Gluten & Depression: Everything You Need to Know
Gluten seems to be one of the most controversial foods today. Some think the emerging gluten-free culture is a fad. They argue that carbs in general are problematic, and we shouldn’t victimize gluten. Some people have real gluten intolerances or allergies, and get sick when they eat it. But how about the rest of us? Can gluten actually affect our mood and lower our vibrations?
Let’s start with wheat, the grain that has the highest gluten content. Plain and simple, wheat today is not what it was 100 years ago, or even thirty years ago! What was once a nourishing whole grain has been hybridized to the point where modern wheat doesn’t even know it’s wheat anymore! Originally, the government had the grain hybridized in order to increase the growth of the crop and feed more people. What resulted was a strain of wheat that contains much more gluten than its ancestor.
Gluten is a protein. It’s what gives dough that stretchy, chewy, fluffiness. Most vegan and vegetarian “meats" are made with gluten (and soy protein isolate). Bread rises because gluten holds the air bubbles in place and solidifies. Gluten does something similar in the body. That’s why the large amounts of gluten we’re offered in today’s bread is hard to break down, irritates the gut, and does not get digested properly. This results in inflammation and gas, which triggers endorphins as a protection mechanism. We get addicted to these endorphins that gluten triggers! That’s why it’s so hard to quit. Just try passing on the bread basket at a restaurant. I dare you.
You might be wondering, if gluten triggers the release of endorphins, why isn’t it a “good-mood food?” It definitely does not make the list, because after a while of consuming gluten, the protein becomes hard to digest. This applies to everyone, not just those with a gluten intolerance. The microvilli in the small intestine begin to break, and the small intestine loses even more of its ability to digest. A weak digestive system makes it impossible to assimilate the nutrients we need to stay alert and happy. Furthermore, gluten inhibits the production of B vitamins, which give us energy.
Perhaps the most direct link between gluten and depression stems from the fact that gluten can block serotonin production. Cut it out, and we will feel better. If we’re addicted to gluten, we probably need serotonin. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Switching to other grains can help us break free.
If we can start experimenting more with our grains, particularly those that are less acid-forming than wheat such as buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and quinoa, we can strengthen our digestive systems to the point where our food allergies fade away. Gluten sensitivities are certainly real, but they’re also often temporary and transformable once we strengthen our gut.
This is just scratching the surface of the link between gluten (and other foods) with depression and anxiety. If you wish to learn more, my ebook is jam-packed with information, resources, guides, recipes, and shopping lists to help you heal naturally.