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Mental Health

The Brain and Gastro Pains



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.


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
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University