The Gluten-Mood Connection

Anxiety, Gluten and How Foods Affect the Mood

When I was doing research for my previous post about social anxiety I read something that was very interesting. There are many people with anxiety disorders that have emotional triggers caused by underlying mental health issues and past trauma, but there are other people that experience anxiety despite not having other mental health issues. It’s possible that diet plays a huge role in our mental health. The topic I’m exploring in this post is Gluten.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a substance present in cereal grains such as wheat. It’s responsible for the elastic texture of dough.

Gluten is present in these grains and starches:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat Germ
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Graham Flour

Foods that contain gluten:

  • Soups
  • French Fries
  • Processed Cheeses
  • Processed Meats
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Cereals
  • Baked Goods
  • Condiments

To be more specific gluten is a group of proteins called prolamins and glutelins. 

Gluten occurs with starch in the endosperm of various cereal grains. Between 75 and 85% of the total protein in bread and wheat is supplied by this protein complex.

There are many people who suffer from gluten intolerance.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) occurs when this protein triggers gluten-related inflammation in the gut and causes physical and mental symptoms.

Physical Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

Along with physical symptoms gluten intolerance can affect mental health.

Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain Fog

The symptoms of NCGS are similar to celiac disease, however they are both different conditions. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can cause long-term harm to your digestive system and is life threatening vs. NCGS which is more short term.

Gluten and the Effects on the Flora – Gut-Brain Connection

I mentioned in a previous post titled the “Brain-Gut Connection” about the role that the gut microbiome plays in our mental health. It’s interesting that 90% of the happy hormone serotonin is produced in the small intestine by gut bacteria. 

However, the overuse of antibiotics could disrupt the gut microbiome and lead to a decrease of serotonin causing symptoms such as anxiety, depression and brain fog.

Is There a Link Between Gluten Intolerance and Gut Health?

Along with playing a role in our mental health the gut microbiome also plays a role in the proper development of the immune system and the tolerance to different foods. 

If this gut microbiota is altered early on in life it can lead to chronic inflammatory conditions, food allergies and autoimmune disorders. It’s not only the overuse of antibiotics that can disrupt the gut microbiome, but also other factors as well.


Including:

GMO’s: There are many pros of growing crops that are genetically modified organisms including increased crop yields, lowering crop prices and making crops more resistant to the elements. However, some of the cons include no long term human clinical trials to prove that GMO’s are safe, tinkering with the genetic makeup of plants may result in the introduction of toxins that may  induce food allergies and GMOs are bred to be herbicide resistant and this has led to the growth of “superweeds”. that require more toxic weed killers to kill. 

Chemicals: The use of chemicals such as pesticides and weed killers such as Glyphosate (Roundup) are possible causes of gluten intolerance. Roundup has been used since the 1990’s to not kill the herbicide tolerant “superweeds” that are now growing as a result of GMO crops, but Roundup is also used by some farmers to dry out wheat before it’s harvested. A study was done on fish that were exposed to glyphosate and they developed digestive problems that are reminiscent of celiac disease and it can also disrupt gut bacteria in animals by killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens that can affect immune health and disrupt digestion.

Lifestyle Changes – Things to Be Aware of

The symptoms of both celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be managed through lifestyle changes. Other benefits include increased energy levels, improved cholesterol levels, improved digestion and overall better health from eating fewer processed foods that contain gluten.

Lifestyle changes include:

Gluten-Free Diet: The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. However, even if you’re experiencing gluten intolerance either starting a gluten-free diet or reducing the amount of gluten you eat can lead to a reduction of symptoms.

It’s important to be aware of what foods are gluten-free:

Foods To Eat include:

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Meats and Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds

A gluten-free diet can include non-gluten grains:

  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Pure Oats

also,  gluten free flours:

  • Coconut flour
  • Almond flour
  • Chia flour
  • Chickpea flour
  • Quoinoa flour
  • Sweet potato flour

Being Aware of the Hidden Sources of Gluten: It’s important to be aware that there are hidden sources of gluten in everyday items. These include medications and supplements, beauty products, bullion products and food products labeled “wheat free”.

Consult a Doctor or a Nutritionist: Before starting any diet it’s important to consult a professional first before making a lifestyle change.

Being Aware that a Gluten-Free Diet will not Guarantee Weight-Loss: The change to a gluten-free lifestyle will not guarantee weight loss unless exercising more is part of your lifestyle change.

Take a Probiotic: After either eliminating or reducing gluten the next step is to restore your gut microbiome. By taking a specific probiotic that rebuilds immunity and digestive health you’ll be able to reverse many symptoms of gluten intolerance including, anxiety and depression.

Ways of Coping With Change Related Anxiety

Any kind of life change can be tough and changing your lifestyle is no exception.

When you become gluten-free your family and friends might start bugging you about your new diet. They may start saying comments or asking questions about your diet. Since it’s the holiday season the comments and questions will probably by centered around what you’re missing out on being gluten-free, but some people may not include you in their holiday festivities at all.

In order to avoid having a sense of anxiety and loneliness from the judgement of others that don’t understand your new gluten-free diet it’s important to reach out to like minded people. This can be achieved by meeting new people through support groups, social media forums or through mutual friends who are also gluten-free.

The anxiety that can occur when your life changes will pass eventually and when you download my anxiety expert guide and learn about some of my mentors it will help you in your journey toward a healthier life.

Have You Ever Suspected that Your Mood is Affected by What You Eat?

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