One of the major reasons I started this vlog/blog and became so interested in food is the effect of diet on one’s mental health. How much can our diet affect our psychological condition? Upon starting a wheat and gluten free diet about 2 years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of mood swings I would experience. I wasn’t super happy all the time but I found myself not having those periods where I would dwell on negative thoughts. Upon experimenting with a piece of cake or bread, almost like clock work, I would find myself in a negative mental place. I find this particularly important because if we can improve our psychological health, we can enable ourselves to be more loving and selfless human beings. If we are suffering from depression or other chronic mental conditions we can be so caught up in our own problems, that we are unable to fully give of ourselves to others. Obviously, these ailments are sometimes unavoidable no matter what we eat. However, I see more and more evidence leading me to believe that diet does in fact influence our emotional well being in a significant fashion and it certainly must be an important aspect of our own self stewardship.
Dr. William Davis’ book Wheat Belly (a book I highly recommend) contains one of those bits of evidence regarding the effect of diet on our psychological health. He cites a study done in the 1960′s concerning the effect of wheat upon individuals suffering from schizophrenia:
The earliest formal connection of the effects of wheat on the schizophrenic brain began with the work of psychiatrist F. Curtis Dohan whose observations ranged as far as Europe and New Guinea. Dr. Dohan journeyed down this line of investigation because he observed that, during World War II, the men and women of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United States required fewer hospitalizations for schizophrenia when food shortages made bread unavailable, only to require an increased number of hospitalizations when wheat consumption resumed after the war was over. (p. 46)
In speaking about the people of New Guinea he states:
Prior to the introduction of Western influence, schizophrenia was virtually unknown, diagnosed in only 2 of 65,000 inhabitants. As Western eating habits infiltrated the New Guinean population and cultivated wheat products, beer made from barley, and corn were introduced, Dr. Dohan watched the incidence of schizophrenia skyrocket sixty-five-fold. (p. 46)
However the most significant aspect of Dr. Dohan’s work was a study at a hospital right here in the United States:
In the mid-sixties, while working at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Dohan and his colleagues decided to remove all wheat products from meals provided to schizophrenic patients without their knowledge or permission….Lo and behold, four weeks sans wheat and there were distinct and measureable improvements in the hallmarks of the disease: a reduced number of auditory hallucinations, fewer delusions, less detachment from reality. Psychiatrists then added the wheat products back into their patients’ diets and the hallucinations, delusions, and social detachment rushed right back. Remove wheat again, patients and symptoms got better; add it back, they got worse.
The Philadelphia observations in the schizophrenics were corroborated by psychiatrists at the University of Sheffield in England, with similar conclusions. There have since even been reports of complete remission of the disease, such as the seventy-year-old schizophrenic woman described by Duke University doctors, suffering with delusions, hallucinations, and suicide attempts with sharp objects and cleaning solutions over a period of fifty-three years, who experienced complete relief from psychosis and suicidal desires within eight days of stopping wheat. 1 (p. 47)
Wow! Pretty interesting, eh? Even if you aren’t suffering from a significant psychological ailment, it makes you wonder the affect avoiding wheat may have upon your mood. I am taking a psychology course this semester and one of the requirements is a fifteen page paper of which we can choose the topic. I may just see if I can delve even further into this area.
I find it interesting that bread (most of which contains wheat and gluten), over the last century, has gone from being a relatively healthy part of a human’s diet to the source of so many problems. As a Catholic deeply moved by my faith, I find it particularly interesting considering that Jesus Christ takes the accidental form of bread in the Eucharist when we receive His body and blood. There’s something going here. Could someone be behind the perversion of wheat and bread altogether? Could someone want us to be hindered in a subtle way in terms of helping each other? Could it be…Satan? More on that in future posts….