Stress, Anxiety, Depression & Mental Illness

Is it all in the mind?

Man suffering Stress and Anxiety

Modern living with its fast pace, time pressures, long working hours, insufficient physical activity and sleep, are common factors used to explain the clinical conditions of anxiety or depression.  There is no doubt that individual circumstances play an important role on how we feel following the death of a loved one, a separation or ongoing financial concerns.  Scientists have documented changes in one's hormone levels affecting adrenaline, serotonin, neurotransmitters and some immune markers affecting important enzymes of the muscle and nerve cells.  A history of a prolonged depression has been linked with an increased risk of cancer.  The fact that some people experience mood changes depending on what they have eaten raises the question whether there are other factors in the human chemistry and lifestyle, which might predispose or even cause mental illness.

Having suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks for the last six years, I have never considered the negative effects that my diet may have been having on my mind and body. L.B. Surrey

Possible causes

  • Simple intolerance to some common foods, known as food intolerance. Expert help is needed to identify these items and control anxiety. Food intolerance has been associated with mood changes in several clinical studies. In most instances it is a reversible phenomenon.
  • The depletion of some essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals is another common factor, which complicates the problem and requires nutritional supplements. The modern food production involves the regular use of chemicals (fertilisers or pesticides), which results in lowering the levels of important nutrients the body requires.
  • Mood changes can occur as a result of frequent contact with common environmental chemicals ('volatile organic compounds') such as air-fresheners, hair sprays, deodorants, perfumes and many others, which have this effect on susceptible individuals, known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.
  • Depletion of hormones and substances used in the nervous system as important neuro-transmitters has been associated with mood changes. Over- or under-active thyroid, dopamine and serotonin are common factors, critical in one's psychological wellness. Serotonin is the substance targeted by many modern anti-depressants, which aim to alter its availability in the brain cells.
  • The absence of an abundance of natural (sun) light is associated with the "seasonal affective disorder" (SAD)
  • Decreased regular physical activity may also be a contributing factor in anxiety and mood changes.

Treatment for Stress, Anxiety & Depression

  • With specific tests and dietary advice we identify factors such as food reactivities, fungal problems or chemical sensitivity.
  • Blood tests can accurately reveal deficiencies of important nutrients.
  • We guide you how to correct these factors to return to mental wellness.(See section on Food Intolerance and Nutritional Tests & Supplements).

Specialist tips and notes

The effects of artificial additives, high energy foods, especially carbohydrates, foods acting as stimulants and food intolerance are best demonstrated in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): within minutes of eating a food, which causes them problems, their mood changes from being calm, amenable and pleasant to being excitable, restless, irritable and tearful. Adults generally have a better capacity to deal with these dietary agents and only become aware of the mood changes occasionally, when the effects are immediate or marked. We periodically collaborate with psychiatric and social services to assist patients with some chronic psychiatric conditions to return to better health and reduce the use and dependence on medications.
Case study 1: A 43 civil servant from Northamptonshire noticed that he would get acute anxiety, rapid heartbeat along with indigestion and bloating with some meals. He was shown how to modify his diet for 2 weeks by which time most of his symptoms cleared; during a brief reintroduction phase he was able to identify coffee, cane sugar, cheese, corn, soy and yeast as the main culprits. He was advised to avoid them for 2 months and was then able to start using them sporadically without the recurrence of any symptoms; he was able to tolerate occasional decaffeinated drinks.
Case study 2:
A 51 year old woman with a long history of irritable bowel and weight problems started being aware of acute anxiety, which coincided with some menopausal symptoms. A low risk foods diet failed to show any significant changes but intra-cutaneous tests confirmed a number of reactive items. Her anxiety and menopausal symptoms subsided 2 weeks after she eliminated reactive foods as did her digestive problems. In the process, she lost 9 lbs of weight and continued losing more weight during the following 3 months.

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