Guest post: Gluten and depression

Justine Laidlaw is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and colon cancer thriver. She coaches to fulfill her passion of working with cancer patients and those wanting to improve their health and build healthy lifestyles.

Recently I had the privilege of talking to Justine aka

The Natural Bird

 via Skype about diet. She's an awesome woman who has a lot of knowledge about managing cancer and other health issues through diet. One of the things we talked about is the gut-brain connection. Recent research has shown that when the gut isn't well, our brain also isn't well (some research links at the bottom of this page). For people who are affected by gluten (coeliac disease sufferers and people who are gluten intolerant), eating gluten often has both a physical AND mental side effects. Justine has kindly contributed a guest post for me to share with you all, read on ...

Through my eyes - a take on depression and the gluten link

OK some real truths here.....If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, deep-seated anxieties, or disordered thinking of any kind, memory loss, constant exhaustion and therapy or supplements are not helping, you're sick of relying on anti-depressants and nothing seems to work, PLEASE read on about what I have to say.

I have been here in this head-space, not now or for a very long time, or ever will be again, and this is not something I have just read about but have genuinely experienced. I want to share this with you from the bottom of my heart. I know I have friends who are in this place, and may this may be the reminder that there is light and maybe you could take strength and give this a go.

For months on end, I stumbled through fog as thick as beef stew that has sat in the pot for three days. You know when you pour milk into tea, and the white slowly swirls and clouds, until it is no longer tea and milk, but milky tea? I was more milk than tea most of the time. I was that clouded with my thinking, foggy brained, fatigued and I was always had achy pains in my body.

I didn’t know how to be happy. I didn't know what inner happiness even felt like. Everything worried me. Nothing felt good. How come my friends were so happy when I felt so down.

No matter how often I thought just “Be happy, dammit!” I just couldn’t see the surface. And somehow, I knew that there must be an answer to how I was feeling, the grey wool blanket that covered my mind, wasn’t really me. In my better moments and months, I was optimistic, laughing, and alive. I was weighted down, I couldn't always laugh and smile, I just didn't have it in me. On the outside I was this happy person but the inside told a different story.

Recently an electrician came to our house to sort a couple of power points for us and as our conversation unfolded, it inspired me of what I needed to share. He explained how one of his best mates was severely depressed, couldn't find any joy in his life, attempted suicide and had been on anti depressant drugs and couldn't shift that dark lost feeling.

This friend of his was eventually diagnosed with GLUTEN intolerance and from that day forward his whole life changed in ways he could have never imagined. How could something this so damn simple be so profound in finding the light.

I never got diagnosed as Gluten intolerant or as having Coeliac disease, and blood tests came back normal when I was tested. But what did I have to lose by giving it a go. I gave up gluten straight away and that ho hum feeling started to subside quickly. In fact, that heavy weight of life lifted for me within weeks of having no gluten in my diet and more than 10 years later I have been predominantly Gluten Free.

Believe me, once you have been through the darkest days, and you feel light flooding the room instead, you choose happiness. Certainly I’m not amazingly happy all the time, and life is not perfect, but underneath any small anxiety or disappointment is the thrumming, loud rumble of knowledge of where I once was.

I once was lost but now I’m found. And once you’re found, you want to stay found. And that is what "no gluten" has done for me. I am amazed at how that feeling can start creeping back in if I have happened to let slip on the odd occasion. In fact over the last 18 months or so I have virtually eliminated all grains in my diet and this has truly been powerful. I have no more aches and pains, a clear head and more energy when I'm grain free.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I seem so damned happy now. It’s a choice, a daily, constant, conscious choice, to choose to be alive.

Note from Glutey Girl:

Always seek medical advice before altering your diet. Seek professional medical advice before changing or stopping any medication. If you need anti-depressants, please take them, there is no shame in needing medication, a good diet definitely helps but some people also need medication and that's more than okay. Take care out there folks!

Gut-brain and gluten links for further reading:

Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain

Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness

Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut–brain communication

The microbiome-gut-brain axis: from bowel to behavior

Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression