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The Impact of Diet on Mental Health

Thursday, July 27th 2023 10:00am 5 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

You may be wondering if the food you consume could be a major factor behind the psychiatric disorders you experience. It is strongly believed that the diet you follow, including both potential deficiencies and toxic elements, can contribute to what we commonly label as mental illnesses. In medical school, we learn about the mental consequences of nutrient deficiencies such as Beriberi (thiamin), Pellagra (niacin), and B12-deficiency induced dementia. We understand that minerals like magnesium and zinc are vital co-factors for essential bodily functions, and that fatty acids play a crucial role in supporting the health of cell membranes.

A paternalistic mandate: gluten and casein free dietary trial

You might ask, “What does this have to do with scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist?” Well, it’s possible that the modern foods we consume, such as sugar, gluten, processed dairy, and genetically modified soy and corn, are conspiring with nutrient deficiencies to create gut/brain pathology. As a psychiatrist, I believe in partnering with my patients, but I also have a paternalistic mandate to propose a dietary trial free from gluten and casein.

Understanding gluten and casein

Gluten, derived from the Latin word “glue,” is a mixture of proteins called gliadin and glutenin, found in wheat. Similar proteins known as prolamines are found in related grains like rye (secalin), corn (zein), and barley (horedin). On the other hand, casein refers to a family of proteins present in mammalian milk. How do these food components relate to your average visit to a psychiatrist? Could it be that our modern post-industrial foods, including sugar, gluten, processed dairy, and genetically modified soy and corn, are collaborating with nutrient deficiencies to cause gut/brain-related disorders?

The gut-brain axis

To understand the potential role of food in causing mental illnesses, we need to consider the underlying drivers of inflammation. Immune-activating and inflammatory proteins found in wheat and dairy products may be significant triggers. Wheat, one of the most heavily processed foods in our diet, is predominantly converted into high-glycemic flour and combined with sugar and often oxidized (rancid) genetically modified vegetable oils. Dairy products are homogenized and pasteurized, resulting in a high-sugar liquid with distorted fats, denatured proteins, and destroyed vitamins.

Cross-reactivity and antibody response stimulation

A study examining cross-reactivity and antibody response suggests important connections between grains and dairy. It appears that foods like dairy, oats, corn, and millet can lead to cross-reactivity and stimulate an immune response. But why and how do these foods cause the problems they do? There are several reasons behind the disturbances caused by these commonly consumed foods:

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