The Link Between Mood Disorders and Diet [Is going gluten-free the key to curing my anxiety?]

by Charlotte on July 30, 2012 · 86 comments

I think it’s safe to say this little guy is having a very strong reaction to…bark.

At the time it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I don’t talk about it much these days since so many worse things happened in the interim (ah, life). But back in 2000 – 2001, I had a nightmarish year consumed by anxiety. Granted, I had a lot going on. I’d just gotten married, I was in my last semester of grad school, teaching full time, interviewing for jobs all over the country, and getting ready to move. Oh and I was pregnant with a baby that never developed and waiting for a miscarriage that never came, necessitating surgery at 17 weeks during which they perforated my uterus giving me the most painful infection of my life. (No, this wasn’t our daughter Faith who was stillborn. That was still coming down the pike.) Good times! So you’ll understand that I might have had reason for some anxiety.

Unfortunately my panic attacks became immense, adding to my already monumental stress. During that year, I was in the ER more than a dozen times because my panic would get so severe I’d convulse, vomit and even faint. I thought I was dying. Every single time. (Ever dramatic, that’s me! If I’d lived in a different era I’m sure I would have had an exorcism or been burned at the stake.) I remember my new husband looking at me shaking uncontrollably and covered in vomit and diarrhea on a hospital gurney and muttering, “I should have got the extended warranty on you.” At least we could laugh.

And then a nice doctor would give me a shot of a horse tranquilizer and I’d be unconscious and un-knotted for a blessed few hours. The happiest I ever was (possibly in my whole life) was when I had a colonoscopy and whatever drug they used gave me retroactive amnesia. Turns out it’s impossible to worry when you can’t remember anything that’s going on. Turns out it’s also really annoying to everyone around you when you ask them every 5 minutes “What time is it?” and “Who took off my pants??” (Seriously how awesome a drug does it have to be for someone to say “Okay, now it’s time to stick a large camera up your butt” and have you reply “Wow, that’s the best idea ever!”) The night before giving my valedictory address in front of my whole college, I was puking my guts out in the ER. They gave me a Vicodin and sent me straight to graduation with the plastic IV port still embedded in the back of my hand. To this day I have zero recollection of anything I said because all I could think about was how stomach felt like I’d swallowed glass and knowing that the more afraid I became of the panic attacks, the more likely I was to bring one on. I lived in terror of the next attack.

It was that bad.

For anyone who has never experienced a panic attack, this sounds crazy. I know it does. It sounded nuts to me too. But they tested me for everything from Celiac’s disease to cancer to ulcers to ectopic pregnancy and the final verdict was that it was all psychosomatic. They called it IBS with GAD (irritable bowel syndrome with generalized anxiety disorder) – two of the most common mental health diagnoses and yet two of the least understood.

I had a slew of pills but I hated them (mostly because most of them were suppositories because I had such a hard time keeping food down and shoving things up your butt is not fun at all without the happy drugs). So when we moved to Seattle, I ditched my high-pressure job, took a job as an assistant professor at the local community college and started doing yoga. Yoga saved my life. I’ve written about it before but just learning how to breathe was huge in helping ameliorate the panic.

It helped but it didn’t cure me. This didn’t surprise me. Some of my earliest memories as a kid are of having panic attacks. I remember throwing up in the bathroom before going on stage to collect my Grand Champion ribbon at the science fair. And while it’s been much better in the intervening years – and my ability to talk myself down from them has grown incredibly – they’ve never completely gone away. Except, weirdly during pregnancy. Being preggo, aside from the miscarriage, seems to completely take away the panic attacks although they return full force in my tweaked version of post-partum depression. Obviously hormones are strongly connected to my anxiety but I think there are other factors as well. This is one reason why I wanted to start my mood journal – to see if there is a connection between my teeth chattering anxiety and my food.

But I’ve never given up hope that perhaps one day I could completely be cured of this. I was thinking about this last night as I had yet another panic attack (they’ve been much worse in the past year or so and while I’ve had many ideas as to why I’ve yet to nail down the cause), when I came across an article linking diet to anxiety symptoms. It was one of those anecdotal rah-rah “I’m cured!” type of stories but I couldn’t help but wonder if the link might be real. After all, food impacts so much of how our body works, why not our mood too? The time when my panic attacks started getting better was when I started yoga, yes, but also when I started consciously trying to eat healthier as well. The connection most people seemed to be making was a link between gluten (and sometimes sugar and caffeine) consumption and anxiety. The most impressive success stories came from people going to a paleo/primal diet.

The idea started to grow on me as I read through dozens of message boards and finding stories like this one:

“Anxiety was the absolute first symptom that went away when I went gluten-free. The panic attacks stopped like someone had flicked a switch inside me. I’ve still dealt with bouts of depression and I probably worry more than I need to, but it’s much, much better. I know it will take time before I’m “me” again but it’s a relief not to have those attacks and the constant buzz of anxiety running through me all the time.”

And this one:

“I went gluten-free for a month, and toward the end noticed a decrease in my depression for the first time in quite a while… it was so exciting! Now I’m glutening myself again so that I can be tested, and within a week, depression is back in full-force. Sometimes I’m in a good mood, then I eat a piece of bread, and an hour later I’m crying for no apparent reason. I’m looking forward to the tests being done so that I can fell better permanently! “

And this one:

“[...] It was so bad by this time I was afraid to sleep at night because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up. Well, I was told to try a gluten free diet for my symptoms and something strange happened. About a month in I was laying in bed one night and had this sense of calm around me. I actually remember laying there and slowly breathing in and out and smiling because I felt so calm. That’s when I knew I would never go back. I also know when I have been glutened by my anxiety coming back as well. I do sometimes think how different my life would have been if I grew up gluten free and wasn’t crippled by anxiety as a kid. But, I look at my beautiful family and know this was my destined path in life and I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. Even if a piece of coffee cake or a cresent roll now and again would be nice. “

Oh you guys. Going primal or paleo has been a disaster for me in the past but I think that was partly because I was “experimenting” with it as a way to increase my fitness and lose weight (at the time). It didn’t work for me for those purposes at all. And going grain free has never appealed to me. But. Getting rid of my chronic anxiety and increasingly frequent panic attacks would be 100% worth it. I’d trade every loaf of French bread in the world to have the knot in my stomach go away for good. (Although I’d keep the brie!).

How does this fit in with intuitive eating? The crux of IE is learning to eat what your body NEEDS (i.e. what makes it feel its best) as opposed to what your body WANTS (i.e. what you crave or what your mind tells you it wants) and so if eliminating grains would really get rid of my anxiety then this would definitely fit into this definition. But of course it’s never that simple. Restricting any food usually sends me into a mental tailspin. The disordered-eating thoughts start circling like vultures which causes me to over-restrict and then binge. I’ve been overjoyed to leave diets and food restrictions behind. And yet yesterday I ate a ton of grains (which is unusual for me – I normally eat mostly fish/meat, fruit and veggies with 1 or 2 servings of grains) and last night I had the worst panic attack in 3 months. Connection? Or confirmation bias??

So what do I do?? Is this worth another dietary experiment – to see if it helps? Or should I go back to my doctor and see about getting on some more/different meds? Is it all just a placebo? I’m honestly not sure what’s caused this current relapse but I know I want it to stop!

Any of you struggle with anxiety – what have you found that has helped you? Have you noticed a connection between your mood and your diet??

A panda attack would be way more awesome than a panic attack.

 

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy H. July 30, 2012 at 1:45 am

I am an extremely anxious person. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anything, but I’m high functioning depressed, with bouts of mild paranoid thoughts that practically make me “rock in the corner.” I get upset if I think I “almost” did something wrong – let alone if I really did!

While I’ve never thought about my mood and diet beyond emotionally eating (eating to stuff down negative thoughts, then have more negative thoughts that need additional stuffing). . . I do tend to get more paranoid and nutty when I consume too much caffeine – if I have more than 3-4 cups of strong coffee, for more than 2 days in a row, it’s bad. I’ll also get a bit insomniac-y and that doesn’t help, either.

Never thought about the paleo connection. I read all about paleo – you can go 80/20 on it, so if you think in terms of 80/20 meals. . . that would be about 17 meals without grains and 4 with. . . which isn’t too bad. Personally, I haven’t found the willpower/discipline to do it yet, but I really want to. I just need that “shove” to get started. Maybe this will be it. I’d love to worry less and not deal with the craziness that runs through my brain 24/7.

