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Mood Disorders and Food Allergies

Depression is one of the most common symptoms that bring patients to seek medical attention. Many of the patients, who use alternative medicine, are looking for a diagnosis beyond the symptom, and this yields a greater understanding of the problem.

In assessing patients who report symptoms of depression or mood imbalances, it is important to look at many factors that may influence the neurologic system: heavy metal exposure, chemical exposure, and sensitivity as well as food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies. For certain individuals, there are cumulative exposures or deficiencies over many years that eventually result in mood disorders.

What is the relationship between mood disorders and food allergies?

When patients report symptoms of depression, food sensitivities must be ruled out.  There are numerous methods to do this, and there is great controversy about which method is the most accurate. Food sensitivities can pose two threats to normal brain function. First, a person may have a sensitivity to gluten, and the only symptom could be depression.  Most clinicians are looking for a GI disturbance when it comes to assessing their patient for gluten sensitivity. However, gluten can have significant neurologic effects. In 1986, Vlissides et al published research (British Journal Psychiatry 1986, 148: 447-452) that detailed how Schizophrenic patients in a secure ward in Sheffield England were put on a strict gluten free diet. They demonstrated complete remission of the disease and a complete return to symptoms when gluten was added back into their diets. These findings were reproduced in a Veterans Administration Mental Hospital in Pennsylvania in the 60’s.

To rule out gluten as a potential factor in your depression or anxiety start with the following blood tests: Tissue Transglutaminase, Endomysial Antibody, Anti-Gliadin antibody. These tests are not always the most sensitive to rule in or rule out a problem with gluten, but if any one of the above tests are positive or weakly positive the next step should be genetic testing.   If the above tests are negative, consider a different form of testing. Your doctor can help you navigate the testing options. It is difficult to define gluten sensitivity and researchers are working on definition as the majority of patients suffering from gluten exposure do not actually have Celiac Disease but instead, are gluten sensitive.  Improvement of symptoms after a gluten-free diet combined with all negative findings on blood tests is the current working definition of gluten sensitivity.

Secondly, gut permeability  or ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’ is a consequence of having repeated and prolonged exposure to a food or foods that a person has an immune reaction or “sensitivity” to.  In essence, the food particles become “antigens” and the immune system begins to attack these antigens causing an immune response which can damage the gut lining.  This damage can affect how nutrients are absorbed leading to deficiencies of key nutrients or minerals. Vitamins such as B12, B6, and folate and minerals such as zinc, are poorly absorbed in patients who have damage to the gut lining. Both B vitamins and minerals are involved in the production of brain chemicals, which can affect mood and other neurotransmitters.  In one study, it was found that higher percentages of people with depression had lower levels of B12 and folate. A link between people with low folate and alcoholism has also been confirmed. (J. Psychopharmacology, 2005 Jan, 19(1):59-65).

Nutrient evaluations can often shed light on the origins of depression and can give clues about deficiencies that require correction.  Ask your Doctor at Holistica about which of the available tests could help you discover the source of your depression and get started on your way to balanced and stable moods.