluten-free diet. But over the last sevaral months, I am getting the same gastro symptoms even when I pass by a pizza shop in my car or when I touch something (even a dollar bill that someone gives me) that has traces of wheat. I am sick almost everyday now because even though I wear gloves and try to avoid anywhere that may have the smell of wheat in the air, i am often not successful because wheat is everywhere. I have been to so many gastro and allergy doctors with no success. Is there any way my sypmtoms could be caused by signals subconsioulsy coming from the brain? I am very interested in hearing the perspective of a mental health professional because the link to me getting sick when I inhale and touch wheat is unmistakable and not neccessarily acknowledged by gastros and allergist. Thank you for the time you are giving to this question and I look forward to your thoughts.

Answer:

It is possible that you are conditioned to respond to any stimuli that remind you of wheat, and this reminder leads to significant anxiety and various symptoms. I recommend you consult a psychiatrist who could assess your level of anxiety and “conditioning” that you may be experiencing.

If this is the case, you can begin on a course of treatment that may prove to be beneficial to you - “desensitizing” you to some of the powerful effects wheat has on you. This is not an easy problem to have, as you know- seeking further psychological help may be beneficial.

Good luck to you.

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Response by:

Radu   Saveanu, MD Radu Saveanu, MD
Formerly:
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University