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm

If you do try it, please keep me posted on how it goes for you!! I’m sorry that you are struggling so much with mood disorders too:(

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George Super BootCamps September 14, 2012 at 5:24 am

FWIW Amy, I’ve found that the chronic mood state of myself and my clients dramatically improves when we take grains out of our diets completely.

The change takes between 3 and 7 days to fully realise, and once we get beyond this point we seem to be able to add grains back in once or twice a week without problems relating to mood.

Having said that, I’ve worked with some people who are just to sensitive to grains to put them back in at all, but they tend to be the exception rather than the norm.

Good luck and I hope you improve with this,
george

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Sarah July 30, 2012 at 1:48 am

I am wondering if it has to be grain free? The quotes you mention discuss going gluten free, so maybe a gf experiment would be the place to start? I just think it might be an easier transition, and might be a gentler way to work with IE. I had to give up wheat, and to be honest the only thing that happened was that it lessened my IBS (which was the goal). My issue is the carbohydrate in the wheat (fructans), not gluten, so it was a pretty easy transition because it’s easier to just avoid gluten where possible and mainly focus on wheat. Anyway, just my two cents. I think a lot of processed GF foods are junk, but there are plenty of gluten free whole grains that you still might want to eat…and that way you could avoid the conflation issue between grains and gluten. Best to know which one makes a difference, IMO.

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Yeah, I honestly don’t know. The first few articles I read were strict paleo stories but the quotes in this post are just gluten-free. Not sure which way to start…

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Terri July 30, 2012 at 2:15 am

Hi Charlotte,
My only suggestion is to speak to your therapist before deciding anything :)

Maybe just cut down by substituting foods – like quinoa (sp?) and rice instead of pasta, having rice or corn thins instead of bread and telling yourself that you’re just trying different things, instead of denying yourself something. It might work :)

I’ve had one panic attack and I thought I was dying. I didn’t end up in hospital but I couldn’t go to work, and I could hardly breathe. It was terrifying. I feel for you, it’s the worst feeling, and I had this part of my mind, completely rational, thinking “This is ridiculous !” But my body and the rest of my mind were caught up in it. Horrible !

Good luck !

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Oh I will most definitely talk to my therapist, nutritionist and doc before making any changes! And yeah, it really takes having a panic attack to truly understand how awful they are. I’m glad you only had one!

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Tracy July 30, 2012 at 3:47 am

The one time I truly went gluten-free for a few weeks, my anxiety was gone and the ED voice in my head disappeared completely! Unfortunately, I assumed that was a ‘coincidence’, so I went back to eating mostly the way I had before and things spiraled downward again. I’m hitting the reset button right now (started yesterday morning – woohooo!!) and am excited to see if the same things happen again. If so, I’m not going back again. Will let you know how it goes…. :)

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

So interesting!! Please keep me posted on how this goes for you Tracy!

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Melissa July 30, 2012 at 6:19 am

I think if you’re going to consider a diet issue, it would be better to try a fodmap elimination. That way you can test several items and not just gluten. Fructose intolerance, which is a FODMAP, is highly correlated to depression and mood disorders. I never got control until I tried the FODMAP elimination and discovered fructans wee also an issue. I’be never been depressed, but once I fixed my FODMAP issues, there was a huge difference. I am noticeably happier and I have more energy this way. And when I consider eating something that might make me sick, I remember how different I feel.
I hope you find something that helps!

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Interesting – I’ll have to Google that one! I’ve never heard of FODMAP before!

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Melissa July 31, 2012 at 12:59 am

I really like the IBS Free at Last book and site. She regularly makes updates. There is a lot of conflicting information since this area of study is so new and mostly coming out of Australia.

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Jenn (GH) July 30, 2012 at 6:47 am

Just wanted to pop over and say hi. It’s been too long! It seems every time I pop over you are having anxiety or depressed. :-( I’m sorry you are struggling again. Perhaps avoiding gluten will help? I’ve heard amazing things about a GF diet. GF would be easier than grain free too.

But personally I’ve never found overcoming mental distress to be that easy.Perhaps it has something to do with your schedule? You do seem to do a lot every week. I don’t know how you do it….all the wotk and raise 4 very little kids. Do you think your anxiety could has more to do with that than diet?

I have struggled with anxiety before. A few months after we moved into the RV and life became amazingly simple (no more commitments, lots of uninterrupted family time, lots of nature) I started to notice how I felt like a new person. It took time but after a few months I started to see how much the busyness of life negatively affected my mental wellbeing. I went through a mourning/depressed period, ie, letting go of what was essentially a false self identity as I transitioned into being and accepting who I am without the approval of culture. People don’t really “approve” of gypsies but I don’t care.

Anyway I’m rambling into other thoughts. My point isn’t that everyone should say screw the status quo and move their family into an rv to live like gypsies. (Although I highly recommend it.) My point is that I think cultural and personal expectations are to blame for so much of the mental distress that so many people experience. If living in an RV has taught me anything it’s that I’m so much happier with less. Less material things yes but also less expectations, less commitments, less time on the computer, less busyness, ect. And no one has to move into an rv to experiece any of these things. It was just what it took for me to finally “let go” and in the process I’ve found more peace and contentment than I ever imagined.

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I think you just have bad timing – I swear I write about more than just feeling bad;) But I’m so glad that your nomadic experiment is going so well! It’s been a lot of fun reading about your adventures and seeing all your AMAZING photos on instagram (you have a gift!)

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Redhead July 30, 2012 at 6:50 am

I seem to hear a lot about gluten-free diets helping kids with autism/aspbergers too. And I think there’s definitely a connection between what we eat and how our bodies function, but it seems like gluten-free is the current cure-all trend. Maybe there is something to this-but given your history (and the lack of actual scientific studies behind this), please be very careful, and I second the commenter above about getting your therapist on board. I doubt eliminating gluten will fire your anxiety (though it may decrease it somewhat), but you’re basically talking about restricting foods and keeping detailed food journals… Just be careful, get your therapist on board with it, and make sure you’re really doing it because you think it might help your anxiety and not as a way to slip back into old patterns because of the anxiety.

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Yes, I have already made appointments to talk to my doctor, therapist and nutritionist about this idea. So far two out of the three have said they think it would be okay to try. Still waiting to hear from my doc. For the time being I’m not going to keep a food journal in the sense of writing down everything I eat. But you make a good point about making sure my motivation stays right. I’m still meeting with my therapist every week so I’ll stay accountable…

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Mary K July 30, 2012 at 8:16 am

I have tried and failed at paleo many times. A restrictive diet really sets me up for feeling deprived and craving all the things I can’t have. That being said, the times I did paleo…even for a day or so, I felt much better. I was not as anxious, I felt more confident, I felt more relaxed, less brain fog, and I seemed to get more accomplished. Unfortunately, my cravings would kick in, I would indulge, and all those great feelings were gone. I just wanted to sit and do nothing and worry about stuff. What fun! I’m going to try again and really try to get over the hump of getting rid of the cravings because I truly believe that food affects your hormones and thus the entire functioning of your body, and I think there are benefits to be found in the paleo/primal lifestyle. I guess nothing worth having comes easy!

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm

No, nothing does come easy, does it? Keep me posted on how your own experiment goes!!

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Melissa July 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

As someone with Celiac who *has* to be GF, I end up doing a lot of reading on Gluten Intolerances as well (the non immune system reaction). You can be Gluten Free without going to full Paleo/Primal. Using some common sense, avoid as much of the pre-packaged processed stuff as you can. I still get pasta occasionally and a few things here and there, but I try for those things to be a very small part of my diet. For me the Paleo/Primal is just too restrictive, but it definitely makes a significant difference for some people. I have gotten some very good Paleo recipes that we’ve worked into our rotation, but I just can’t commit to the whole thing. Quinoa, Buckwheat, and Millet are all good grain choices that are gluten free (plus rice of course). Biggest thing if you are going to try GF is to do it for at least 2-3 weeks and don’t cheat and be very careful about hidden sources of gluten (soy sauce – made from wheat!, malt flavorings come from barley). Remember Gluten comes from wheat, barley and rye, not just wheat!! For celiacs we even have to worry about our french fries being fried in the same oil as anything breaded because it contaminates the oil – cross contamination is everywhere. If you do feel better going GF you’ll need to determine how sensitive to gluten you really are as sometimes the reaction is worse after you eliminate it for a while. Good luck, there is a LOT of information out there, and a LOT of extremes – I tend to read lots and use some common sense (with input from my doctor of course :) when in doubt).

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Thanks for all the tips! Do you have any books you recommend? I’m so new to all this…

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Melissa July 31, 2012 at 5:36 am

http://www.celiac.com has a TON of great information on GF foods, blogs, links, books, etc. I also read “Wheat Belly” which was very Paleo slanted, but was an interesting read – his “evidence” was a bit too anecdotal for my taste overall, but he did have some interesting points throughout the book as well. I’ll see if I can dig up a few of the other books I’ve read and another website or two, but celiac.com tends to branch to lots of places.

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Nicole July 30, 2012 at 9:25 am

I would try it. It really seems like something that can’t hurt. And as far as Intuitive Eating- I remember in one of Geneen Roth’s books (I can’t remember which one) she talks about having to avoid certain foods or follow a special diet for medical reasons, while doing intuitive eating. There would be an adjustment period, but you can still intuitively eat with allergies!

I have also heard that the best way to diagnose allergies is through an elimination diet. In your case, I’d just start by eliminating gluten and seeing what that does, instead of going through the whole elimination diet (which is a giant pain in the butt). I just don’t know if I would trust a test when you could just cut out gluten and see what that does. But if you do decide to try it, make sure to be very careful. I know for people with full blown celiac, even the tiniest amount of gluten can make them very sick. So if you are going to try cutting out gluten, make sure you cut out ALL of it (so stuff like soy sauce is out, although Braggs makes a good alternative).

I went through a period recently where I thought the gluten-free thing was just a fad, and half the people who quit eating it had no allergy or sensitivity to it, but then a couple of people I know cut out gluten and found it made a HUGE difference to them.

If it doesn’t work, you can just go back to eating gluten! Also, if it doesn’t work, you could consider seeing a Naturopathic Doctor. I see one, and they are fantastic for figuring out hormonal issues, food allergies, and all the things that affect your entire body, whereas sometimes doctors tend to get tunnel vision. I don’t want to say that all of your anxiety and panic attacks are from an allergy or some other physical cause, but it is perfectly possible at least SOME of it is- and even if it isn’t, at least when you’re done you’ll know, and can go on to trying other things.

Finally, I have 1 more idea I’m just going to throw out there. When I was a kid both my parents went on a meditation retreat, and loved it. My Mom has been to 3 now. I am going on my first in a month. They are 10 days long- no phones, no talking, no touching etc. But pretty much everyone who goes says they are trans-formative and life-changing. It might be a way to get some better insight into WHY you have had worse panic attacks lately, and maybe get better and being calm. But- they are pretty intense. If there is a center near you, you’d probably want to talk to an instructor first. There could be a chance that the course could bring on a panic attack if it caused the underlying issues to rise to the surface. The organization is called Vipassana, and it is non-religious.

Those are just my 8 million cents!

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Hahah- thanks for the wealth of info! I agree that taking out gluten seems like a relatively simple change to make. As for the meditation retreat, I’m intrigued! But I’d need to wait until my kids are a bit older – no way I could be away from them with nary a phone call for 10 days;) Let me know how yours goes!!

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Laura July 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

This is super timely for me. My anxiety is out of control right now – mostly work related. Between the constant feeling of failure, fear of being fired, the pressure of being the breadwinner while my husband is in school, and the general dislike of the work I do, I’m having to take ativan almost every day to get through it and not puke on my desk (doc prescribed, fyi). I’ve had acupunture a couple times and it truly did help, though the effect didn’t last. I’ve been toying with trying paleo/primal since I’m a crossfitter and I’ve seen the amazing results that other people are getting. Maybe this is the push I need to do it.

Charlotte, good luck. I’ll be thinking of you. Because this crap sucks.

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Oh honey, this crap DOES suck! I’m so sorry you are dealing with it too right now! I totally know that pukey feeling:( If you do decide to try this, please keep me posted on how it goes!

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Dayna July 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

I don’t think I’ve ever posted on your site before, but I just wanted to chime in with my two cents. I have gone gluten-free a couple of times in my life (my issue is GERD) and it always makes a huge difference, less acid reflux, more overall energy. I am working my way back to it now. Currently, the way I work it is if I make it, it’s gluten-free; when I go out, if I want gluten in my meal, I have it. I’m about 90% GF in my diet now and since my stuff isn’t debilitating like your panic attacks, it works for me. I think the biggest turning point in realizing that a GF diet wasn’t a big deal was when I looked at the 7 pages of GF food on the Trader Joes website. I don’t know if you have a Trader Joes where you are, but if you do, check it out. Good luck and I hope this is a turning point in the panic/anxiety attacks. I suffered for ten years and they are horrible. Every once in a great while, one comes sailing in out of nowhere and it’s awful, just awful. Luckily for me, I haven’t had one in a couple of years. If going GF will help, I say go for it!

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Charlotte July 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Thanks Dana! I’m so glad it’s helped you so much! And yes, we do have a TJ’s here – thank you for the tip:)

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Dayna July 31, 2012 at 10:23 am

You’re welcome. Sometimes a small adjustment in one’s diet can make a huge difference. For example, my only diet restriction is gluten-free and it made a difference for me. Everything else is fair game in my world. And if you can do it, I recommend having some body work done: massage, chiro, whatever works for you. Interestingly enough, in the first session my chiropractor asks about fear, times you were scared in your life. He says all that pent up fear in our bodies is what causes pain and distortion. Since he’s worked miracles with me and everyone I’ve sent to him, I think he’s on to something there. If you find a good healing bodyworker, they can help you release the pent up fear so perhaps the anxiety attacks will decrease.

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Irene July 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

Hi Charlotte,
First of all, I’m so sorry you struggle so with anxiety. A family member has terrible panic attacks and I’ve been with them in the hospital (and once in the ambulance) and know what a truly awful disease it is. Good for you for not giving up on beating it. With that said, I know it seems harmless to say, why not, try it and see if it helps, but anxiety issues are so complex it seems really hard to do a fair experiment on yourself. You may have a few good months going GF, but life if ever changing so it will be so hard to know if that’s what really did it. My biggest problem with these sorts of anecdotal evidence are that almost ever success story seems to feature some version of ” I was doing this diet and things were great and then the sh*t hit the fan and I slipped up on this diet and felt terrible” and it is impossible to know if the stress that lead you to go off the wagon is what is making you feel terrible or if it is actually the diet. Moreover, the placebo effect is an incredibly real thing – anything that feels like “taking care of yourself” or “being good” somehow can really affect how we deal with stress. I’m not sure exactly what I’m saying here, but I guess I’m saying, this kind of experiment in so hard to do on yourself, at least in a time frame shorter than years. So I’d say, if you are going to try it, just keep that in mind and please work with your therapist to make sure it doesn’t become something you feel burdened by. If it really is that life changing, I guess you’ll notice eventually, but it probably won’t be the end all be all the way and it won’t be your fault for it not changing your life if it doesn’t. I guess I’m coming at this sort of thing from a funny perspective because I have really terrible migraines that genuinely affect my ability to live my life for periods of time and I’ve been told to *just try* SO MANY things by friends and family. None of them have helped and all of them have left me feeling like a failure for not being able to cure myself, because X was able to do it, so why couldn’t I? I am constantly struggling to find a balance between not giving up on being well and finding a way to continue to live my life without the massive swings between hope and failure of any new “treatment” I’m trying. The only things that have *really* helped me have been medications. I’d love to not have to pop pills everyday, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll do it if I have to to live the life I want.

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Charlotte July 31, 2012 at 12:04 am

This is such an important comment! Thank you for the reality check. I definitely have a tendency to jump on health fads, often without really looking before I leap. I agree that my anxiety is likely the product of a complex set of conditions. And excellent point: ” Moreover, the placebo effect is an incredibly real thing – anything that feels like “taking care of yourself” or “being good” somehow can really affect how we deal with stress.”

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Katie July 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

I kind of agree with most of the comments above. GF isn’t the same as Paleo or grain free. That said, I am gluten free and paleo-ish. (The only grain I eat is oat flour that I use to bake cookies with.) I’m still anxious.

I think it really is more of a lifestyle thing. If you are anxious about your diet, then going GF or Paleo may help, but if you still lead a high stress life and/or are a Type A/perfectionist already (like I am and I am sure you are also), then I don’t know that going GF will really do much. At least, in my experience it didn’t.

BUT! About a month ago I discovered Rhodiola – an herbal supplement that is touted for it’s anti-anxiety, anti-depresison, anti-stress properties. I was skeptical, but I noticed a huge difference the first day I took it. I’m seriously a whole new woman, I swear. Maybe it’s a placebo, maybe not. All I know is that it has changed my life. For the better.

Let me know if you want to hear more – I’ve done a ton of reading about it (of course). Email me if you want to hear more.

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Charlotte July 31, 2012 at 12:02 am

Okay – I’m buying Rhodiola STAT. Thank you for the rec! And for your honesty about going GF/primal.

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trinki August 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm

I have tried rhodiola and rhodiola makes me MENTAL. Someone in my family bought it and recommended it to me and I tried it, hey! it’s natural, it can’t hurt… riiiiiiiightt… I went bonkers the day after, I fought with a dear friend for absolutely no reason ended up throwing FOOD at her to make her shut up, i was such a mess. Crying hysterically and hitting myself. Note, I had never had such a meltdown… I didn’t make the connection with rhodiola but I stopped taking it for another reason. Some months later I tried it again, the very next day I had a similar meltdown. I had an AHA! moment. and stopped taking it and have never behaved in such a way again.

it seems to be really harmful for people who suffer with bipolar disorder. I am not bipolar yet i had a very strange reaction to it.

be careful.
trinki

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Abby July 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

My mom gets panic attacks so I would never doubt how debilitating they can be. Personally, I ended up in the ER twice one summer with such horrible stomach pains that they put me on morphine drips but they were never able to explain the pain and I think now, looking back, that it was stress. Scary stuff.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a rough period. Honestly, I’m so against restrictive diets but this seems like it might be something worth trying. I completely understand the ED worry, I’d worry too, but if gluten-free reduced your anxiety you might actually have less ED thoughts in the long-run. I say try it. I know personally the more sugar/less healthy I eat the more I tend to worry.

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deb roby July 30, 2012 at 11:33 am

My trying to eliminate wheat is more in line with Dayna’s- after years of living with TUMS, I discovered purely by accident that eliminating the wheat (except in beer) eliminated the GERD. I know that wheat mixed with yeast is worse than wheat alone (what is that about?).

Never associated wheat with increased anxiety, but that may be possible.

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Kelsey July 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I would totally suggest trying it! This time last summer I started having weird allergic reactions and couldn’t for the life of me figure out which foods were causing my issues (which turned out to be cranberries, btws) so I had an allergy test done in December where they took a vial of blood and tested me against 180 foods. I came back being “sensitive” to 28 or 29 (I’m finally allergy free enough now that I just stick to keeping the top 10-12 foods out of my diet because the rest don’t do too much to me) but I was highest in gluten AND wheat (and dairy which had long been absent from my diet thanks to a bad chicken alfredo incident so that wasn’t as shocking). I remember the month after taking all my allergens out of my diet-at which time I accidentally ended up being vegan gluten free…an epically boring period of my life-and I started feeling amazing. It was like a fog thinned out around me and I could just sit and feel happy. It rocked!

I’ve also struggled with panic attacks (I swear the campus library itself became a trigger…those study carrels are so confining) and, although I’ve been down to a panic attack or two a year for the last two/three years, during my most recent attack, I was able to calm myself down and get out of that head space in a way I’d never done before. I’m not 100% sure if being gluten free was the whole source of my relief, I’ve also matured a lot since the height of my disorder and know how to actually deal with emotions in a semi/mostly productive way now rather than ignoring them, but I think being gluten free did play a role in my success.

I’m sorry this is such a long message, I’m rather passionate about both these topics since they’ve both effected my life greatly! But my take away for you is to consider getting a blood allergy test. Seriously. I took gluten out of my diet before but I didn’t feel any better-physically or mentally-because I was still eating fish, coconut, and yeast-all of which are other things I’m allergic to. But now that I am free of the vast majority of foods I’m sensitive to I feel absolutely amazing-physically and mentally.

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Tamara July 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I have a severe phobia of vomiting(emetaphobia) that causes me to have panic attacks whenever I feel even the slightest bit nauseated(or if someone around me is feeling off). And I get stomach aches ALL. THE. TIME. I’ve been through the same tests you have as well and they all come back negative. They tell me it’s psychosomatic.

When my hubby feels sick, I pack up and head to my parents house for the duration(plus several days after he’s better)…that’s how bad my phobia is.

Anyways, hubby and I have been primalish(we still eat some dairy and potatoes) for about 1.5 years now and while I still am ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED of vomiting/nausea/ect, I have 80% less stomach aches than I used to and the resulting panic attacks are much less severe.

I do know that when we have travelled since becoming primal, we just eat what is convenient(which usually means lots of wheat) and I am always spending the whole trip as an anxiety ridden mess.

I’d say GO FOR IT! The worst that can happen is nothing. And the best is that you may find yourself in a better mental place. And since you’re not doing it to lose weight, you don’t need to be so strict on the carbs as you were before when you had your massive failures.

Not really related, but my hubby used to have the worst smelling gas in the universe. Since going primal he almost never has gas(unless he eats wheat then it comes back with a vengeance).

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Kellyim July 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I can only tell you my personal experience, which is that when I’m eating Paleo/Primal, my depression is so much better. I just feel lighter mentally when I’m not eating a lot of grains/sugar. I’ve done little experiments and have determined that wheat is the absolute worst for me (except for sourdough – something about the fermentation helps me tolerate it better). When I eat a lot of wheat, I feel sadder/angrier, I might get a migraine, I definitely feel sluggish and bloated. I can tolerate corn and rice a lot better, but I still try to limit those too. A few years of low-carbing off and on has proven to me that I just feel better when the carbs I’m getting come from fruits and vegetables, both mentally and physically.

I think you should take the 80/20 rule to heart, given your own ED issues, and realize that limiting grain (or wheat, or whatever you end up doing) isn’t an absolute. You’re limiting, not restricting completely. But take care of yourself and perhaps talk this through with your therapist.

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Jennifer July 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Interestingly, I visited the gastroenterologist last week and he told me that he’s never had a patient who didn’t feel better in some way after going gluten-free. He said he knew it was the quite the diet du jour, but there are things about gluten that are inflammatory to our bodies. I don’t have panic attacks per se, but I’ve had IBS for as long as I can remember. I definitely wear my mood in my gut. Going gluten-free has definitely helped. Although that has been the biggest plus, I’ve also noticed I no longer have canker sores in my mouth, I’ve had no allergies to speak of this past year, and my PMS is much more tolerable.

Going gluten-free is both very easy and very difficult. It’s easy because there are plenty of delicious foods that are gluten free (hello, Nutella). It’s difficult when you eat out (although restaurants are getting much better), visit someone’s home (I hate being high maintenance), or have to check every label for hidden sources of gluten.

I think it sounds worth it for you to give it a go. :-)

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Megan Ward July 30, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Just one more voice in all of this: I went gluten-free due to debilitating stomach aches and constant digestive upset. But I still kept my diet pretty crappy. There is no end to the ways you can still eat badly even while gluten-free. Then I went paleo. What I think paleo is for me, more than a “fad” or a diet, is just acknowledging the importance of food quality. I’m much healthier now. And for the first time in 15 years, I’m off of any sort of anti-anxiety medication.

That isn’t to say I’m all better. I’m managing my anxiety more now than I did on the prescription (many thanks to Gaba). And I still have my moments – last night, in particular, I was fighting some wicked anxiety. Also my chronic pain flared up, so I think my mind just had to much to deal with. But the key is that I am managing it. I’ll go weeks without any issues, so long as I stay healthy and remain on top of exercise and sleep. It’s more work than taking meds, but fewer side effects. I’m happy to be where I am. I think it’s worth a try.

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Azusmom July 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I certainly don’t think it can hurt to go GF for a while. Maybe, if you like, you can try easing into the Paleo, so it won’t feel like such a shock to your system.
Do you ever get an afternoon off? Maybe on a weekend, when your hubby’s home? I try to do this every once in a while, and it makes a big difference’

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Nate July 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm

There is valid argument in saying that anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all but I say if it works for you, then that is all the evidence you need.

When I write diet plans for people who have obvious symptoms of insulin resistance I’ll give them the options.

“Do you want to go through what may be a couple of days to a couple of weeks of hell to come out of the other side with renewed vigour, more clarity of mind, better moods, less bloating, greater insulin sensitivity and ability to lose fat…? Or would you rather take your time and ease in to it?”

