Gluten-Freedom, Down with Dairy, Up the Health
I have been vegan for over 6 years. Being vegan definitely evened out a lot of things for me including mood swings and a lot of health problems. All of those extra animal hormones, and if you believe in that sort of thing, all of that suffering from their treatment, was no longer entering my body.
After 6 years I still had some issues. My digestions was wonky after I ate, my ups and downs were really intense, especially when I was on more of a low budget for food. I couldn’t understand why I knew so many people who were vegan a month and used to it, and why my system was still having issues. Then I read about gluten, and I realized, I had always been used to veganism. It was all of the wheat I was eating that was the problem.
It turns out gluten (and animal dairy) aggravate symptoms of schizophrenia, autism, and depression and gluten and dairy free diets have been used in their treatment. Some people with celiac disease, who cannot have gluten, show symptoms of psychosis and depression when gluten is introduced. Gluten also causes malabsorption of other key brain nutrients such as B vitamins. Even things like “brain fog”, attention issues, learning problems, and so on are associated with gluten consumption. Other studies have shown that people with schizophrenia are more likely to have celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities and gluten and dairy both are associated with aggravating bipolar disorder and disorders with psychotic symptoms.
Never in my life has a psychologist or psychiatrist told me that my diet may be contributing to my mental health. We are told to take pills, even though there is no one medication that can effectively combat mixed states (agitated depression, psychotic mania, etc), which make up most of the negative bipolar experience. Luckily, the field seems to be changing in some places and in some ways to include an analysis of physical health along with the mental aspects of it.
When my funds went down, the ramen noodles would stack themselves in my cupboard. The dumpstered bagels served as one or more meals a day. All of that gluten, which I knew wasn’t good for me, was actually making me go crazy. I took out the milk protein, the animal hormones, and so on, and now I needed to take out the big ol’ gluten that was dominating my diet.
I have been gluten free for a few months now. I also made some other life changes that reduced stress, so I cannot attribute everything to removing gluten from my diet, but I am sure I can attribute most of my improvement to it. My mood swings have drastically evened out. I still get my mania, my hypomania, my down days, my mixed states. They’re still there. But the intensity is so low that if I am distracted, even by something as simple as a book, I barely notice the difference. I feel stable. I am stable. I am functional. I am currently working again, and it has not been a struggle. It has been wonderful.
I was afraid to go gluten-free at first because I feared I would crave things all of the time, but it was as if I broke an addiction. The first week was weird, then I stopped wanting wheat most of the time. I do let myself have a little here and there (the tortilla on a burrito once a week or so and whatnot), but overall, anything very gluteny now feels like sand in my mouth. It reminds me of how I began to feel about cheese after I quit eating it. I feared I would never get used to it, and now it smells foul and I can tell if it is snuck into food without my knowledge, even a little.
Our eating habits are learned. For me, getting back to whole foods, and less processed foods has been critical to my recovery. I hope sharing this gives other people some ideas of things they, too, could try.