Could these 2 popular foods be sabotaging your mental health?

The food you eat can have an effect on your overall health and well-being, and this extends to your mood and mental health. It’s important to know which types of food may improve or sabotage your cognitive function. To support your mental health, avoid, or at least, limit your consumption of gluten and dairy food items.

Gluten refers to naturally occurring proteins that can be found in the endosperm of many cereal grains like rye, wheat, corn, and barley. It is composed of gliadin and glutenin. Casein is another type of protein, which can be found in mammalian milk and dairy products.

The consumption of gluten and dairy on their own can already have negative effects on those with gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, and lactose intolerance. However, these effects may go beyond just affecting people who can’t digest lactose or certain proteins. There may be a direct link between gluten or dairy intake and one’s mental state. (Related: Mood foods: How what you eat affects how you feel.)

How gluten and dairy foods can sabotage your mental health

Your gut-brain connection is the direct link between your intestinal flora and your central nervous system (CNS), which includes your brain and spinal cord. This means that if something is affecting your gut, it may also influence your brain. Some people may suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, in that the consumption of gluten does not trigger an autoimmune response that can damage one’s intestines. However, it can result in digestive problems, depletion of energy, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Over 60 years ago, researchers first looked into the possible impact of gluten on brain function and how it could lead to psychiatric problems. In this study, the researchers found a significant positive correlation between the numbers of women admitted to mental hospitals in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and the U.S., and the increase in consumption of wheat and rye. They also noticed that when gluten grain rations were reduced, the rate of first-time admission to mental hospitals also decreased.

According to research, gluten may erode the lining of the intestines. This sends a distress signal through your nervous system, which may generate the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Gluten can also trigger inflammation. When this happens, the rest of your organs may also be affected. If your intestinal wall is damaged, this could inhibit your body’s absorption of essential nutrients. It may even impair your body’s production of the mood-stabilizing neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Dairy products can have similar effects to gluten. Casein is a protein found in dairy that can be difficult to digest. While this can make your stomach feel full for a longer period of time, this burden on your digestive system can affect the rest of your body, including your brain. The consumption of casein has also been linked with symptoms of addiction, aggression, depression, and anger. According to research, eating dairy can literally change the way your brain works.

Food items that support mental health

To avoid experiencing mental health problems or mood disorders, simply switch to a gluten- and dairy-free diet. Ideally, you should follow a diet of whole foods that are loaded with beneficial fiber, antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to enhance your mood and boost your energy levels. Here are some food items you can consume to support your mental health:

  • Foods that are rich in fiber. These include beans, pears, peas, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Foods that are loaded with vitamin B-12 and folate. Increase your vitamin intake by eating plenty of broccoli, lentils, oranges, and dark leafy greens.
  • Foods that are packed with protein. Get a healthy dose of protein by eating eggs, poultry, seafood, and tofu.

Learn more ways to support mental health through your diet by going to

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