In other words, I’m about to take them off grains and other inflammatory foods and as a result, they may go through the dreaded ‘carb flu’.

9 times out of 10 they will go for the quicker rather than the easier option and once out the other side, they are happy that they did it.

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Rachel July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm

RadioLab did a show not long ago called ‘guts.’ One of the focuses was the link between probiotics and mood. Scientists doused first animals and then people with massive amounts of probiotics and found in both cases they became really calm and really happy. (Interesting!) If I remember right, they also said that 80% of the body’s serotonin is in the intestines, which made me wonder about what kinds of food might decrease that serotonin – sugar and gluten seem probable. It’s all very new science and absolutely fascinating. The link to the show is: http://www.radiolab.org/2012/apr/02/

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Juliet July 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I’ve not read all the comments above mine, so I apologize if this is said already. What about eliminating one potentially anxiety-inducing food at a time and even then for only short periods? Cut out grains for a week. Don’t worry about dairy/legumes. See how you feel. If you can manage another week, do it. The pale(o)xperts claim gluten takes a while to get out of the system, so it might not ‘cure’ anxiety right away, but for the sake of your sanity, it could be a good approach! <3 <3 <3

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Katie H. July 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, as well. I went on antidepressants for awhile, and was able to use that crutch to recognize the problem, and come up with alternative solutions. I read a great book called The Anxiety & Phobia Handbook, did breathing exercises, made lists of the parts of my life my anxiety was affecting, and talked through “worst case scenarios” with a counselor. I came up with a mantra: “If _____ happens, I will handle it.” This reminds me that I’m a strong, smart woman, and my anxiety is a chemical imbalance. By far, though, I think the thing that helps me the most is Yoga.

Best of luck finding something that works for you. Remember: let go of the guilt! This is a disorder. You wouldn’t be mad at yourself for having asthma or diabetes. (That was some of the best advice given to me by my doctor.)

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Heather Eats Almond Butter July 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Are you thinking about giving up all grains or just gluten? This has probably already been addressed in the comments above, but maybe just try gluten free grains for a month or longer. Mmm, quinoa and brown rice. :) Whatever you decide to do, I hope it helps!

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Lisa July 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Hmmmm..very interesting. I have been gluten free for 2 years, tho there are times when I eat it on purpose. One of those times was last Friday. I have been rather anxious since..especially today. I tends to take a good week for it to clear my system. Today I was wondering WHY. THE. ANXIETY!?!? Maybe it is the gluten..I guess I’ll find out in a few days.

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Debbie July 31, 2012 at 12:58 am

I think the GAPS diet really works for extreme cases of anxiety.

I was bulimic for at least 20 years. And then after I stopped purging I would just refuse to eat all day and eat a large dinner that lasted until I went to sleep. That was the only way I could control my weight and also a way of dealing with the “full” feeling I hated so much. I hardly ever ate meat or fat.

At this time I was having SEVERE anxiety and depression, and likely bipolar disorder. And strangely, loss of balance, low blood pressure, and a body temp of 94 degrees F. I had been to many psychiatrists, doctors, and brilliant naturopathic doctors. I was overly sensitive to every treatment given to me, even some vitamin supplements and acupuncture. Everything made me flip out and I would end up hiding in the bathroom (The only room in the house with a lock).

I first started to eat meat and fat after I did some research on the Weston Price site. I found out if I ate real fermented kimchi and cortido and took digestive enzymes before I ate meat, I could eat meat and fat and I would start feeling better. Sometimes it took a couple of hours before I could get over the “I want to eat more” AND “I’m so full I need to get this stuff out of my stomach NOW”, even after digestive enzymes and a healthy meal.

I read about the GAPS diet in a Weston Price article. I researched it and it sounded so much like me! http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2008/09/autism-add-adhd-constipation-candida.html I decided to go ahead and try the diet because I had nothing to lose but my insanity : ). I did pray long and hard about this because it was such a restrictive way of eating and I was ADDICTED to starches.

I found out that I was having a binge reaction to eggs (which I was able to add back in after about 9 months) and nuts. I have to say after the initial horrible die off I was feeling much better, less anxious and depressed, and didn’t even crave the starches and sugar. Very weird for me!

I am doing a million times better now (GAPS 19 mos). Weird things I notice: not needing so much control over things, less ocd tendencies when putting things away, less thinking about food, a definite “full signal” (unless I eat nuts or coconut manna), almost no anxiety while driving (a big problem for me!), I can think MUCH more clearly. I can clean my house. I can actually manage a short vacation with my family. I really am SO thankful I’ve found out what was really going on with my body.

I had so many years of thinking my food problem was all mental, and after all of these years I found out that my body was not getting the nutrition it needed because of my bad digestion and food intolerances. I definitely was addicted to those foods, just as anyone who has tried to quit drugs or smoking!

So I don’t know if you really want to go so far as eliminating grains, but it is the best thing I’ve ever done and I would highly recommend it. It does not work as a low fat diet and it it definitely not conventional. It was necessary for my debilitating symptoms, NO FOOD is worth me feeling like I used to.

Be Blessed : )

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Kirstin J July 31, 2012 at 7:17 am

I went paleo/primal for purely mental-health reasons, and it cured my life-long depression/anxiety. I had launched a full assault on these things years ago with a combination of meds, cbt, and meditation. That got me 70% of the way there. The diet took me the rest of the way. I now eat more fat every day than I used to over a period of weeks. Was the diet a “magic bullet”? I think I still would’ve needed the other tools mentioned above, but the diet was just as key as the traditional treatments were in the overall results. I am on half the meds I used to take and feeling much better.
Incidentally- my dad is a shrink, and I remember him going to professional mental health conferences decades ago and telling me about talks he attended where they proposed a high-fat, minimal grain and sugar diet as the “happy diet” and provided evidence that it helped with depression. This was in the fat-phobic 80′s and 90′s, so no one paid any attention. Looking back now I just shake my head.

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Kirstin J July 31, 2012 at 7:32 am

I should add that I have been paleo/primal for 18 months now. I don’t “indulge” ever, simply because after that long, grains and sugar are simply no longer appealing. (a sliced apple tastes like candy to me now.)
I think that sticking to a diet is far easier when doing it for your mental health… it was never about losing fat for me- the stakes were much higher. It was about living life rather than enduring it. When you’re focused on a possibility of life without psychic pain and you think of sugar and grain as “poison” that you can’t just exercise off later to negate (as goes the logic when you’re dieting for body-image issues), passing up that molten chocolate cake really is easy.

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Meg July 31, 2012 at 11:04 am

That was really interesting Kirstin. I am intrigued that your dad mentioned that. I am a much happier person when I stay low carb (hence no grains and limited sugars), but find it tough to stick with long term ( After going “off” and feeling awful, I tend to go back on and feel great, forget why I feel great and then go off again.) Maybe if I shifted my focus to feeling better mentally it would click!

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Diana July 31, 2012 at 9:06 am

In my experience and that of my family and friends who are affected, there are several contributing factors to both anxiety and disordered eating, gluten may or may not be one of them. By far the most beneficial treatment approach is EMDR therapy (used for PTSD and other traumatic events) and Overeaters Anonymous. Both get to the deeper issues, similar to intuitive eating but with more support. Have the courage to dig deep. It has profoundly benefitted myself and those I love. Anxiety and disordered eating are physical, mental and spiritual. I treat them as a 3 legged stool. I need all three approaches for a strong foundation.

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geosomin July 31, 2012 at 9:37 am

My brother’s wife is anxious and depressed and since she discovered a little while ago she is celiac and dairy intolerant, her depression and moods and anxiety have definitely gotten better since she went gluten free. She’s not normal by any means, but she is a lot more level. Gluten free is a tricky thing and can be frustrating to do for extended family (gluten is in everything it seems), but she ways how she feels makes the effort worth it. One thing she did note was that because she is so sensitive to gluten, the more she cut it out of her diet the less she could tolerate.
I say go for it and give it a few months and see how you feel. It could make a big difference.

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Courtney July 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Charlotte, I went through something very similar. A couple of years ago, I went on the Paleo diet to help with my hypoglycemia, depression, and chronic fatigue. I would only be able to stay on the diet for 2 or 3 weeks before the anger and anxiety of the restriction would lead to a binge. The silver lining is that this made me realize I needed help, and I started seeing a therapist that specialized in eating disorders. I started following intuitive eating and removed all food restrictions for about a year. I think allowing myself to eat whatever I wanted was the key in my ED recovery. However, my physical illnesses were still present, and actually getting worse. When I was diagnosed with PCOS a few months ago, in addition to everything else I mentioned above, I knew that if I didn’t change something soon, my problems would just continue to grow. I also knew that many women have successfully managed PCOS with the Paleo diet, so I wanted to give it a try again.

