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:
Foods that contain gluten:
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:
Along with physical symptoms gluten intolerance can affect mental health.
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.
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
Nuts and Seeds
A gluten-free diet can include non-gluten grains:
also, gluten free flours:
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.
I’ll be discussing a topic that’s very interesting, the Brain-Gut connection.
What is the Brain-Gut Connection?
The Brain-Gut Connection refers to the physical and chemical connections between your brain and gut consisting of millions of nerves and neurons.
Have you ever heard the saying “I had a “gut feeling” that something was wrong”? The brain and gut actually communicate with each other. There are chemicals called neurotransmitters that are important for your nerve cells and brain to function.
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for improving mood and positive feelings. 90% of serotonin comes from your gut.
What does this have to do with Anxiety?
Well, your gut consists of an environment made up of microorganisms called a microbiome. Some of these microorganisms or gut bacteria species can create neurotransmitters. Along with most serotonin; about half of all dopamine comes from this environment.
Serotonin is responsible for our good mood and positive feelings. When our microbiome is disrupted studies show that the amount of serotonin declines.
Mental Disorders linked to Low Serotonin:
Can the overuse of Antibiotics disrupt the Brain-Gut Connection?
Antibiotics are prescribed for a bacterial infection. If used properly they are a lifesaver, but if they are overused problems can occur. Overuse of antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiome and cause gut dysbiosis and dysfunction. The decline in beneficial gut bacteria has been linked to increased anxiety and depression.
Antibiotics have been given to livestock on industrial farms for years. When we eat meat products like poultry, beef and pork we are exposing ourselves to more antibiotics than what we actually need.
What is Industrial Farming?
Industrial farming or factory farming is a type of intensive form of agriculture that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish and crops that maximizes production and keeps prices low.
What are the Pros and Cons of Industrial Farming?
The Pros of Industrial Farming include:
Lower Food Prices: Due to industrial farming allowing for producing agricultural products on a large scale it results in lower prices for consumers.
Automated Food Production: Automation in the form of mechanization has resulted in fewer hours being worked in order to produce more product.
Can Be Established Almost Anywhere: Since larger farms are more resilient to changes in the environment, water access and location they can be located on marginal lands that are unused or underused in order to increase food production.
Lengthen Food Availability: New and existing technologies such as refrigeration has allowed for the lengthening of food availability.
Cons of Industrial Farming Include:
Use of Antibiotics: Antibiotics promote growth, increase feed efficiency and reduce mortality in indoor poultry farming, however antibiotic use in farming has led to the increase in antibiotic-resistance in humans and when these products are consumed the microbiome in the gut is damaged. Along with declining mental health a damaged gut has also been linked to obesity.
Use of Chemicals: Large scale industrial farming requires the use of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers.
Requires a lot of Water: Unsustainable amounts of water are required to produce on such a large scale.
Encourages Animal Diseases to Mutate into Human Diseases: The e. coli bacteria occurs in the intestinal tracts of all warm-blooded animals and it occurs in a benign form, however the overuse of antibiotics can result in pathogenic forms of e. coli that can cause humans to get sick.
Animal Cruelty: Due to the intense scale of production that includes overcrowded living conditions and overall lower quality of life for animals industrial farming is known for animal cruelty.
I went on to a Facebook forum and asked other people the same question about the overuse of antibiotics and I received some testimonials.
“Just finished a course of amoxicillin and felt like a dark cloud is hanging over me that can’t shake and that just doesn’t seem like me”!
“This makes sense to me. I have acute anxiety disorder since I was 13. Before that I took antibiotics 5 times a day with milk then in my teens I started getting a once a month antibiotic shot”!
What can you do?
I’ve found it helpful to take a probiotic along with the medication that I take for anxiety. I still had symptoms of anxiety and depression along with weight gain. Not all probiotics are created equal the one I take specifically for anxiety and depression is from “Garden for Life: Mood+digestive+immune system”. Other things that help gut health is a high fiber diet, eating fewer carbohydrates and eating less sugar.
Since I started taking a probiotic my mood has significantly better, my appetite has gotten under control and I no longer crave carbs. It’s also helpful to take probiotics after being treated for an illness with antibiotics in order to encourage the good bacteria that puts us all in a better mood.