By Jordan Pie - Qualified Nutritionist, GAPS Practitioner & Food Photographer
There are roughly 3 million Australians living with depression. Australia is the second highest country prescribed with antidepressants in the world (Iceland is #1). In my humble opinion, conventional medicine tackles depression totally wrong. Rather than investigating the underlying cause(s) (aka what actually creates that depression), many doctors immediately reach for their prescription pad to offer and prescribe a drug. Antidepressant drugs don’t cure the disease; they just mask the symptoms.
So What Causes Depression?
Depression is complex. However, it can stem from a number of different root causes such as; past trauma or pain, gut imbalances, heavy metals, toxic mould exposure, chronic stress, Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease and more. Both depression and anxiety are linked to high inflammation, nutrient deficiencies and imbalances in the gut flora, all of which can be linked back to consuming gluten. So is eliminating gluten from the diet to help alleviate depressive symptoms something that is completely overlooked?
Gluten & Depression
Have you ever wondered why you crave chips, pies, lollies, chocolate and/ or ice-cream when you’re feeling sad or emotional? It’s because wheat-filled foods like these trigger a release of serotonin (our feel-good hormone) as well as morphine-like substances that create an addiction. So what this means is that gluten can be seen as a ‘drug’. So many of my clients tell me that they need and have intense cravings for things like lollies, cakes, beer, chocolate, cookies etc and they’re never really satisfied with ‘just one cookie’ they’ll always end up going back for more no matter how much willpower they have. Some individuals (those with mental disorders, autism or people with severe gut issues) can tend to throw tantrums when those foods they love and crave are taken away from them, just like a drug addict would if they weren’t given their drug fix, and they would start to get withdrawals. So although these foods may improve your mood for the moment, they can also lead to weight gain, sleep issues, candida overgrowth, low energy and fatigue, skin issues as well as make your depression symptoms worse.
So not only is gluten addictive, numerous studies have linked gut bacterial imbalances with major depressive disorder and mood changes. Our gut flora is responsible for producing 90% of our serotonin, 70% of our dopamine (our feel good and calming hormones), producing certain vitamins, helping us to digest and absorb food and so much more. So nurturing your gut bacteria and making sure they’re in the correct balance means you’re more likely to feel mentally balanced too. In some people consuming gluten also causes inflammation in the gut. This inflammation will affect how that person absorbs essential nutrients such as B Vitamins, zinc and Vitamin D, and as a result, it can generate symptoms of anxiety and depression because they’re critical to having balanced moods.
Once you’ve removed gluten from your diet, adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. This means eating a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, getting enough sleep, managing your stress, exercising, connecting with nature, get plenty of Vitamin D from sensible sunbathing and of course nourishing your gut.
According to MD Mark Hyman “gluten is the main allergen and food that causes bad brain reactions. Eliminating it can be life-changing for the majority with both brain and mood problems”. So fad or no fad, I personally believe that eliminating gluten 100% from your diet is worth a try. What’s the worst that could happen? You start to feel less bloated, experience less brain fog, better concentration, less headaches, improved digestion, perhaps you may even begin to feel calmer and more at peace rather than anxious and stressed out.
I would also highly recommend you begin to investigate other possible underlying causes that could be contributing to depression. These include gut issues (SIBO, leaky gut, dysbiosis, infections, etc.), chronic infections (viral, bacterial, fungal), low vitamin D levels, exposure to heavy metals and mould or other biotoxins, past trauma and more. If you need help and guidance with this, please seek the help of a good functional medical practitioner that can do the proper tests so you can have the answers and direction you need.
If you’re after more information on this topic, I would highly encourage those of you who are interested to watch the following documentary; What’s With Wheat for more information. I’ve also written a few more blogs that may help you have a better understanding of just how damaging gluten and wheat can be.
Yours in health and happiness
Please note that removing gluten alone may not cure your depression. If you’re currently experiencing depressive symptoms and would like to delve deeper into how you can support and improve your health through nutrition, then I would highly recommend you book in to have a one-on-one consultation with myself or with your chosen healthcare practitioner. You can contact me here for more information on consultations if you feel like you’re in need of more support and guidance with this. If you are at risk for suicide, or other harm or injury, please do not try and treat it on your own. There is help. For crisis support, please call the Lifeline 24-hour line on 13 11 14 or seek other help (such as a hospital emergency room or doctor’s care.)
Jordan’s Website - Life of Pie