I was really scared that going on a restricted diet would lead to another binge — and I’m not going to lie, it’s been really hard. But it’s also been doable. My biggest piece of advice — and what has kept me sane in this — is to tell yourself that you can have gluten whenever you want. Remove it from your diet as much as possible, but never tell yourself that you can’t have it. Remind yourself that if it gets too hard, then you can have a piece of bread or a piece of cake. A few times when I felt anxious about feeling restricted, I would let myself have some ice cream or pizza, but I felt so physically ill after eating them, that the next time I didn’t want them.

Another thing that will greatly reduce the desire to binge is to have a lot of gluten-free snacks available that you enjoy. Make sure you have access to these treats at all times. There are tons of gluten-free websites that have delicious recipes. Elana’s Pantry is one of my favorites.

I will say that I’m not 100% improved, but I do feel better on the Paleo diet. My depression is almost gone and I can see some improvement in my hormonal symptoms. Next I will probably try the FODMAP diet to see if some other symptoms disappear. But the best thing that has happened is that I’m no longer fearful about restricting my diet. The despair, self-deprecation and binging have slowly been replaced by the desire to feel better and care for this glorious body that God has created.

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Ruth August 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

I had a panic attack in college. I certainly ate a lot more gluten in college than before or after, but I also had a lot of new things going on in my life. I have never yet had another attack after going to a therapist and doing activities from an anti-anxiety handbook. Now, in my late 20s, I’ve been gluten free for two years. My mother has Celiac and although I’ve been tested twice, I don’t. I became interested in going off gluten because my digestion was getting worse and worse – I’d always had some problems, but I was starting to have sharp pains and nearly constant diahrea. Around the same time I went gluten free I also learned about Paleo. I definitely think Paleo makes a lot of sense, but I’m not totally strict about it. It can be really hard (and anxiety provoking!) sometimes at restaurants or in social situations, and then I find it’s not worth it. Being gluten free has definitely been worth it for me – digestion is so much better, I weigh a bit less with no extra effort on my part, my skin is a lot clearer (may also be linked to dairy) – but you have to be careful or striving to be gluten free can lead to anxiety. I found it helpful to read Gluten Free for Dummies and similar books so I knew which foods to avoid. Then I found myself worrying in restaurant situations and realized it wasn’t worth it. I think you just need to be very clear with your server: “I cannot eat any gluten at all” and then stop worrying. If you get a little bit, you’ll suffer the consequences, but it’s not like a peanut allergy where you could die right away.
So in summary I’m not sure, for me, that they cause panic attacks, but it’s been helpful in so many other areas that it’s been really worth it. I also think there are so many good gluten free options out there now, you never have to feel deprived. The key again is to be prepared – as I discovered recently at a wedding when everyone was eating cake and all I had was gum. As long as you can bring some treats for yourself in those situations I think you may even feel you have it better than others, not that you’re depriving yourself. Good luck!

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Rebecca August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I’m going to be the one voice of dissent–going gluten-free did nothing for my body or my mental health. I tried it, without cheating, for four solid months and I was *utterly* miserable the entire time. I just wanted my sourdough toast, dammit!

If it had made any difference to my twitchy stomach, or to the depression I was experiencing, I would have stayed on it–but it didn’t (I’m saying this mostly because it’s currently popular to see gluten as “bad”, unhealthy, or an inferior food choice. It is none of these things–it is just food).

So, while gluten-free is *not* for everyone–for those it helps, it’s worth the difficulty.

(What has helped? For my stomach, getting rid of soy! For my brain, going on a different birth control pill. :)

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Sharon August 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for sharing – as always! I’ve been primal for a month… no weight loss, but my energy levels evened out and miraculously… NO MORE anxiety-induced INSOMNIA! Been on vacation for a week eating non-paleo, and the insomnia is coming back full force. I’m convinced, and can’t wait to get home and resume my sugar and flour free life!

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Debra Baldwin August 7, 2012 at 4:39 am

Mood disorder can really affect for our diet. It is not good to pursue dieting when experiencing this mood disorder. This can’t help to achieve the goal in losing weight.

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Heather August 8, 2012 at 12:16 am

I’m a first time commenter, but I wanted to post because we have a lot in common. I also have struggled with ED and have had problems any time I have tried to restrict my diet. I have fibromyalgia (and anxiety) and my doctor suggested an allergen elimination diet to see if food was causing some of the fibro symptoms.

I was nervous because I thought I might go crazy with the restricted diet and become weirdly obsessive about food. But I was able to tell myself that this was not food restriction, I could still eat what I wanted within the guidelines of the diet, and that I was eating this way for my health. So for 4+ weeks I had no gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, citrus, alcohol, caffeine, and processed sugars. And the first overwhelming improvement in symptoms was that my anxiety went WAY down, to the point that I felt it was gone. So I started reintroducing foods, and wheat seemed to trigger increased anxiety, so I eliminated it. And I added back more foods. I didn’t have a noticeable reaction to anything when it was introduced, but over time I felt the anxiety coming back and felt worse. So now I’m in the process of re-eliminating foods to re-test if they cause problems.

Somewhere in the middle, I started to “cheat”. I think part was me rebelling about the idea of being wheat free “for life” instead of as a trial. And the anxiety came back HARD and FAST. So I think I’ve pretty conclusively determined wheat and caffeine are major anxiety triggers for me. Dairy, gluten (not just wheat), and alcohol are on the suspects list and need to be retested. Apparently lots of people with gluten intolerance cross-react with the protein in dairy.

All this is to say, I think it’s worth trying. I have had my moments of ED crazy, but they have mostly been when I’ve been cheating or when I’ve lost sight of the health goal. You’ll know pretty quickly if it’s too triggering for you. Going into this, I was completely not expecting any improvement in symptoms, let alone a reprieve from the anxiety that has been my state of being for years. But it worked for me, so now I’m a believer. I’d suggest trying gluten and dairy free at a minimum, but still allowing non-gluten grains. No grains would probably have been too much for me.

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Eric August 20, 2012 at 8:38 am

I have been suffering from self diagnosed IBS for the last 6 years that otherwise could have been the best years of my life.Each time I am away from a bathroom or when I know I might not be able to make it to one in time, my IBS acts up and I get this really strong urge to go.
When I am home or even when I am with my safe people (people who understand), I rarely feel a thing.I am totally alright when I am in controlled situations.So its the fear of embarrassment in front of not so good people that triggers my IBS symptoms.
A gluten free diet is my final hope.I have nothing to lose at this point.
Has anybody else had some success with this problem?

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Charlotte August 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I’m not willing to make any conclusions yet but while just going gluten free didn’t seem to make much of a difference to me, taking out dairy is seeming to help. Keep checking back on my blog – I plan to post an update soon! And in the meantime you should probably head to a doc and get that IBS officially diagnosed. Yeah, it’s probably IBS but sometimes that masks other conditions…Good luck! I totally understand your pain!!!

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Scott Bayless November 2, 2012 at 12:24 am

I’m not hip to all these different diets but I can Tell you I”ve been Gluten Free for over 10 weeks now, and I would never go back. Let me give you a little history. in 1988 I was 18 years old, I had a car wreak and was paralyzed from the waist down. But it didn’t really stop me much I used and abused my body (physically) from lifting myself up steps to boating and tubing to semi pro wheelchair basketball, Lets just say I was extremely active. Over the last 10 years I developed arthritis in my shoulders, elbows, and wrists the slowed me down, to add to it infection started to spread through my body into my bones, I was in and out of the hospital at least once every 3 months. Soon, the doctors started telling me there wasn’t much left to do but wait. I had a friend the was diagnosed with celiac. I wanted to know more about it so I started researching. I decided i really had no other options left so I thought I would give it a try. The first week, was like detox, my body was not happy about it. Second week I had cravings, but I noticed the swelling from the arthritis was down, and down significantly. before, when I woke up I would have to stretch everything out before I attempted to get up now it was much easier. third week is when the benefits really started kicking in. I had type 2 diabetes.. it was gone.. i started only sleeping 5 hours a night because I slept so deep that was all I needed, I had dropped 25 pounds in 3 weeks,wasn’t even trying to do that.. The calm… the calmness in my head was over whelming. and the arthritis… non existent. I take no meds, and over the counter pain reliever used to be a staple, I refused to take anything the doctors would give me. All my pain was gone. Week 8 the weight loss slowed down, still lose 2 to 3 pounds a week. But i’ve had no infection for 3 months, used to I would at least be on antibiotics every 2 weeks for a fever. Now I don’t crave pizza, I’m scared to death of it. My girlfriend seeing my results, decided to get involved, She just wanted to lose weight. but she also had blood pressure issues, sleep apmea and acid re flux. all those things went away, but she didn’t lose much weight. I reassured her by telling her that males lose weight faster than females so she should worry and she stayed on it for 5 weeks. Once she had decided she had enough she jumped off the wagon. within 3 days her Acid re flux was back and worse, blood pressure went completely out of control and she was restless and could not sleep anymore. Why she didn’t go back gluten free I have no idea, but I wasn’t gonna push her.. so I know there is something to this Gluten free Diet. But I agree that different people get different benefits. I went in a skeptic but am now a believer!

