At this very moment in time, the Gluten Summit is underway in America. A diverse group of leading experts in health and nutrition are giving free lectures on all things gluten, which has reminded me of my battle to give up the big G and the effect it had on my life.
What happened when I gave up gluten? Well, in short, I think it cured my depression. Much has been written and researched on the link between gluten and depression – I’ll not rehash it here, check out the links below for some more info.
But this is what I know. Throughout my life I have suffered with depression. Through my teens I had dark times, throwing myself into whirlpools of anxiety and depression which often ended in illness or periods of fatigue. In my mid-20s there were whole months lost to hiding in my bedroom, avoiding all social contact, and giving in to the dark cloud that made everything and everyone seem so futile, so frustrating and unsatisfying.
And then at aged 30 my current illness hit, and for about 6 months I felt like I was going to die. There were moments when I wanted to die. And others when I felt there was no possible way I could cope with the pain any more. I didn’t want to see anyone, speak to anyone, be part of the world anymore.
At the beginning of my illness I immediately transitioned on to a low gluten diet on the advice of my nutritionist, cutting out all gluten-containing bread, biscuits, pastry and pasta. I read food labels carefully and bought all gluten free condiments and ingredients, including gluten free oats, brown rice and buckwheat (even though these grains are technically gluten free, unless the packet states that the product is gluten free there is a good chance that it has been contaminated with gluten in the farming or packaging process). I cooked everything I ate from scratch and stuck to my diet religiously.
I started to lean heavily on making oat biscuits, an easy food to make and travel with, especially since I was eating 9 times a day – a hefty volume of food to be preparing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome decimating my energy levels. The oat cakes were cheap and easy and tasty.
However, they contained gluten. I used a small amount of spelt flour in each batch, and thought nothing of it at first. I figured such a small amount in an otherwise clean diet couldn’t make much difference, especially as spelt has a lower gluten content than wheat flour. Well, I was wrong.
In March 2013 I started an anti-Candida diet and decided to stop eating the oat biscuits, even though the ingredients were ‘legal’ on the diet, as I wanted to eliminate all sweet foods to help reduce sugar cravings – I was using Stevia to sweeten the biscuits, but the false sweetness was still something I wanted to get away from. My diet was now completely gluten free. And within days I was feeling extremely positive.
I’ve had alot of ups and downs since then with my health (my complicated symptoms are not straight forward to treat), but I have not fallen into depression once since my diet has been completely gluten free. There are bad hours, or even days, but they are low points, not depression.
The proof is most definitely in the pudding. With gluten free products widely available even in supermarkets now it might be worth a try if you have periods of depression or some others symptoms associated with gluten intolerance or inflammation. Gluten sensitivity testing is also readily available through doctors and nutritionists.
I’ll never return to eating gluten now that I understand how damaging it is to the body. At first I could not understand in the slightest how to give up bread – a slice of toast was my comfort food. And pastry, ah…pastry. But it doesn’t take long to transition off old eating habits, especially with help from a trained nutritionist, and you never know, a simple change in diet could actually save your life – I certainly feel like it saved mine!
Register for the free Gluten Summit here for access to the lectures on the effect gluten has on the body.
Some links to information on Gluten and Depression
Psychology Today article on ‘Is Gluten Making You Depressed?’
Gluten Free Girl and the Chef’s story, and a great website for recipes, books and videos
The Depression Anxiety Diet, a good resource for info and gluten free diet tips
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and the information on this website does not constitute or act as a substitute for professional medical and nutritional advice.