Why I gave up Gluten
The old expression ‘you are what eat’, is such an accurate description and with recent scientific evidence, even more so.
Most people give up gluten because they have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. Or those who have discovered that they have a gluten sensitivity. Some people these days even think that it's a trend to be gluten-free, so why not? For those who suffer from Coeliac Disease or are gluten sensitive, it is essential for their overall health and specifically their gut that they avoid all forms of gluten.
Some people have an intolerance to gluten and aren’t aware of it. Feeling bloated or experiencing abdominal discomfort after eating foods such as bread, pasta, cakes, crackers or alcohol such as beer are all symptoms of gluten intolerance.
The gut-brain axis has been scientifically proven to exist and therefore the foods that you eat can impact not only your gut health but your mental health as well. The gut and brain are connected both physically and biochemically via the vagus nerve.
Just as the vagus nerve is a two-way street allowing communication between the gut and brain so too your mental health can contribute to gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, stomach pain and more, but recent research indicates gut health issues and imbalances themselves could also be contributing factors to psychological issues such as stress, anxiety and depression.
A mental health choice
My choice to give up gluten was not based on my physical health, but rather my mental health. I have suffered from depression and anxiety since the birth of my first child in 1999. I have always managed my mental health with good eating, exercise and making conscious decisions on the harder days to be kind to myself as much as I can. However, unbeknown to me, my husband's breakdown and the subsequent support of him to get through this rough period in our lives took a far greater toll on my mental health than I expected.
It wasn't until mid-2015 when my husband decided to share his mental health experience with others, including our family and friends (after keeping it a secret for 7 years) that the wheels began to fall off my own mental health. Up until this point I was so consumed with making our family a happy and safe environment that my own wellbeing took a back seat. Being incredibly busy and focused was a great way to mask what was really going on. So, the dark days began to increase.
My way of coping with this was to do more exercise. However, my body was not allowing me to do as much as I wanted to do. By the end of 2015, I approached my GP and asked for more help. She knew that I had been to a psychologist but could see that I was struggling. Medication was offered as a solution.
The turning point
Typically, I am a terrible patient as I do not like taking any medication. However, at this point, it was a consideration for me. My GP recommended that I also try a different psychologist to see if a different approach would help. This was the turning point for me.
In the very first session, the psychologist asked me about my diet, and I proudly replied that we have a very balanced diet and that I make most things from scratch. She pointed out to me that she was not questioning my whole diet but asked me to consider removing gluten from my diet. (Why gluten is becoming more problematic for many people will be the topic of a future blog).
I was very curious, to say the least. The psychologist introduced to me a book by Dr Kelly Brogan, a New York Psychiatrist who treats her patients with gut health and is highly successful. So, I decided to give it a 6-week trial. The results were unbelievable!
For those of you who suffer from depression, you will understand when I say that it was amazing to feel for the first time in 12 months that the fog had finally lifted. I went from having at least 1 down day a week to weeks without any down days.
I still suffer from depression and anxiety; however, it is much more manageable these days and I accredit it to the removal of gluten from my diet. Not only did removing gluten lift the brain fog, but it also reduced the inflammation in my joints.
This meant that I could now return to my favourite place, the pool and enjoy pain-free swimming again.
Try it yourself...
So, if you suffer from bloating, gas, abdominal upsets, depression and/or anxiety, try giving up gluten for 6 weeks and see how you feel. It may just be the health answer that you are looking for!
Guest blogger: Megan Humphreys.