Unfortunately, the question of wheat’s relationship to depression is very poorly charted in the medical literature. We do know that people with celiac disease experience more depression and commit suicide more often than the general population (a big issue all of its own), but we lack studies of depression from wheat consumption outside of this group.
Given wheat’s effect on the brain, however, I don’t think it would be a leap to suspect that wheat’s effects may contribute to depression. After all, if wheat consumption can cause behavioral outbursts in children with ADHD and autism, mania in people with bipolar illness, hearing voices in schizophrenics, and appetite stimulation and bring “fog” in people without these conditions, then depression might be within the realm of wheat’s reach.
Here are a couple more fascinating stories of wheat’s relationship with mental health from a couple of Wheat Belly Blog readers:
Just started reading Wheat Belly and it really hits home with me but I was especially blown away after reading the chapters on psychiatric issues. While I haven’t been diagnosed with any such, my mother’s family has a history of depression and my sister committed suicide from complications of psychiatric disorders coupled with major drug and alcohol addictions. One of her daughters has Crohn’s Disease and the other one has had major intestinal pains all of her life and had even been hospitalized several times for them but was never diagnosed with a specific intestinal disease.
My mother had major gastrointestinal issues all of her life (which I now suspect was undiagnosed celiac disease) leading to her having full blown invasive rheumatoid arthritis, resulting in her death from peritonitis due to a weakened lower bowel that ruptured.
I, myself, had suffered on and off with depressive episodes and up and down weight gain all of my life, as well as unexplained stomach pains, diarrhea, alternating with constipation. Type 1 (1 of my 3 brothers and all of my 3 nephews) and type 2 diabetes (my late father) is rampant in my family.
I have been following a low-carb diet now for 4 years and my mood has improved immensely but I was still allowing some wheat products in my diet on occasion not realizing that it might be the cause of some lingering issues that I’ve experienced. I lost 110 pounds but still had a “belly” and my weight has stalled. I would like to lose another 20 pounds but it just wasn’t budging and I was experiencing joint pains and periods of unexplained anxiety. Just thought I was getting old (like we haven’t heard THAT one before, hahahaha!).
I’ve been doing the wheat-free diet for a week now and my belly is finally deflating and my weight is starting to go down again!! But the cherry on the sundae seems to be that things just don’t bother me like they used to. I’m laughing more with my hubby and the sun seems to shine more in my life and now I know why!!!
I am only just sad now that the information in your book was not available to those in my family that have passed on from what I believe are wheat related issues but I am going to make sure that those who are still with me get this information. It really could save a life!!!
I have suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my adult years. While I have taken meds in the past, I am not currently on medication.
After going wheat-free, I suffered few physical symptoms aside from one night when I felt kind of queasy. But emotionally, I was a mess. I also had so little energy, it took effort to do anything at all. Dr. Davis told me to stick it out and I did.
I have now been wheat-free for over three weeks and I feel so good – both emotionally and physically. I haven’t taken any pain relievers or decongestants in over three weeks – which is astounding to my hubby and me! I can not emphasize this enough. No more headaches, migraines, or sinus pain. I have no more bloating or stomach aches either. To be honest I never realized how much I suffered from digestive issues before. I guess I just thought it was “normal.”
I even lost a couple of pounds. Not that I needed to, as I’m already a healthy weight. Still, it’s nice to have clothes fitting better!
But getting back to the depression link… I think there is totally a link. Whether it’s just an emotional response to our bodies being overloaded trying to deal with all the chaos wheat is causing or some type of unknown impact the gluten has on the brain, I don’t know. I do know that I am back to feeling great. Still fighting a little bit of fatigue in the evening, but I’m chalking that up to not getting enough sleep. Eventually, I think my system will get all sorted out. It’s like recovering from a major illness! It just takes time.
For anyone else out there suffering from the anxiety and depression after going wheat-free, don’t lose heart. It does get better! Just take it easy on yourself and make sure you’ve got some good supportive people around you. The rewards are worth it!