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Candice November 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Tell your girlfriend that going gluten free isn’t a weight loss diet. Actually….many people who have Celiac or even intolerances to gluten will GAIN weight! That is because your body is absorbing more nutrients than it could in the past. Gluten can cause people to not absorb foods entirely thus giving the bowel upsets. I’ve gained about eight pounds on it but I feel amazing.

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Jen November 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

This story sounds very familiar! I also have suffered from IBS and GAD just as you described. I adored Intuitive Eating but in the end there was a missing piece which was my health.
Paleo eating, or the version of paleo I was following at the time cleared many of my physical issues, but I knew I still wasn’t feeling the best I could. To make matters worse, following an “eating plan” brought back all my crazy food patterns I thought I’d nailed for good with IE.
After working my way through a vegetable/juice-centric detox program I was able to remove the previous gunk accumulated through a lifetime of crappy eating.
Once that approach didn’t feel right anymore, I read up on paleo again (which has become so much more widespread in the last few years) and have been able to hull my own “intuitive” approach to eating paleo. I have read everybody’s rules but follow my own. I do still drink green juice several times a week and am big on home enemas and professionally administered gravity colonics (I know, not sexy, nor paleo, but IMO getting the waste out is a major major factor in reducing anxiety. Don’t knock it til ya try it :).
There is no deprivation for me whatsoever. I make cauliflower crust pizza with once a week and tonight plan on nachos. I indulge in dark chocolate and wine every night. But for the most part I eat organic/sustainably-raised/pastured eggs, veggies, fish, chicken, a little bit of nuts and fruit, and plenty of fat from avocados, coconut oil, ghee, etc. I love cooking simply and adore my food! I think loving what you eat is so important to sticking with what works for you.
Although I do continually struggle with the concept of eating animals (my IE days were mostly veggie with occasional fish), my body and psyche cannot tell a lie: I feel awesome.
That was a long comment! I just know how sucky these things can be and wanted to share what I’ve found.
Good luck on your path to feeling better!

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Candice November 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I went gluten free about 10 months ago for digestive and bladder issues. I never thought about my depression/anxiety initially. I never knew that there could be a connection with mood disorders when I began. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. Within a few weeks I started to notice that I wasn’t getting mad at things like I normally do. I’ve always had a temper that I believe stems from my depression/anxiety. Anyway…..I also noticed that my depression and anxiety hadn’t bothered me in a good while This was HIGHY unusual since I’ve had it for more than a decade. So after a while I decided to google “depression and gluten” only to find out there could be a connection! I’m a firm believer now, considering I noticed these changes with no prior influence/knowledge of the connection.

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Mariah March 6, 2013 at 10:16 am

I have had slightly higher levels of anxiety all of my life, due largely to my upbringing and self-esteem, but a few years ago I found myself caught in crippling generalized anxiety for most of every day and in a deep depression. I had already realized I was lactose and gluten intolerant, but I was packing in all the pseudo grain filled GF alternatives I could find. I had basic beliefs about food that lent themselves well to Paleo, so when a friend said she was doing it, it just felt right. Within three days of removing pseudo grains and lactose free dairy from my diet I realized I was feeling NO anxiety! My daily companion of churning stomach, suffocating feeling in my chest, random fits of inconsolable crying, and sporadic panic attacks were gone. I still have some stress, but it feels so much more normal and manageable. The more I read about how hormones operate in our bodies and how our foods are broken down, the more pieces of the puzzle fall in to place. I guess for me what matters most is what I know about my body. A few weeks into Paleo I ate some oatmeal, and BAM massive anxiety all that day and most of the next. Oatmeal and me are seeing other people now!

Try anything that feels right to you. When that right fit happens and your body and brain feel clear and calm, you will know you found what suits you best. Good luck!!!!

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Gina April 25, 2013 at 4:14 am

I agree mostly with the last 2 comments. I have been gluten free for about 2 weeks now and there is a massive difference. I have not gone grain free/paleo. What clued me in was that one of my daughters, age 8, suddenly developed wide spectrum food allergies 2 years ago – beef dairy, eggs, yeast, wheat, soy. And these are the big ones. She gets big hives. At the same time I started to notice sensitivities to some of these in myself, though not as severe. We did not test her or myself for celiac disease. I was not willing to put her through weeks of eating the toxic stuff (to her) just to test. She did do a blood test and an accupressure test. Not all allergies show up on the tests and I believe that to be true for celiac as well. The tests are dependent on you eating enough of that food for it to show an effect. Your intestines have to be severely damaged for celiac to show on the test.

I do not get hives, except from soy when I eat too much chocolate with soy in it. Not sure if it’s the combo or what, but I don’t get them when I eat soy free chocolate. I get nauseaus or diarrhea from dairy, and because of these similarities I started to think about the gluten. When my daughter’s histamine levels are low she can tolerate bread once a week without reacting. But now that I’ve discovered the Gluten/ mood connection I’m taking her off completely.

My naturopath had also diagnosed me with Pyrrole disorder. Instead of absorbing certain vitamins and minerals like zinc and B6 (among others) you’re excreting them. She put me on supplements for it where I take an exhorbitant amount of these. It helped some but not enough. All the really negative omnipresent thoughts got pushed to the back, but were still there, and the anxiety got worse. When I found out about the GF connection, it got me to thinking that maybe because of damage to my gut from gluten, I’m still not absorbing as much of these nutrients as I should because that is a celiac effect as well.

I feel soooo much better without crippling anxiety/ depression. For awhile I thought I was going crazy when it was combined with pms – crying for no reason, flying into rages, palpitations, weight on my chest, etc. Now my kids are fighting and I’m totally calm. (most of the time) Granted the depression hasn’t gone completely, but it’s like 80% better. I feel more even and balanced. I no longer feel like my head’s going to start spinning around any minute. Others have told me the longer I do it the better I’ll feel.

I’m also looking into Sunrider Chinese herbal tea fortune’s delight and quinary. Based on Chinese medicine, they are supposed to assist in detoxing and nourishing 5 different systems in the body. I drank the tea for a day and felt fantastic.

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Julie May 10, 2013 at 2:12 am

Hey Charlotte,
9 months after your original post can you give an update on your anxiety/gluten link journey?
Are you now an anxiety free, GF eating girl?

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Mike June 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm

This website has the best info for getting rid of anxiety.
http://www.depressionanxietydiet.com

Most of the problems come from eating stimulants and not being able to digest them. Your gut has a huuuuge connection with your brain. Use supplements, diet properly, and repair your gut and you should see a big difference.

Highly recommend the website!!!

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Maddie July 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

Charlotte,

I am only 24. Here is my story.

I have always been a ball of energy since I came out of the womb.
I had my first panic attack at the age of 13. My parents had just moved me and my two brothers to Austin Texas from Columbus Ohio so that we could be with my dying maternal grandfather for the last few months of his life (we thought he had years left, but we were wrong). He was dying of colon and liver cancer.
I was to start 8th grade at Lake Travis Middle School, in a well to do community and make friends with my peers who were filthy rich, (we were not, my parents dumped money into our extra curricular activities, as opposed to driving a Mercedes and buying their adolescent children designer jeans). Needless to say I couldn’t relate to my peers, and then I got my first period and boom, like a ticking bomb my mood swings and panic attacks take full force.

