Can the foods that you regularly eat be the reason why you suffer from depression and/or anxiety among other mood and behavioral issues? According to hundreds articles out there, written by doctors mind you – absolutely. Just take a moment to google “gluten intolerance and mental illness”, and you will see what I mean. There has been a very strong connection made between gluten intolerance and many types of mental illnesses, and based on my family’s first hand experience, I know this to be a fact.
About 4 years ago, I noticed my husband having more and more issues with anxiety, and despite my desperate pleas for him to tell me what was making him feel so anxious, he could never give me an answer. Naturally, I thought that I was the reason he was so anxious, and was sure that he was done with our relationship. (Leave it to me to think the absolute worst) But he would deny it, and could give me no answers. Besides these daily panic attacks, he was having more and more headaches, sneezed all the time – like 20+ times in a row, constant mouth sores, gastrointestinal issues, was always bloated, and his hair was falling out pretty rapidly. I did a lot of researching on all of these things, and each symptom lead me to gluten intolerance.
After much convincing, because he loved his beer and pizza, he finally decided to try a gluten free diet for at least 2 weeks. Lo and behold, every single symptom went away, and he dropped almost 20 pounds in barely over one week. That is a lot of water weight! He felt better, looked better, and became his old happy-go-lucky self again. Of course he had to cheat after a while, and within 15 minutes of eating that pizza he was just dying for, he went into a full-blown panic attack, later started developing mouth sores, and had a terrible binding/cramping in his gut which resulted in a lot of time in the bathroom. Was it worth it? Nope. Now he knows better. We can tell immediately when he has accidentally ingested gluten because debilitating anxiety is the first sign.
I have suffered with anxiety since I was a small child. Living in Texas, in the middle of tornado alley, just the sight of storm clouds would send me into a tizzy. I would be inconsolable. I was so super sensitive, and “tender hearted”, as my dad liked to call it, that I could not overhear any conversations having to do with cruelty of any sort, or I would cry for hours – I could just feel the pain of whatever poor creature people were torturing in the stories as if they were torturing me and I would worry myself to death. Going on a really fun outing was almost too much to bear. I would get so anxious about going to Six Flags or Wet N’ Wild that I would puke my guts out the night before. Every. Time.
Later, when I was a teenager, I suffered from severe depression – for good reason due to a family tragedy….But when I hit my 20s I had debilitating anxiety attacks on a very regular basis. Most of the time I could never pinpoint exactly what my problem was, I just couldn’t breathe and I felt this looming sense of doom hovering all around me. I wanted to run and scream and hide all at the same time. Like the world was coming to an end at any second. It was just plain horrible to endure. This continued until I was pregnant – and then magically the panic attacks stopped. The depression sure didn’t, but at least my body saved me from the terrible effects of anxiety throughout my pregnancy.
Once I had my baby boy, the depression got way worse due to those lovely postpartum hormones, and eventually the anxiety crept its way back in. I would find myself pacing all around my house by myself while my little one slept, repeatedly saying “ugh… I am so sad.” The last full-on anxiety attack I remember having was in the car with my husband and baby, on our way to meet my mom and step-dad at a nearby Mexican restaurant. I could barely stand myself, my heartbeat was pounding in my head, I was grasping at the dashboard while trying to breathe, and had absolutely no clue as to why I would be feeling that way. There was nothing in my life at that moment that would cause such an attack.
It wasn’t until I started having severe gastrointestinal issues and crazy, scary neurological symptoms that I realized I had to be gluten intolerant as well. Long story short, I took gluten, and later corn (because I figured out I am also intolerant to that) out of my diet and all of the depression and anxiety completely cleared up, along with a very long list of symptoms that I had been experiencing my entire life, and just had no clue were a result of the foods I ate. I have yet to really slip with gluten, I have found that gluten is really easy to avoid when you compare it to trying to avoid corn, so I don’t know if I would have a panic attack if I had a slice of pizza. I do know that if I eat any kind of derivative of corn, the next day I wake up a raving lunatic that can find something wrong with every single thing around me, and will rampage around the house like a raging bull until a little after noon, and then I settle down into a brain-fogged stupor for the rest of the day, feeling sorry for myself for acting like a psycho. Corn brings out the meanies. Just ask my husband. (yikes!)
Yes, I still feel sad, when sadness is warranted. I do get anxious about the future, as hard as I try not to worry. But I do not suffer from chronic depression, and I have not had any panic meltdowns. It is liberating. Those sandwiches and other delightfully glutenous things are absolutely not worth it in my book.’
Can depression and anxiety be caused by a laundry list of other things? Of course. Life experience can leave many wounds and scars that are hard to overcome. But if you find that you chronically suffer from these illnesses and can not pinpoint why, then your diet should definitely be considered. We have to eat to live, right? So, why would the foods we eat not directly affect every single system of our body, since every system is nourished by the nutrients we absorb? Gluten intolerance ultimately causes malnutrition, because the small intestine becomes so damaged from being abused by gluten, that it no longer absorbs vital nutrients, leaving the body depleted. This has an affect on every single aspect of your health. And, supplements will not help. How do you think those get absorbed? They don’t, if you have a damaged gut. Period.
I have to say, since being on my crazy diet that I am forced to be on, I feel less “crazy”. My mind is not constantly racing in circles looking for things to be worried over. I feel happy, for the most part. I guess this is what “normal” feels like – and I truly enjoy it and will never even think twice about going back to my old traditional American diet. Those “treats” are so not worth the pain and suffering that ensues! Trust me!
If you are planning on trying a gluten free diet, or think that you may possibly have issues in this department, talk to your doctor first about being tested for Celiac’s disease – because once you take gluten out of your system, it is really hard to test for (I know this from first hand experience… oops). Then, even if you do test negative for Celiac’s disease, try a gluten free diet for NO LESS than two solid weeks before you try to “test” any gluten containing foods. You have to go the full two weeks to start the healing process for your gut. You don’t have to have Celiac’s disease to be gluten intolerant, just for the record! I do hope that you will give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you, then at least you will have tried. There are usually no regrets in trying something in effort to better ourselves, but there are many regrets later in life for not trying anything at all.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or dietician, I am simply a gluten and corn intolerant person, and I want to share my first-hand experience with others so that they may learn from what I have gone through, and feel that they are not alone in their battles.