A WOMAN tried to murder her parents after being struck by psychosis because of a gluten intolerance, doctors have revealed.
The 37-year-old, from Massachusetts, was working on her PhD when she began suffering severe hallucinations and paranoia.
Dr Maureen Leonard, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “Her first symptom was a belief that ‘people were talking about her’ as part of a larger ‘conspiracy’ in which family, friends, and random people were part of a ‘game’ and acting out ‘scenes’ for her.”
Dr Alessio Fasano told Vice: “She was a PhD student, on her way to get her degree, living alone, independent. Then she got hit with this unbelievable change in behaviour.
“It was like a split personality. She said she was doing stuff she typically would not do. Like shoplifting, getting very belligerent, and to the point where she suspected her family was poisoning her.”
She was taken to a psychiatric hospital, where puzzled doctors initially diagnosed her with psychotic disorder and prescribed her antipsychotic drugs, which did not work.
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They then found she was suffering mineral and vitamin deficiencies and had lost around 9kg (19lb) and diagnosed her with coeliac disease.
Around one per cent of Brits have coeliac disease but only 36 per cent are diagnosed, according to Coeliac UK.
The charity estimates around half a million people in the UK are currently undiagnosed.
Coeliac disease causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues when you eat gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.
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This damages the gut, preventing the body from taking in nutrients properly.
Normally, symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating, as well as indigestion, constipation, tiredness, weight loss, an itchy rash, infertility or nerve damage.
In rare cases it has been linked to psychiatric conditions.
The woman’s case was first reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
She was still suffering delusions when she was first diagnosed with the condition and advised to stick to a gluten free diet.
This led to her believing her doctors were part of the “conspiracy” against her, and she disregarded the advice.
Sadly, her condition got worse when she left hospital and she lost her job, home and became alienated from her friends and family.
I wish that we could have done more for this young lady
After attempting suicide she was returned to hospital, where she started to follow the gluten free diet.
Her condition improved quickly and she was able to think clearly after three months, according to Dr Fasano.
She apologised for causing so much trouble and left the hospital, sticking to the diet.
However, her psychosis tragically returned after she accidentally ate gluten, leading to her trying to kill her parents.
She was arrested, tried and sent to prison for the unsuccessful attempt, according to Celiac.com.
Dr Fasano said: “Where is she right now? I don’t know for sure.
“But she hasn’t contacted us anymore. Once she was recontaminated, she lost control of everything. I wish that we could have done more for this young lady.”
What are the symptoms of coeliac disease?
Eating foods that contain gluten can trigger a range of gut symptoms, such as:
- diarrhoea, which may smell particularly unpleasant
- stomach aches
- bloating and farting (flatulence)
Coeliac disease can also cause more general symptoms, including:
- tiredness (fatigue) as a result of not getting enough nutrients from food (malnutrition)
- unintentional weight loss
- an itchy rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- problems getting pregnant (infertility)
- nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
- disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech (ataxia)
Source: The NHS
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