I recall my first recognizable attack- I was at my friends house sleeping over for the night. We woke up that morning (mornings were THE worst!!) and had plans to go to the mall and movies as usual. I got in the shower and a the tears started. Next thing I know my friend found me naked on the floor of the shower rocking back and forth and I, for whatever reason, couldn’t speak. She got her mom, I made my way to the bathroom floor and she covered me with a towel and told me my mom was on her way. I went to the doctor the following Monday and my mom requested that my doctor put me birth control to level my hormones. This helped, but only to some extent.

As the years pass, my traumatic high school years turn into a horror story. The mood swings get worse. I quit the one thing that made me feel sane, dance. By the time I graduated from high school I had been diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety disorder, Depression, Bi-polar disorder, PMDD, and was seeing a holistic doctor in Wimberly who was testing me for celiac. I have perscriptions for Aderall XR, Yaz, Lexapro, Geodon, Lemotrogen, and Klonapin (I know I’m misspelling all of this, bare with me).

I battle suicide at the age of 18 during what would have been my first semester of college, if I had actually gone to class. I cried the whole way to school every day and sat in the parking lot in my car, tried to muster up the courage to get out of the car and go to class. I rarely got out of the car and skipped most days, went home and cried some more.

The tears never stopped. Then in December, my best friend broke the news that she was moving to Vail to live with her boyfriend. this crushed me because I felt like she was abandoning me. Then exactly one month later, my dad called me and told me he was leaving my mom. Our family was perfect aside from the difficult emotional middle child (me). I always thought my parents would be together for ever, but unbeknownst to us, my dad was falling in love with another women in Houston (where the headquarters are for his company). He came home, told my mother he wasn’t in love with her anymore, (bit of important info, my mom has been on anti-depressants for 15 years, she was perfectly functional, happy and free spirited) he tried to blame her for being hard to love, and went onto explain why this other women was stronger and better than my mother. Upon hearing this, I dive off the deep end. The suicidal tendencies send me to the hospital a total of 3 times in a 12 month period. At this point I have been checked into a mental institute and was on 800 mg of lithium.

Htiting rock bottom wasn’t an option anymore. I had to be there for my mom. She was broken and I had to be strong. I got off all of my meds and self medicated with marijuana. Went back to school and more ore less ‘got my shit together’.

fast forward 3 years. I live in Dallas now. Worked my way up in an extremely high stress job. Travel 3 weeks of every month. Work in an industry flooded with estrogen, tension, and passive aggressive behavior. I still take my Aderall (not XR) every once and a while when I need to focus on a detail oriented project. Experience panic attacks at least once a day. Ihave mastered talking myself out of them. I’ve tried using running as an outlet. But I can never get rid of the feeling like I’m about to burst out of my skin.

Along side the panic attacks I have also been hospitalized at least once a year since I was 13 for what my doctor calls ‘stomach migraines’. I vomit profusely every 15 minutes on the dot and the only thing that helps is a combination of Zofran, Phenergin and Morphine. The worst was when I was in Laredo on business. The shaking was borderline convulsive. The initial symptom was new though. Prior to the nausea, I lost all feeling in my face. I thought I was coming down with a cold. The partner I was meeting with thought it was food poisoning. I knew deep down this was going to be one of the worst panic attacks ever. Two doses of Zofran, Phenergin and morphine later, I finally am able to sit upright without puking my guts out.

My doctor gave me a script or Xanax diagnosing me with situational anxiety and encouraged me to find a new job with minimal stress levels.

I am starting a new job in one month, where I will be my own boss, make twice the money and will be working half the hours I work now. The company is run by some college friends, all male so I won’t have to deal with female egos. This should be settling but now I am experience so much anxiety throughout the day I feel like I can’t breath sometimes. I have no appetite. I barely eat. After 3 years of therapy my dad and I have a great relationship. Everyting is looking up yet my anxiety is worse than ever.

One of my business partners in Misssissippi and I were talking one day and she had been experiencing the same symptoms. After being diagnosed with IBS and stomach ulcers she finally found a doctor who told her she had anxiety disorder. She has been on Celexa for 7 weeks now and said she feels like a new person.

My mom called me yesterday (extremely excited) and started reading me excerpts from this book called The Paleo Solution (I think that’s what it’s called). Anyways, she thinks there is a link between grains, sugar and anxiety disorder. This book goes so far as to say that even quinoa is not good for your digestive system.

My stomach is always in a knot. Should I try the diet? I am afraid I will spiral into another violent episode of profuse vomiting because saltines are the only thing that calm my stomach.

My therapist says I’m experiencing normal levels of anxiety considering the situation and my past.

I know this is all connected, just wondering if anyone has had any luck..

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Melissa July 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I’ve experienced anxiety and panic for about 13 years. I decided to try a gluten free diet because I heard it worked for so many people. I have been on the diet for almost a year now and my symptoms have progressively become worse not better. My eating habits are better including more natural food, but it has not helped. I am afraid though if I start eating gluten again it will become worse because it is supposed to be so bad for you. Anyone else ever have this experience?

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Michelle Aljaddou December 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Hi …….I had many symptoms for eight years….bloating..depression…nausia..low energy…hair loss.. breathing problems…hives…acid reflux.. I went to the clinic many times…they told me well….you have a belly…guit eating fried chicken…I don’t even like fried chicken..I do not eat fast food…Dr. then added…you should see a therapist and get yourself a puppy. My hair went from hanging past my butt…it was long..strong..thick..shiny..bouncy…and wavy…then in a fews months looked like one giant dred lock…breakage even crunchy! Years later same along…then the most horriable panic attacks….soon as it turned dark I such doom and gloom I felt I was going crazy I wanted to die….but afraid to die afraid to live! My Uncle Doug died this September due to ceilac and liver failure…he was one yr. older he was my childhood friend and uncle….He was in a hospice spueing yellow goo thru his flesh …so much swelling that he looked like Macy’s day float…using bed pans wetting the bed…I watched my best buddy who I had many adventures with…from casting ants into dixie cups with a balloon tied to the cup like a hot air balloon…jumping out of swings into piles of autumn leaves… Something needs to be done it is not normal…..it is the government…not ansesters!!!! frankien wheat!!!! ONE DAY WITH OUT GLUTEN MY ATTACKS …DEPRESSION WENT AWAY!!!!!!

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Michelle Aljaddou December 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm

LOL FORGIVE MY SPELLING ..AND EVRYTHING ELSE THAT WOULD GIVE ME A BAD GRADE IN ENGLISH CLASS….TOO BUSY FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE BOYS AND DOODLEING AND DAY DREAMING….THAT IS WHY WE NEED EDITORS:)

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Michelle April 8, 2014 at 12:20 am

Charlotte, I don’t know if you did remove grains from your diet or not, but I wish to share my story in case it helps others. I’m 47 and have been struggling with a general mood depression most of my life (from as far back as I can remember, 5 or 6) and later it developed into severe depression in my teens, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of Bipolar II (rapid cycle). I experience depression, anxiety, hypersensitivity to stress and have a chronic fear of heights.

Since my teens I have known I should not eat dairy or wheat as I had bad reactions to both, but it’s hard being a teen growing up in a western country and not eat bread or milk products. Over the years I have experimented with my diet and my latest experience has become conclusive for me. Approximately a month ago I went on a juice fast. I gave up coffee, meat, dairy and all grains. By the end of the month I was feeling great, I was happy, seriously optimistic and calm. After the juice fast I moved onto eating mostly fruits and vegetables with some nuts. I stayed optimistic and calm.

This morning I had a wheat based product and the mood change was almost immediate. I became agitated, frustrated and extremely angry. I felt like I wanted to beat the living daylights out of someone. This is absolutely not who I am. It did not go way again until I ate another meal of fruits which were mainly water based. It was this experience today which led me to do some research on the wheat connection with mood disorders (anxiety comes under this) and I came across this article http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201108/wheat-and-serious-mental-illness

Why is it such a problem for so many now? Back in the 1960s there was a fear of a world wide food shortage, so some scientists devised a way to make wheat a more stable and abundant crop. After doing experiments they produced the strain of wheat we have today. Along with the many changes they made, one was to alter the gluten content of wheat extensively, to a point where many people now can’t tolerate it. This was an unforeseen side effect of their tampering. You can do more research on this yourself if you’d like to know more. Basically, it explains why there is far more wheat and gluten sensitivity today then there used to be a century ago, it was virtually unheard of. Some experiments have shown it is not the gluten that causes problems but the wheat grain itself, so it’s not about removing gluten from the diet. As for me, I am removing all grains from my diet, as I just don’t want to experience this again.

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