Food Intolerance and Depression
When good food feels bad . . .
Eating good food is supposed to make you feel better - right? Not necessarily, if you have a food intolerance.
What is food intolerance?
Most of us know that processed foods, food additives and refined carbohydrates and sugars are bad for us, but we don't expect healthy foods like whole grains, dairy foods, eggs and vegetables to hurt us. And even though those foods are good for nearly everyone, for someone with food intolerance, even these good foods can feel bad.
Food intolerance can occur with any food: foods you eat all the time, or foods you seldom eat. With food intolerance, your immune system sees the food as a foreign invader and decides to produce antibodies to it. These IgG antibodies form a complex with the food allergen. These complexes get deposited in different areas of the body, cause inflammation and damage the local tissues. The body tries to eliminate these complexes, but if there are too many it can't keep up, and the stage is set for illness to develop. The best way to prevent or improve symptoms and illnesses associated with food intolerance is to test and identify the offending foods and remove them from the diet.
Food intolerance differs from immediate onset IgE food allergies in that IgE reactions happen minutes to hours after a food is eaten, whereas IgG reactions take hours or days to develop. Emotional disorders like anxiety and depression have been linked to IgG food intolerance.
Food Intolerance and Mental Health
One of the first studies looking at the link between food allergy and mental health was conducted in Germany. In this double-blind placebo-controlled trial, thirty patients suffering from confusion, poor concentration, depression and anxiety were given either their allergenic or their non-allergenic foods, in such small quantities that they didn't know they were eating them. The study showed that the food allergens alone provoked severe depression, nervousness, feelings of anger, loss of motivation, and severe mental blankness. Not surprisingly, the foods that caused most severe mental reactions were the common food allergens milk, wheat, cane sugar and eggs.
This type of study reinforces the fact that when problem foods are identified and eliminated, many of the symptoms and conditions disappear or diminish.
Another controlled trial looked at food allergies and sensitivity to naturally occurring salicylates in 96 patients diagnosed as suffering from alcohol dependency, major depressive disorders, or schizophrenia. The mental health patients were compared to 62 control subjects selected from adult hospital staff members. This study showed that patients with diagnosed depression had the most allergies:
- 80 percent were allergic to barley.
- All were allergic to egg white.
- Over half the alcoholics tested were found to be allergic to egg white, milk, rye, and barley.
- 80 percent of schizophrenics were found to be allergic to both milk and eggs.
- Only 9 percent of the control group were found to suffer from any allergies.
These studies illustrate how food intolerance can trigger a multitude of mental, emotional and physical symptoms. The IgG reactions to specific foods can trigger inflammation and neurochemical changes in the brain that lead to debilitating symptoms. What's more, food intolerances are very specific to the individual, as are the symptoms they create, so any treatment decision can only be made by food intolerance testing.
When tested in a clinical laboratory that properly maintains a consistently high degree of quality control, food intolerance testing may be an effective tool in helping treat mood disorders. Following a food allergen-free diet can sometimes relieve symptoms of depression, insomnia, daytime drowsiness, anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactivity, irritability, outbursts of anger, and on occasion, even schizophrenia.