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Depression, Anxiety and Diet



Caffeine and alcohol are familiar beverages which illustrate dramatic changes that can result from putting substances and foods into our bodies. While alcohol may initially elevate one's mood, it is actually a depressant. Caffeine is, without a doubt, a mood elevator that can soon turn into the discomfort of anxiety.

Caffeine withdrawals can be problematic and are often accompanied by depression and headaches when one tries to quit. While the unpleasant symptoms may last for only a few days, the victim of such a withdrawal may think of themselves as being tested severely.

Without a doubt numerous other foods, beverages and substances can promote anxiety or depression including some of the very foods we eat. Tryptophan is probably one of the most thoroughly researched examples of a behavior modifying substance found in our food. This is an amino acid which the brain converts into serotonin, which is an essential player in a large variety of brain responses. Serotonin regulates and moderates over-reactiveness to various stimuli from social relationships, smell, vision and taste. In addition, moods, perceptions (including pain), sexual behavior, physical activity, aggressiveness, and sleep patterns are affected. Tryptophan pills have been found to be effective in relieving insomnia, preventing muscle spasms and relieving depression in some cases.

The quantity of tryptophan ingested in our foods has only a small bearing upon the quantity of tryptophan that enters the brain. The greatest determining factor in the total quantity of tryptophan entering the brain is the presence and concentration of other large-molecule amino acids that are simultaneously present in the blood. These large-molecule amino acids, including tryptophan, compete with each other to gain access to the gates of the blood-brain barrier thus entering the somewhat confined brain fluids. The typical meal high in protein, loaded with dairy foods, meats and eggs, introduces a large number of other amino acids that compete with tryptophan in crossing through to the brain. The effect of this is less tryptophan enters the brain and there is a decrease in the manufacture of serotonin. Conversely, a diet of low-protein foods based on carbohydrate-rich starches, fruits and vegetables, yields the highest production of serotonin in the brain because there are fewer competing large-molecule amino acids. This results in less insomnia, anxiety, depression and hyperactivity when we consume the healthier diet.

Allergic reactions to foods can also cause depression, fatigue and anxiety in some people. The most common perpetrators of food allergies are dairy products with eggs in second place. Other common offenders are citrus fruits, wheat and corn, but nearly all foods consumed by human beings will find an allergic individual somewhere. Often these allergic reactions are subtle and hard to diagnose and recognize until one has eliminated the offending food. This elimination can happen by intention or by accident, and then, later, when one eats the offending food or substance, a recognizable allergic reaction occurs. One can determine the offending foods by going on an Elimination Diet.

Schizophrenia is a serious psychological disease that is sometimes caused by foods. In hospital-based medical studies, some persons have been identified who undergo dramatic behavioral changes to dairy products and foods high in gluten such as barley, wheat and rye. Some individuals with schizophrenia have actually been totally cured of the disease simply by modifying their diet eliminating the offending foods.

A physician who is, for the first time, seeing a patient who is depressed, should begin by closely observing a few general principles of health and medicine. First is to examine and look for the presence of any serious organic disease and check the thyroid to determine if it is functioning well. Then consideration should be given to the quantities of alcohol and caffeine consumed by the patient and the foods that occur in his normal diet. Also look to see if any medications may be creating behavioral changes. Tranquilizers, birth control pills, high blood pressure medications (Beta-blockers) and, in fact, most all medications should be suspected.

If all of the organs and their systems appear to be functioning normally, then it is suggested that the patient switch to a starch-based diet accompanied by daily exercise such as walking. Drugs which might be causing depression or anxiety should be discontinued under a doctor's supervision. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages should be discontinued. Find a professional person such as a counselor, psychologist, minister or psychiatrist who can listen well and with whom you can discuss your problems. Consider taking doctor prescribed psycho-active drugs only as a last resort.



This article was extracted from an article written by Dr. John McDougall, MD.  You can read the original article by doing a search for “mcdougall depression” or by going to the website home page www dot drmcdougall dot com. 


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