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Can food intolerances worsen depression?

Food intolerances, inflammation and depression

The link between depression and inflammation is strongly established and growing evidence has mounted to confirm that depression is a pro-inflammatory state.

Chronic low-grade inflammation has been associated with an increased risk of depression, and elevated levels of inflammatory markers have been found in individuals with depression. Additionally, treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs has shown some promise in reducing symptoms of depression.

What is a potential ongoing source of inflammation? Food!

Food intolerances can cause inflammation in the body that can worsen low mood states. When an individual with a food intolerance ingests a problematic food, the immune system can respond by producing inflammation, which can lead to symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, skin rashes, headache and depression. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the food in question.

Some studies have found that individuals with food intolerances, such as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, have a higher risk of depression. Additionally, eliminating problematic foods from the diet and following a restricted diet has been associated with improvements in mood and symptoms of depression.

Food, opioid fragments and depression

Gluten and dairy are hard to avoid and generally form part of most people’s daily diets. A number of milk protein fragments have been shown to behave like opioids. Opioid fragments present in cow’s milk and in gluten may exhibit a direct action in the brain associated with chronic inflammation, which may then lead to depression in some people. Opioid peptides are naturally occurring compounds in food that can bind to opioid receptors in the brain and have a mood-altering effect.

Other trigger foods regularly consumed in a typical daily diet include chicken egg, soybeans and yeast. For most of us, these foods are fine to eat. However, if you experience depression, these and other foods you consume on a regular basis may be aggravating or enhancing your symptoms.

What about serotonin?

A key hormone for happiness is serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating mood, and low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression. Some foods, such as tryptophan-rich foods (e.g. turkey, bananas, and soy products) can increase serotonin levels and potentially improve mood.

Food, serotonin, and inflammation have all been implicated in the development of depression. During chronic stress and inflammation, serotonin production can suffer. Because of this, over time it can become deficient, leading to depression and/or sleep disorders.

It’s important to note that depression is a complex condition with multiple causes. Additionally, dietary changes alone are unlikely to fully treat depression. A comprehensive approach that includes therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes may be necessary for optimal treatment.

IgG antibodies are a trigger for inflammation

IgG is a defense protein generated by our immune system. Its task is to bind to a foreign substance called an antigen. This antigen is recognised as an invader, having the potential to harm the body. After recognising the “invader”, the adaptive immune system induces an inflammatory cascade response designed to destroy the antigen.


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