How Going Gluten-Free Helped Me as Someone With IBS and Depression

IBS is a condition with the lovely, explicit name of irritable bowel syndrome. As you can imagine, I prefer IBS. I started experiencing symptoms my freshman year of college. I tried everything under the sun to get rid of the near-constant stomach pain and other, more unflattering symptoms. This included over-the-counter medication, ingesting peppermint oil (known to be soothing to the stomach), going dairy-free, keeping a food log to attempt pinpointing what foods were most problematic, etc. I knew going gluten-free was the diet of choice for many with IBS but was warned against it due to its seemingly highly restrictive nature.

It was not until I read this study that so much began to change. The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia did not study people with celiac disease, but rather people believed to be gluten-sensitive who were eating gluten-free to alleviate their IBS symptoms. This was critical because I had already been tested for celiac (which came back negative). This study did not find a discontinuation of gastrointestinal issues but what they did discover was that patients were still reporting feeling better. A chance to mentally, even if not physically, feel better? Yes, please!


So, for the past six months or so I have been gluten-free. Here are some changes I noticed:

1. Far less frequent stomach aches.

2. Bowel movements that were regular (rather than periods of constipation and periods of diarrhea).

3. An improvement in my thoughts regarding my body (possibly due to a decrease in bloating).

4. Generally elevated mood.

And you know what? It didn’t turn out to be a terribly difficult transition. There are so many gluten-free options out there on the market now and restaurants are becoming more accommodating, sometimes even having a separate, gluten-free menu on hand. So, for those of you who think you may benefit from a gluten-free diet, here are some tidbits you may what to know…

Things to avoid: Anything with wheat barley and/or rye.

What this most typically consists of: Breads, pastas and pastries (and yes, that means pizza too…bummer).

Something you wouldn’t expect gluten to be in, but it is: Soy sauce!

When eating Mexican: Make sure to ask for corn chips and/or corn tortillas. Those are all safe, whereas flour ones are not.

Restaurant suggestions near you: Download Find Me GF in the app store!

Now onto the good part. What brands to seek out for the best tasting gluten-free things!

1. For sandwich bread: Udi’s is my go-to. A good second choice is Rudi’s (especially their loaf made with honey, yum!).

2. For a salty snack: Snyder’s pretzels. Any chips that are corn or potato based are also gluten-free.

3. English muffins: Glutino makes a corn based one that is my English muffin of choice, but there are a few others out there.

4. Cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios, Corn or Rice Chex, and anything by Van’s (Cinnamon Heaven is my favorite!).

5. Crackers: I use live G free for crackers I’m going to top with something, cheese or hummus for example. For more of a snaking cracker, Lance makes peanut butter and cheese-filled ones.

6. Protein bars: Luna, Lara, Quest and Clif.

7. Flour: Bob’s Red Mill makes a number of gluten-free flours. (They also have a pancake/waffle mix,  pizza crust mix and corn bread mix.)

8. Dessert: Duncan Hines has some gluten-free cake mixes – just be sure to check the box because not all of their products are gluten-free. Betty Crocker also makes a number of gluten-free dessert mixes (P.S. the funfetti cake one is great!). Again, just make sure it is labeled as gluten-free. There are also countless brands of pre-made cookies. In my opinion, a ranking of those depends on your preferences (for example, crunchy vs. soft).

If you are living with depression and looking for a different way to deal with it, maybe going gluten-free is for you. If you are dealing with IBS, maybe gluten-free is the right diet for you. If you have both, like me, I can tell you it’s working for me! I do not know if I’ll be committed to a life without gluten for all of my days, but for now I’m very glad I tried this and can’t believe how much better things are. I wish you the best of luck in your health endeavors either way! But if you are thinking gluten-free, don’t think that means missing out on tasty food (trust me).

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Thinkstock photo via Szepy.

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